The FY 2004 request of $496.8 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology represents a significant decline of 27.0% from the FY 2002 appropriations and of 14.0% from the FY 2003 request. This year's request would provide funding for new initiatives in homeland security and economic growth, while terminating the Advanced Technology Program and halting federal funding for Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers after the first six years, continuing a policy announced in last year's request.
NIST's budget is divided into three separate appropriations: Scientific and Technical Research and Services, Industrial Technology Services, and Construction of Research Facilities. The requests are described below, with explanatory quotes from NIST budget documents. Because the FY 2003 appropriations process has not been completed, one way to look at the FY 2004 request is to compare it to the appropriation for FY 2002, which is final, to see how funding would change over the two-year period.
The SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH AND SERVICES (STRS) appropriation includes NIST's in-house Laboratories and the Baldrige National Quality Program:
NIST LABORATORIES: $381.8 million; up 18.8% from FY 2002 appropriation; down 3.7% from FY 2003 request
The request for the NIST Laboratories includes $27.7 million for new initiatives as follows:
- $10.3 million for homeland security measurements and infrastructure in such areas as nuclear, radiological, biowarfare and other terrorist threats ($5.3 million); lessons learned from the World Trade Center collapse investigation ($4 million); and biometric identification systems ($1 million).
- $9.2 million to "support and enhance" programs in nanotechnology ($5.2 million); quantum computing ($3 million); and health care quality assurance ($1 million).
- $6.7 million for the Advanced Measurement Laboratory ($5.5 million for equipment and $1.2 million for operation and maintenance).
- $1.5 million for time-scale dissemination backup elements.
The BALDRIGE NATIONAL QUALITY PROGRAM would receive $5.8 million.
The INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY SERVICES (ITS) appropriation comprises the Advanced Technology Program, a cost-shared competitive grant program with industry for early-stage, high-risk R&D, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a network of centers that provide technical assistance to small and medium manufacturers. The always-controversial Advanced Technology Program has been a target of many termination attempts by the House, but each time the Senate has restored its funding.
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM (ATP): $27 million; down 85.4% from FY 2002 appropriation; down 75.0% from FY 2003 request
The ATP request is intended to cover "administrative and other expenses needed to terminate" the program. According to the budget documents, "While this program has been well run and effective, scarce resources are needed for higher priority programs." A senior OMB official stated that Congress's failure to enact Administration-proposed reforms of the ATP in 2002 contributed to the Administration's decision to terminate the program.
MANUFACTURING EXTENSION PARTNERSHIP (MEP): $12.6 million; down 88.2% from FY 2002 appropriation; down 2.3% from FY 2003 request
The MEP request maintains the policy, put forward in the FY 2003 request, "of funding the partnership according to its original plan, which called for the phase-out of federal monies to MEP centers after six years of funding. MEP central coordination activities and the federal share of the two centers less than seven years old would be funded."
The request for CONSTRUCTION OF RESEARCH FACILITIES (CRF) is $69.6 million.
According to NIST budget documents, "these actions" in the request "are consistent with the President's emphasis on shifting scarce resources to reflect higher-priority national needs. Investment of limited NIST resources in the laboratory programs and facilities will have the greatest impact on strengthening homeland security and fostering innovation that leads to economic growth."
Details of the FY 2004 request for NIST and supporting materials can be found at http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/budget_2004.htm.