The White House has released its FY 2024 Presidential budget request in a series of information drops across mid-March. This budget lays the groundwork for the budget cycle: outlining administrative priorities, programs and initiatives that could receive increased funding, and more. The document is aptly titled a request, however, as Congress has no obligation to adhere to it during the appropriations cycle this summer – it is simply a starting point that the executive branch has laid out. For more on the intricacies of the budget process, read our explainer.
The data in this report and the associated R&D appropriations dashboard is collected from a variety of sources, but the R&D estimates are all calculated from data provided through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Where at all possible, numbers were pulled from the White House budget documents to maintain consistency with OMB’s R&D breakdowns. On occasion, those numbers may differ from agency documents, but for the consistency of our analysis we have defaulted to the White House values if they were available.
The budget request this year does not include substantial increases for R&D research, instead proposing to hold funding steady for many accounts while focusing increases on a couple priority topics. This report will be a high-level overview of the budget that Congress will be considering this summer. A PDF version of this report is available as well.
Data on R&D in the request show that the White House hopes to fund $208 billion for R&D in FY 2024, a 5% increase over the FY 2023 levels signed into law in December 2022. This is a $9 billion increase, nearly $6 billion of which is directed towards development, a continuation of a trend seen in the FY 2023 request. R&D Facilities, a category that includes lab construction and modernization and equipment acquisition, would see an 8% decrease from FY 2023 enacted levels.
Basic research, which saw relatively consistent increases (about 11% both in FY 2022 and FY 2023) in the Biden Administration’s first two budgets, is facing a much smaller increase this year, with only a 2% increase across the budget request this year. Applied research has seen a more varied increases across the budget, and the 5% increase in FY 2024 is now the lowest that has been proposed by the Biden administration.
This budget request overall is the lowest proposed increase in R&D from this administration to date, though the preference for increasing nondefense R&D funding has been a steady mark of the Biden White House. This budget request sees nearly twice the increase in nondefense funding compared to defense.
A closer look at defense funding shows that basic and applied funding would see decreases, with minor increases in developmental work that would bring the R&D funds back to a net increase. Defense R&D funding in this analysis includes not only the Department of Defense’s R&D funding, but also R&D numbers from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
Under this budget request, the percentage of R&D as a share of GDP would continue to increase marginally, as can be seen in Graph 1 below.
Big Picture and Major Priorities
The presidential budget request included 8 major administrative priorities that shaped the formation of the budget. Three of those priorities have an influence on R&D spending and are discussed below.
Growing the Economy from the Bottom Up and Middle Out by Investing in America and Its People
This priority includes investments in American manufacturing, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s Industrial Technology Services and Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which would invest and improve on domestic manufacturing practices. This priority also outlines nearly $21 billion in funding authorized through the CHIPS and Science Act signed in summer 2022, which includes funding targets for the new Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and for the NSF’s Regional Innovation Engines. The Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Science would also receive a significant increase for microelectronics, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, and isotope production research.
Taking Historic Action to Cut Energy Bills for Families and Confront the Climate Crisis While Creating Clean Energy Jobs Across America
This priority outlines investments in both the development and implementation of clean energy, with $16.5 billion in funding requested for climate science and clean energy innovation across the budget. This includes $3.5 billion in clean energy research in DOE’s Office of Science, and $1.6 billion at NSF, $1 billion of which is for fusion energy research. This priority also outlines a separate $1.2 billion for DOE’s industrial decarbonization activities.
Expanding Access to High-Quality Health Care and Improving Health Outcomes
This priority includes two major research areas that see increases in funding in the FY 2024 request: $471 million for work to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates and $1.7 billion in proposed funding to continue to work towards the Cancer Moonshot’s goal of reducing the cancer death rate by 50% in 25 years. This includes a funding boost for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and a significant increase in funding for the new ARPA-Health, an agency designed to take a transformative approach towards biomedical research.
These three major priorities are also reflected in the categories of R&D research in the table below, with general science (NSF and the DOE Office of Science) seeing the largest percentage increase across any of the categories. Climate science funding is harder to pin down to a specific category, as it is present in nearly every agency and likely contributes to the increases in most categories listed.
