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Other Selected Agencies in the FY 2016 Budget

Agency Budgets, CHAPTER TWELVE

Kasey Shewey White, Heather Kelly, Sara Spizzirri, David Parkes

In this chapter:


  • The FY 2016 discretionary budget request for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would provide an increase of $253.8 million above enacted FY 2015 levels to $1.1 billion in FY 2016. 
  • The President’s Budget requests $528 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s R&D efforts. Total discretionary funding has increased by $452 million above enacted levels in FY 2015, to $8.6 billion. 
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requests $6.0 billion, an increase of 9.8 percent over FY 2015; R&D would see a 33.7 percent increase to $912 million. In contrast to recent Administration requests, increases are proposed for many research programs in addition to the growing satellite budget.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the largest research agency in the Department of the Interior (DOI), would increase 14.3 percent to $1.2 billion in the FY 2016 request. 
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requests $622 million in direct R&D appropriations for the Medical and Prosthetic Research account in FY 2016, an increase of $33 million or 6.0 percent over the current enacted level.


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory agency that operates under the Department of Commerce, and its mission is to “promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.” The FY 2016 budget request would provide an increase of $255.8 million or 29.6 percent above enacted FY 2015 levels to $1.1 billion. The Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account would receive a $79 million or 11.7 percent increase over FY 2015 enacted to levels to $755 million, and the Industrial Technology Services (ITS) account would receive an increase of $168 million or 121.6 percent to a total of $306 million in FY 2016.

STRS houses all of NIST’s research labs, and performs all of the agency’s basic research. Each account within STRS would receive an increase in funding—most notably, Advanced Manufacturing would get a $25.6 million increase from FY 2015 enacted levels to $161 million total in FY 2016. In this capacity, NIST focuses on developing partnerships with private manufacturers and academic organizations, as well as other federal agencies. The agency also works to develop international standards for sharing information and more efficient manufacturing.

Other large increases within STRS include Advanced Communications (in increase of $9 million to $22 million total), Disaster Resilience (an increase of $10 million to $20 million total), and Cybersecurity (an increase of $7 million to $109 million total).

The ITS account supports national manufacturing infrastructure through three major programs: National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech).

The multi-agency NNMI, which has been authorized for the first time this year, would receive $150 million in discretionary NIST funding. This funding would be used to establish two new public-private institutes on manufacturing innovation. Other funding elsewhere in the budget would take the total number of new institutes in FY 2016 to seven, complementing the nine in-network institutes already in existence or underway, in partnership with the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Agriculture.  The Administration is also proposing nearly $2 billion in mandatory funding, to be allocated over several years starting in FY 2017, to fully build out the full NNMI network to 45. The program’s overall objective is to support collaboration among private and public sector organizations that are pursuing common goals using a variety of methods and areas of expertise, in an effort to strengthen U.S. manufacturing infrastructure and solve common problems in industry.

MEP will receive a $9.7 million increase to a total of $141 million. MEP provides training to manufacturing employees, and supports the reduction of industrial impacts on the environment. The program also seeks to help businesses adapt new technologies more quickly.

Finally, AMTech would see a $6.8 million increase to a total of $15 million in total. AMTech encourages cooperation among industry and state and local governments, and encourages them to share scientific resources and funding.

Also worth noting is an additional $300 million in mandatory funding that will go toward the National Wireless Initiative, a program that is meant to facilitate development of wireless technologies to be used by the public safety community. This is part of a larger effort to build a national broadband network for emergency personnel.

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The President’s Budget requests $528 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) R&D efforts. Total discretionary funding has increased by $452 million above enacted levels in FY 2015, to $8.6 billion. Much like last year’s request, funding will support five goals; the request for each goal has increased from FY 2015 enacted levels: protecting air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (an increase of $120 million); protecting American waters (an increase of $70 million); advancing sustainable development and protecting communities that are especially vulnerable to pollution (an increase of $178 million); reducing the risks of chemicals in the environment (an increase of $47 million); and protecting human health and enforcing environmental laws (an increase of $66 million). In FY 2016, the agency’s major focus will be cutting carbon pollution through the EPA Clean Power Plan, which will include the Clean Power State Incentive Fund.

The Clean Power Plan is one of the EPA’s most notable priorities, and will aim to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. It is the Administration’s goal to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels; it is important to target power plants, because they produce approximately one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan does allow states to decide how they will meet Obama’s goals, and provides incentives to states that choose to surpass his requirements. The Incentive Fund provides an additional $4 billion to states that reduce emissions at a rate above what is required will receive additional resources from the federal government.

The Science and Technology account, which contains most of EPA’s R&D portfolio, would increase by $34.4 million from enacted FY 2015 levels to $769.1 million in FY 2016. The largest increases in funding would go to the Clean Air and Climate account (an increase of $8.3 million); the Research for Air, Climate, and Energy account (an increase of $8.4 million); and the Research for Chemical Safety and Sustainability (an increase of $13.8 million). Most other accounts would receive modest increases in funding, with the exception of the Research for Sustainable Communities account (a decrease of $10.8 million) and Grants for water quality research account (a decrease of $4.1 million). 

