House Science Committee Introduces Act to Double NSF Budget and Create Technology Directorate

Apr 5, 2021

by ASME.org

The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced the “National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act,” which would more than double the budget of the NSF in the next 5 years, devoting a significant portion of the funding to a new directorate that would accelerate the process of turning basic research into new technologies and products.

The bill, introduced with bipartisan support, would lift NSF’s overall budget from the current $8.5 billion to $18.3 billion in 2026. In addition to growing the agency’s existing seven research and education directorates, the bill would create an eighth, called Science and Engineering Solutions (SES). Its budget would start at $1 billion in 2022 and grow to $5 billion by 2026.
 

In setting up the new directorate, the bill would require the NSF director to select up to five focus areas and periodically refresh the list. During the selection process, the director must consider the following “societal challenges:”  

  • Climate change and environmental sustainability
  • Global competitiveness in critical technologies
  • Cybersecurity
  • National security
  • STEM education and workforce
  • Social and economic inequality
The provision is analogous to the list of ten “key technology areas” identified in last year’s Endless Frontier Act, though it is less prescriptive about what areas the new directorate should initially address. Other provisions similarly echo the Endless Frontier Act, including one specifying that the new directorate should fund a broader array of entities than NSF typically supports, and another aiming to prevent the new directorate from siphoning funds from other parts of the agency.

A host of existing science education and workforce training programs would grow by 50% over the 5-year term of the bill. Among those, it would boost the annual number of prestigious graduate research fellowships from 2,000 to 3,000. The bill would also order a decadal study of how to strengthen precollege science education and another on how to ensure that undergraduate science and engineering majors receive the training they need to fill high-tech jobs in industry after graduation.
 

The House bill is available to view here: The National Science Foundation Future Act
The Senate bill is available to view here: Endless Frontier Act

You are now leaving ASME.org