FY 2016 Budget to Again Prioritize Manufacturing, Clean Energy, Climate, Neuroscience

Familiar themes emerge in a recent White House memo outlining science and technology priorities for the next budget.

Last week the White House released a quartet of memos dealing with the FY 2016 budget request, including the annual science and technology priorities memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Even as Congress is tackling FY 2015 appropriations (or not), agencies have been at work for months formulating the FY 2016 budget request, which is in theory due in February of next year. The joint OMB/OSTP memo, typically released in mid-summer, identifies areas for particular emphasis in agency budgets (see this overview for more on how the memo fits into the overall process). A given administration's science and technology priorities don't typically change much year-to-year, and so it's no surprise that most of the priorities listed in this year's memo are variations on themes from earlier years (see last year's list for comparison). Priorities that reappear this year include:

Plus, a new priority in this year's memo is Earth observation data (for reference: National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations).

The White House dropped mention of the Small Business Innovation Research program from this year's memo, though it had appeared last year. Interestingly, however, the Administration also encourages so-called "market-pull" mechanisms, like procurement or prizes, as supplements to "technology-push" R&D activities. Such policies have been used elsewhere to encourage technology innovation in certain contexts. The memo also touches on international scientific partnerships and reproducibility, and makes special mention of the need to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Separate FY 2016 guidance memos, also issued last week, cover that topic and countering biological threats.

It should be noted that when an item makes its way onto the OMB/OSTP priorities list, it doesn't always guarantee a funding boost. Last year's memo also prioritized information technology and climate research, but the subsequent budget request cut the Networking and Information Technology R&D (NITRD) program by 2.6 percent and granted only a sub-inflation increase to the Global Change Research Program. On the other hand, neuroscience, clean energy, and advanced manufacturing were also mentioned last year, and these programs — including the BRAIN Initiative and the Department of Energy's manufacturing and renewable energy programs — were among the notable increases in the request.

The assorted guidance documents are available via OMB's website.