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President Obama's fiscal year 2016 budget requests $6.0 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an increase of 9.8 percent over FY 2015. In contrast to recent Administration requests, increases are proposed for many research programs in addition to the growing budget for satellites.

The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) would again see an increase as its request rises by 7 percent to $2.4 billion. The budget request continues to support preparation for a Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-Series (GOES-R) launch in FY 2016, GOES-S in FY 2017, and continued development of GOES-T and GOES-U. It also supports the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which will provide data continuity for weather prediction models. The launch of JPSS-1 is scheduled for FY 2017, and JPSS-2 is scheduled to launch in FY 2022. Much concern remains in Congress about the possibility of a data gap from delays in launching JPSS-1, highlighted by yet another Government Accountability Office report and hearings on the topic. NOAA’s request includes a $380 million increase for a Polar Follow On to continue NOAA’s polar weather satellite observations after JPSS-2. The budget proposes transferring money from NOAA to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to manage other Earth-observing satellites, including TSIS-1 and future ocean altimetry missions.

NOAA’s R&D would increase by 33.7 percent to $912 million. Approximately half the R&D occurs in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), in which R&D would increase 14.6 percent to $471 million according to NOAA estimates. Large increases are proposed for ocean acidification and climate research. The overall NOAA R&D increase is also driven by requested funding for construction of a new ocean research vessel.

The National Weather Service would stay essentially flat with a 1.1 percent proposed increase to $1.1 billion, but contains proposals to modernize observation, information technology, and facility infrastructure. Among the proposed increases are overhauling the Next Generation Weather Radar infrastructure for forecast and warning services for high-impact events, such as tornadoes; improving national hydrologic modeling and forecast capabilities at the National Water Center; and funding an initiative to improve weather outlooks out to three and four weeks.

Although it is unlikely to occur, the budget did include language suggesting that NOAA should be “consolidated into the Department of Interior, strengthening stewardship and conservation efforts and enhancing scientific resources.” 

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The FY 2016 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the largest research agency in the Department of the Interior, contains a 14 percent increase to $1.2 billion. R&D would see also see a 14.4 percent increase to $761 million. Every mission directorate would see an increase, with very few cuts proposed to existing programs. The reaction on Capitol Hill has been mixed; although support exists for many USGS programs whose funding has been held essentially flat for a decade, several members have questioned whether the agency has “mission creep” with new and expanded research areas.  

Climate and Land Use Change would see the largest increase, 41.1 percent, with the increase nearly equally divided between the Climate Variability and Land Use subaccounts. In Climate Variability, Climate Science Centers, climate research, and biological carbon monitoring and sequestration projects would receive increases. The bulk of the increase in Land Use would go to implement a three-part plan for developing the next generation of Landsat satellites. A new small satellite with a thermal imager is scheduled to be launched in 2019 that will operate in conjunction with existing satellites. Planning for Landsat 9, with a target launch date of 2023, is also included. Finally, the budget includes funding for the USGS to continue to work with NASA to develop a next-generation mission.

Energy, Minerals, and Environmental Health would increase 12 percent to $103 million. The request includes a proposal to divide the program into two sub-activities: Mineral and Energy Resources, which would include the Mineral Resources and Energy Resources programs, and Environmental Health, which would include the Contaminant Biology and Toxic Substance Hydrology programs. Increases are proposed for studies on critical minerals, conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources, renewable energy, and the environmental impacts of resource development as part of the Department of the Interior’s Powering our Future Initiative.

Natural Hazards would increase 8.3 percent. Increases are proposed for earthquake early warning systems, expansion of the Global Seismic Network, geomagnetism research to increase understanding of space weather, and coastal marine hazards.

Water Resources would increase 5.5 percent. The request proposes a mission reorganization to consolidate the existing seven sub-activities into four programs: the Water Availability and Use Science Program, the Groundwater and Streamflow Information Program, the National Water Quality Program, and the Water Resources Research Act Program.

Ecosystems would receive $176.3 million, an increase of 12.3 percent. Increases are slated for ecosystem restoration initiatives and research on emerging and existing invasive species.

An 18.4 percent increase is proposed for Core Science Systems. These programs and services, such as geologic mapping and data preservation, underpin many of the other USGS mission activities. The largest increases are proposed for understanding natural hazards as part of the Community Resilience Toolkit and to expanding mapping through the 3D Elevation program. In contrast to recent years, increases are proposed for Science Support ($112.8 million, an increase of 7 percent) and Facilities ($114.3 million, an increase of 14 percent), and fixed costs are fully funded. Workforce development programs would see new funding, with increases proposed for postdoctoral research and youth in underserved communities.

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The President has proposed a $168.8 billion budget for the VA in FY 2016 to “support VA goals to expand access to timely, high quality health care and benefits, continue the transformation of VA into a Veteran-centric department and end homelessness among Veterans.”