The Cancer Moonshot increase to NCI accounts for nearly a third of the total Health funding increases, with few other institutes receiving an increase over FY 2023 levels.
The data show a notable decrease in funding for Commerce, though this is less of a funding decrease as much as a reflection that CHIPS and Science Act funding was added on a one-time basis in FY 2022 and 2023 to the Industrial Technology Service account and would not be included in FY 2024 at the same level. The increase over pre-CHIPS levels of funding would continue, but at a slower clip than previous years.
A Deeper Look at the Agencies
The NSF budget request would receive a significant boost, with $1.2 billion allocated for its new TIP directorate, a 29% increase over FY 2023, and $300 million for its Regional Innovation Engines reflected in the CHIPS and Science Act authorizations. That $1.5 billion makes up the largest chunk of the $1.781 billion increase that the agency would see, leaving potentially marginal increases for many existing directorates and programs.
DOE is another seeing significant boosts, though given its already large size it may not reflect as large of a proportional increase. Moreover, the two laws that authorized significant funding increases, CHIPS and Science and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), also appropriated new funds directly to the department, inflating its FY 2023 R&D numbers. The Office of Science is looking at a $700 million increase, ARPA-E a $180 million increase (38%), and the Office of Electricity a 165% increase due to the inclusion of $771 million in IRA authorized funds.
NIST has perhaps the most stunning percentage increase this year, with its budget rising sharply in large part to an over $6 billion increase to the Industrial Technology Service through funds authorized under the CHIPS and Science Act, a program that received $522 million in FY 2023. There are also proposed increases to both the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (42%) and the Manufacturing USA (88%) programs within that $6 billion. Meanwhile, NIST’s laboratory programs would see a continuation of the FY 2023 funding levels and a decrease in funding for construction of research facilities.
NIH is not as favored this year as it has been in the past, with only a handful of the 27 institutes getting funding increases at all. The National Cancer Institute is the big one, with $503 million in new proposed funding to pursue the Cancer Moonshot’s goals, a 7% increase. The National Institute of Mental Health would see a $200 million increase (9%), and Diabetes is looking at about $100 million (4%), but the others are holding steady at FY 2023 levels, or even decreasing, as in the case of Environmental Health Sciences, which would face a potential $58 million drop.
Meanwhile, ARPA-H would see a $1 billion increase, a 60% increase for the fledgling agency whose director was just announced at the end of last year. Another new agency, ARPA-Infrastructure, would get $19 million to start building itself up.
The Department of Defense Science and Technology accounts overall would see a decrease, with basic science accounts facing the smallest decrease, with a 17% proposed reduction in funding compared to FY2023. The Science and Technology accounts overall are looking at a 21% reduction. DARPA, in contrast, has a potential 8% increase in funding through this budget request, and VA medical research is looking at a modest 2% increase over FY 2023.
The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, could benefit from the administration’s focus on climate science R&D, with more than half of the increase to its Science and Technology account directed at the Clean Air and Climate and Research: Air, Climate and Energy programs. The two programs account for nearly $125 million of the $165 million increase EPA is requesting over FY 2023 levels.
The U.S. Geological Survey has a proposed 15% increase in the FY 2024 request, with limited details on where the funds would be distributed at press time, but likely increases into the Landsat Next program, critical minerals surveys, and facilities upgrades.
NASA would receive increases to most programs, including a $277 million increase for the Earth Science account (a 13% increase), the home of much of NASA’s climate science research. Space technology and lunar exploration would see increases of more than 10%, but the majority of other programs are at or below 8% increases from FY 2023.
Current Influences on the Budget Going Forward
While the public-facing side for the budget cycle has just started, there are already a few things we can see influencing this summer’s congressional appropriations season. This year, both parties have put heavy focus on reducing the deficit, with it featuring as one of the eight administrative priorities highlighted in the Presidential budget request.
Reducing the deficit is also a focus of the Republicans, as one of the conditions Speaker McCarthy negotiated during his bid for Speaker of the House was a potential return to FY 2022 funding to curtail discretionary spending. How this could be implemented is not yet clear, but it is certain that it would have a significant impact on all federal agencies. Departments and agencies have started to express what a cut of such magnitude could impact in a series of letters to the Ranking Chair of the House appropriations committee.