President’s FY 2021 Budget Request Released: Seeks Decreased Funding for Research Agencies

Feb 17, 2020

by ASME.org

Last Monday, the President released his annual Budget Request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, prioritizing research and development in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science (QIS), 5G/advanced communications, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing. Despite calling out these specific technology priority areas, the Budget Request reveals decreased funding asks for federal research and development (R&D). The President’s Budget Request is submitted to Congress annually in February and serves only as a recommendation; it is Congress’s responsibility to ultimately determine which agencies and programs receive funding and at what amounts. 

Below is a closer look at total federal R&D funding by agency:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $ 6.32 billion
    • The President’s FY 2021 Budget Request for R&D at NSF is -6% compared to FY 2020 enacted amounts. (Last year’s request was -9% compared to the previous year’s enacted amount.)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): $653 million
    • The President’s FY 2021 Budget Request for R&D at NIST is -19% compared to FY 2020 enacted amounts. (Last year’s request was -8% compared to the previous year’s enacted amount.)
  • Department of Energy (DOE): $16.05 billion
    • The President’s FY 2021 Budget Request for R&D at DOE is -16% compared to FY 2020 enacted amounts. (Last year’s request was -17% compared to the previous year’s enacted amount.)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): $318 million
    • The President’s FY 2021 Budget Request for R&D at EPA is -35% compared to FY 2020 enacted amounts. (Last year’s request was -42% compared to the previous year’s enacted amount.)
  • Department of Defense (DOD): $59.83 billion
    • The President’s FY 2021 Budget Request for R&D at DOD is -7% compared to FY 2020 enacted amounts. (Last year’s request was +7% compared to the previous year’s enacted amount.)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): $13.33 billion
    • The President’s FY 2021 Budget Request for R&D at NASA is -5% compared to FY 2020 enacted amounts. (Last year’s request was +5% compared to the previous year’s enacted amount.)
  • National Institute of Health (NIH): $36.96 billion
    • The President’s FY 2021 Budget Request for R&D at NIH is -7% compared to FY 2020 enacted amounts. (Last year’s request was -13% compared to the previous year’s enacted amount.)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): $410 million
    • The President’s FY 2021 Budget Request for R&D at FDA is equal to FY 2020 enacted amount. (Last year’s request was also equal compared to the previous year’s enacted amount.)

National Institute of Standards and Technology | Manufacturing Programs

  • New Manufacturing USA Institute at NIST: The Administration is prioritizing science and technology areas critical to American leadership in what it’s deeming “Industries of the Future,” including advanced manufacturing. The budget is requesting $20 million for a new Manufacturing USA Institute at the National Institute for Standards and Technology.
  • Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP): The Administration has again proposed the elimination of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. Last year, Congress instead increased the program’s funding from $140 million in FY 2019 to $146 million for FY 2020.

Department of Energy | Research and Development Overview
The 2021 Budget requests $35.4 billion for DOE overall, an -8.1% decrease from the 2020 enacted level of $38.5 billion.

  • The Budget again proposes to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) (a $425 million cut to research funding), as well as the Title XVII Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, and the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program.
  • The budget provides $5.8 billion for the DOE Office of Science, a -17% cut from FY 2020.  The budget would focus DOE Science resources on early stage research and laboratory construction projects, especially supercomputing, quantum computing, and AI.
  • The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would face a more than $2 billion cut (-75%) to $720 million.
  • Defense functions at DOE, such as the National Nuclear Security Administration, would receive a budget increase of 19% ($3.2 billion).
  • This budget proposal plans to raise $4.1 billion over 10 years by selling off electrical transmission assets owned by the Power Marketing Administrations.
  • The budget maintains funding for Advanced Energy Storage and Harsh Environment Materials Initiatives launched in fiscal year 2020 and establishes a new Critical Minerals Initiative to elevate and coordinate critical minerals activities through a national laboratory-led team modeled after the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium.

Department of Defense | Research and Development Overview
For the Department of Defense (DOD), the President requested less funding in almost every category—DOD Basic Research; DOD Applied Research; DOD Advanced Technology Development; DOD Science and Technology (S&T)—compared to his request from the previous year. The only category where the President is requesting a slight increase in funding is within DOD Research Development Test & Evaluation (RDT&E), where he requests $106 billion (1.7%) more than was enacted for FY 2020.

Department of Defense | Manufacturing Priorities
Within DOD S&T sits the Defense-Wide Manufacturing S&T Program, where the agency’s Manufacturing USA Institutes are funded. In this line, the President again requested less than he did for FY 2020 (-52.5% compared to FY 2020 enacted levels). Additionally, the President zeroed-out the Defense-Wide Engineering Science and Technology line, which funds the National Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant Program (for which the President requested $19.37 million for FY 2020—the same level it was subsequently funded).

Environmental Protection Agency | Research and Development Overview
The overall EPA request totals $6.7 billion, a $2.4 billion or -26% cut from the 2020 enacted level. 

  • The President’s proposal would eliminate more than 50 EPA programs and establish a new user fee for the popular ENERGY STAR energy efficiency rating program that would collect around $46 million in FY 2021. For additional information on the EPA FY 2021 budget request, visit: https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/cj 

Federal Drug Administration | Artificial Intelligence
In FY21 FDA is requesting an $18 million increase for medical device safety, cybersecurity, review, and innovation. Additionally, FDA is seeking $10.2 million (a $8.176 million increase) for its work in artificial intelligence, with $5 million of requested funds going specifically to the Center for Devices and Radiological Health’s (CDRH’s) work in AI. The agency specifically states that “AI in medical devices promises to drive growth of the U.S. economy and improve patient safety and quality of life. For FDA to continue to lead the world in its approach for the smart regulation of these bold, new medical devices, it is imperative that FDA take steps to ensure products are designed to be customer-friendly and able to be used and understood – particularly outside the traditional health care settings – and that FDA leads the development of appropriate, consensus-based international standards to bring safe products to market in a predictable, efficient, transparent, and consistent manner.”

National Institute of Health | Bioengineering
The President’s budget requests an -8.8% decrease ($368 million) in funding for the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institute of Health (NIH). Further, the agency states that “NIH is proposing a new initiative that aims to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying causes of chronic diseases and to identify successful early treatments.” For this intuitive, the FY 2021 request includes $50.0 million that would employ AI, Machine Learning (ML), and Deep Learning (DL) “to enhance the collection, integration, analyses, and interpretation of data related to the onset and progression of chronic diseases.”
ASME will continue to monitor the FY 2021 budget process and report on relevant programs to the mechanical engineering community.

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