FY 2008 NIST Funding Bill Falls Short

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Publication date: 
20 December 2007

As has been true for the DOE Office of Science and the National Science Foundation, the final FY 2008 budget numbers for the National Institute of Standards and Technology fell far short of expectations. All three agencies were to have received significant increases as part of the Administration's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic leadership's Innovation Agenda.

NIST received $755.9 million in the consolidated appropriations bill. While this is greater than last year's budget of $676.9 million, and the request of $640.7 million, a closer look indicates that the higher budget is due to two designated programs in the construction funding account. NIST's budget is divided into three major components.

NIST's SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH AND SERVICES programs would have received substantial increases under the initial House and Senate appropriations bills. The House bill proposed $500.5 million; the Senate bill, $502.1 million. The Bush Administration requested $500.1 million; all three amounts represented more than a 15 percent increase. The final bill provides $440.5 million. This is an increase of $6.1 million, or 1.4 percent, above the current budget of $434.4 million.

There is little language of note in the Explanatory Statement regarding Scientific and Technical Research and Services. NIST is to file a spending plan for this portion of the budget in 30 days, and is to develop a new budget structure in its forthcoming budget request. $893,0000 is earmarked for a New York center for nanoscale characterization.

This budget will prevent NIST from its planned expansion of research into the environmental, health, and safety impacts of nanotechnology. Research into quantum computing and encryption will be severely impacted. Also impacted will be research on why satellite measurement of sunlight striking the earth differs. NIST's efforts in protecting communities from wildfires and tidal waves, and earthquake hazard research will also be curtailed.

A second component of NIST's budget is INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY SERVICES. Again, the numbers fell far short of expectations. The FY 2007 budget was $183.8 million. The Administration's request, which again sought the termination of what was called the Advanced Technology Program, was only $46.3 million. Appropriators rejected the Administration's approach: the House recommended $201.8 million (up 9.8%); the Senate provided $210.0 million (up 14.3 percent.) The final bill provides $154.8 million, a reduction of $29 million or 15.8 percent. Within this budget category, the bill allocates $89.6 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (down 14.4 percent from last year's budget of $104.7 million), and $65.2 million for the Technology Innovation Program (what had been called the Advanced Technology Program), which received $79 million last year. The Explanatory Statement notes: "The funding provided for TIP will address mortgage obligations relating to projects created under the Advanced Technology Program."

Finally, the consolidated bill provides $160.5 million for the CONSTRUCTION OF RESEARCH FACILITIES. Of this, $51.3 million is for construction projects in Mississippi and Alabama. In addition, $30.1 million is for "competitive grants for research science buildings. The research buildings should span all the applicable sciences, as they relate to the Department of Commerce. These grants shall be awarded to colleges, universities, and other non-profit science research organizations on a competitive basis." After allowing for these designations, $79.1 million remains. The Administration requested $93.9 million. NIST will likely curtail its plans to increase its neutron research capacity at its oversubscribed Maryland facility and to perform much-need upgrades of its Colorado nanotechnology laboratory.

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