VA’s investments in research play a critical role in advancing veterans’ health and well-being. More than sixty percent of VA’s researchers also are clinicians providing care for Veterans within the VA, providing unique opportunities to move more quickly and successfully between scientific discovery and clinical care.  The VA’s direct appropriations request for its Medical and Prosthetics Research account in FY 2016 is $622 million, a $33 million or 6.0 percent increase over the FY 2015 enacted level of $589 million. With additional funds requested from the VA Medical Care program in support of research, and estimated services and grants from other federal and private sources totaling $1.2 billion, the combined total estimated resources for FY 2016 VA research and development programs would exceed $1.8 billion.

VA research is organized into four main divisions: biomedical laboratory, clinical science, health services, and rehabilitation. These areas cover a spectrum of topics ranging from lung, kidney, and autoimmune disorders, to mental health, to bioterrorism. Ongoing and more recent research priorities for the VA include pain, sensory loss, spinal cord injury, women’s health, prosthetics, Gulf War illness, aging and chronic disease, post deployment health and mental health (including traumatic brain injury or TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, and suicide prevention), rehabilitation, employment, “big data” and bioinformatics, and genomics.  Under the auspices of the Administration’s National Research Action Plan, VA and the Department of Defense have created two joint research consortia for TBI and PTSD, funded at $107 million over five years.

Scientific groups and Veterans’ Service Organizations also welcome VA’s achievement of enrollment milestones for the Million Veteran Program (MVP).  This large-scale, national study seeks to understand how genes and military exposures ultimately affect health in the Veteran population, and once completed, the program will contain the world’s largest repository of human genetic material.  VA notes that “as of December 31, 2014, MVP had enrolled more than 336,900 Veterans, and is conducting initial genetic analysis of these specimens at the rate of more than 10,000 per week. These data will be available to VA investigators starting in 2015; studies that will use these data concentrate on posttraumatic stress disorder and other chronic diseases/conditions prevalent in Veterans.”

For FY 2016, VA proposes a new $10.2 million strategic investment within its research portfolio to support a “Learning Health Care System” research initiative.  This initiative would “further develop existing research by scaling up evidence-based decision-making as the lessons from each care experience are systematically captured, assessed, and translated into improved methods of delivering of care to Veterans. VA R&D proposes five interlocking research streams: measurement science, operations research, point of care research, provider behavior, and randomized program implementation.”


The President’s FY 2016 budget requests $1 billion for R&D in the Department of Transportation (DOT), a 31.7 percent increase over FY 2015 levels.

The overall budget includes a $478 billion six-year reauthorization proposal for surface transportation programs that is similar to a bill the White House sent to legislators last year. Called the GROW AMERICA Act, this funding would supplement the Highway Trust Fund, and would be divided among highways and highway safety, mass transit, rail, and multimodal priorities. Research, Technology, and Education Programs within the Federal Highway Administration would receive $496 million, and $60 million would go to Research and Training within the Federal Transit Administration.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would receive $453 million for R&D in the FY 2016 request. This represents a 24.6 percent increase from FY 2015 levels of $364 million. Highlights in the FHWA budget include a 13.0 percent increase for Highway R&D to $130 million, which will fund research activities associated with highway safety, infrastructure integrity, planning and the environment, highway operations, exploratory advanced research, and the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. A significant 58.0 percent increase for the Intelligent Transportation Systems account would provide $158 million to research, develop, and operationally test intelligent transportation systems (ITS) in line with DOT’s ITS Strategic Research Plan. Additionally, a 1.9 percent increase for State Planning and Research funding would address transportation problems identified by the states, and encourage state cooperation to leverage funds and conduct research of relevance to multi-state regions.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would receive $374 million for R&D, a 33.4 percent increase from FY 2015. The Research, Engineering, and Development (RE&D) portfolio would receive $166 million, which is 5.9 percent more than FY 2015 levels. This increase in RE&D would support the Continuous Low Energy, Emission and Noise (CLEEN) program, alternative jet fuel, and commercial space transportation research. Also in the R&D accounts, $198 million would go to Facilities and Equipment—a whopping 73.4 percent increase from FY 2015, due to an OMB reclassification of existing work.

NextGen—the FAA’s flagship R&D program geared towards modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system and improving aircraft emissions and performance—would receive $956.3 million, an 11.6 percent increase from FY 2015 levels. Funding would be distributed among Facilities and Equipment ($844.6 million), Research, Engineering, and Development ($61.0 million), and Operations ($50.8 million). NextGen-specific research would address wake turbulence, human factors, clean aircraft technologies, and unmanned aircraft systems.

Finally, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) would both receive substantial boosts. The FRA R&D programs, which focus on railroad safety improvement and high-performance rail, would receive $68 million, a 60 percent increase from FY 2015. The FRA would receive $39 million for safety-related R&D, as well as an additional $5 billion from the surface transportation reauthorization proposal to improve safety and build a National High Performance Rail System. NHTSA R&D programs, which focus largely on highway safety, crash data collection, new car assessments, and alternative fuels, would receive $81 million, a 30.2 percent increase. The NHTSA budget includes $152 million for behavioral research, demonstrations, and assistance to the states, as well as $7.1 million for alternative fuels, electronics, and emerging technologies research. 

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Related Scientific Disciplines