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Bullet policy · Apr 12, 2021

Biden Proposes Significant Boosts for Science

On April 9, 2021, the White House released President Biden’s much awaited budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2022, outlining the Administration’s priorities and proposing large increases for several federal science agencies.

A new Administration’s initial budget proposal is often referred to as the “skinny budget”—a term not being used by the Biden Administration for their plan, which is leaner than typical first budget requests. Lacking in details, the 58-page plan provides topline budget numbers and priorities for a number of federal departments and agencies. Under Biden’s proposal, nondefense discretionary spending—the source for most scientific research programs—would increase by 16 percent to $769 billion, while defense spending would grow by 1.7 percent to $753 billion. Overall, discretionary spending would increase by $118 billion to $1.5 trillion in FY 2022.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $10.2 billion—a nearly 20 percent boost for the science agency, compared to its FY 2021 funding level of $8.5 billion. The request for NSF boosts overall investment in research and development by $1.6 billion to $9.4 billion and prioritizes investments in climate and clean energy research and advancing racial equity in science and engineering. The budget proposes creating a new directorate for “technology, innovation, and partnerships to help translate research into practical applications” but does not specify how much of the increased spending for the agency would be directed to it. Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, released a few days earlier, also proposed adding a new technology-focused directorate within NSF and providing $50 billion in additional funding for both the agency and the new directorate over an unspecified period. A similar bill was proposed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last year.

Other key items related to science in the fiscal blueprint include:

  • Budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would grow by $9 billion compared to FY 2021, to $51 billion. This includes $6.5 billion to launch a new agency—the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H)—to “drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs.” ARPA-H would initially focus on cancer and diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would receive “the largest budget authority increase in nearly two decades,” with its budget growing by $1.6 billion to $8.7 billion.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would see increased investments in its scientific and technological research programs, which would receive $916 million, an increase of $124 million. Funding for NIST’s manufacturing programs would more than double to $442 million.
  • Budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would expand by $1.4 billion to $6.9 billion, with $800 million directed to “expand investments in climate research, support regional and local decision-making with climate data and tools, and improve community resilience to climate change.”
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is slated to receive $24.7 billion, an increase of 6.3 percent over FY 2021. NASA’s Earth Science programs, which includes climate research, would receive $2.3 billion, an increase of $250 million above the 2021 enacted level.
  • Within the Department of Energy, the Office of Science would be augmented by $400 million to $7.4 billion. The budget proposes a new unit, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C), which along with the existing ARPA-Energy would have a combined budget of $1 billion.
  • Without providing further details, the proposal states that support for science at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other bureaus within the Department of the Interior would receive an additional $200 million to “provide information about the impacts of climate change and how best to implement mitigation, adaptation, and resilience efforts.” Overall, the Interior Department would receive $17.4 billion—a 16 percent increase compared to the 2021 enacted level. No details were provided for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or the Smithsonian Institution.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would receive a 21 percent boost to $11.2 billion in FY 2022. $110 million would be directed to restoring the regulatory agency’s staffing levels and to rebuild programmatic capabilities and $936 million would go towards a new Accelerating Environmental and Economic Justice initiative.
  • Research, education, and outreach programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture would receive $4 billion, an increase of $647 million.
  • Climate change spending would increase by $14 billion across nearly all federal agencies in FY 2022, with more than $10 billion (+35 percent) directed towards innovation in clean energy technologies across nondefense agencies. Biden also proposes $300 million in new investments for next-generation agriculture and conservation efforts, including establishing a Civilian Climate Corps to create jobs in rural areas.

Lawmakers will now consider President Biden’s budget request as they craft appropriations bills for the next fiscal year. The final decision on spending levels rests with Congress.

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