Just a few weeks after the approval of the FY 2022 budget, the Biden Administration has released the FY 2023 Presidential Budget Request. While full details and documentation are not yet available for every agency, several large research funders like NSF, NIH, NASA, and USDA have published full justifications.
The Administration has also not yet published complete R&D data for the FY 2023 request, though that should be coming soon. Unfortunately, comparable and reliable R&D data for FY 2022 likely won’t be available for some time, since the ink is still drying on the FY 2022 omnibus increases, and agencies will have had no time to generate proper estimates.
With all that said, here’s how things stack up.
The Big Picture and Major Priorities
The $5.8 trillion dollar request includes a 9.4% increase for nondefense discretionary spending and a 4.0% increase in defense discretionary. This matters because just about all federal R&D is in the discretionary budget, and big-picture changes in the discretionary budget are a good leading indicator of what might happen with R&D.
The FY 2023 request represents a moderated approach compared to the first Biden budget, which would have held defense spending while boosting nondefense spending far more. Differences between that initial proposal and the final discretionary figures in the omnibus contributed to the less ambitious increases for nondefense agencies and bigger boosts for defense research in FY 2022.
Throughout the budget, several priority areas stand out:
Climate Science and Response. Climate research would receive a boost through the budget request, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture investing $24 million for climate research in its Climate Hubs, NASA requesting nearly $3 billion in climate programs, and the National Science Foundation requesting $1.6 billion for climate research and development. While the full details of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget have not been released yet, climate resilience and research will remain priorities for a research office budget set to grow. The Department of Defense also has funds for climate resilience work.
Improving Manufacturing and Supply Chains. These have been priorities of the Biden Administration from day one and continue to be seen in the FY 2023 request. For instance, much of the increased funding for National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is through expansions of the Hollings Manufacturing and Manufacturing USA programs, totaling $372 million, though NIST lab funding would also rise. DOE also requested increases for clean energy manufacturing research, which includes $200 million for a solar manufacturing accelerator and $1 billion for the clean energy manufacturing program. NSF has also marked advanced manufacturing as a priority, intending to dedicate $421 million to the topic through grants and workforce development programs.
Diversity/Equity. In several places, the Administration would focus investments on Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to bolster their facilities and research capability, as well as increases to the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a program that seeks to enhance the research capabilities of designated ‘underperforming’ states. On top of a funding increase, NSF rebranded its Education and Human Resources Directorate to the Division of Equity for Excellent in STEM to reflect a focus on encouraging participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM. NASA’s STEM Engagement office also continues to engage underserved populations in science through a proposed 9.6% increase. In addition, DOE would make investments into research for advanced technology to revitalize communities in accordance with Justice40 goals.
Innovative Research Institutions. It’s not just research that is getting a boost, but novel funding mechanisms too. Multiple Advanced Research Projects Agencies, or ARPAs, were launched last year or are otherwise getting their first substantial funding with the 2023 request. That includes $3.2 million for planning for a new ARPA-Infrastructure within the Department of Transportation, and $4.9 million for AgARDA, as well as $5 billion for ARPA-Health. Existing ARPAs in energy and defense are slated for large increases as well. In addition, the Administration is taking another run at sizable funding for the NSF’s new Technology and Innovation Partnership (TIP) Directorate.
Pandemic Preparedness. The pandemic continues to be front and center in the budget, with $81.7 billion for pandemic preparedness that would be available across Health and Human Services (HHS) over the next five years. $12 billion of that would go to NIH, and $9.9 billion to the Centers for Disease Control. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) would also receive a boost for research into long COVID, among other projects.
A Deeper Look at the Agencies: