The final appropriations agreement for fiscal year 2017 cuts the budget of the National Institute of Standards and Technology by 1 percent, attributable to a $10 million rollback in the agency’s construction budget. The rest of the NIST budget remains essentially the same as before.
Last week, President Trump signed into law the long-awaited appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2017, decreasing the budget for the National Institute of Standards and Technology by 1 percent. The new spending levels will prevail until at least the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Per custom, the bill is accompanied by an explanatory statement, which provides recommended funding levels for certain programs and projects. The statement also specifies that instructions in the corresponding House and Senate appropriations committee reports still stand unless superseded by new language. While the statement and reports do not carry the authority of law, agencies typically abide by these documents.
Although the Obama administration’s request and the House and Senate Appropriations Committee bills diverged significantly in their vision for NIST and its various activities, the end result of negotiations is that most parts of the NIST budget are in line with fiscal year 2016 levels:
Within NIST’s new overall budget of $954 million, the Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account remains at $690 million, and the House report specifies that, within that, laboratory programs should receive a slight increase from $605 million to $608 million. These programs include NIST’s Material Measurement Laboratory and Physical Measurement Laboratory, along with three other labs, and facilities that are partially user-funded, including the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and Center for Neutron Research.
The Obama administration had aimed to increase the STRS budget by 5.9 percent to $730.5 million. The proposed spending would have been spread among NIST’s programs, and would have included a doubling of the budget of the Measurement Science for Future Computing Technologies and Applications program. House appropriators, meanwhile, proposed altogether defunding NIST’s Lab-to-Market and Urban Dome activities and paring back the Standards Coordination program by almost 20 percent. In the end, though, Congress left those programs untouched.
NIST’s budget for Industrial Technology Services remains flat at $155 million. This includes $130 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, which the Trump administration aims to defund. The budget also includes $25 million to maintain the current level of support for the network of advanced manufacturing institutes now operating under the collective name Manufacturing USA.
How much money should be invested in Manufacturing USA has been a subject of dispute. The Obama administration had championed the institutes and sought to increase funding to $47 million. The House, meanwhile, proposed to reduce the program’s discretionary budget to $5 million. In March, the Trump administration proposed an immediate rollback of the program to $15 million. In the end, the Senate’s proposal to keep funding steady prevailed.
Finally, NIST’s budget for the construction of research facilities is reduced from $119 million to $109 million. In fiscal year 2016, Congress increased this budget by $60 million to begin renovation of NIST’s Radiation Physics Building in Gaithersburg, Maryland. That same amount has been specified for the project this year. The Obama administration had requested that total discretionary funding for construction be reduced to $95 million while requesting an additional $100 million in mandatory spending. The House suggested rolling all construction spending back to $50 million.
Further budget and appropriations information relating to NIST and other agencies is available at the Federal Science Budget Tracker on FYI’s website.
FY17 NIST Appropriations
|Scientific & Technical Research & Services||690||731||680||700||690||0.0%|
|Industrial Technology Services||155||189||135||155||155||0.0%|
|Construction of Research Facilities||119||95||50||119||109||-8.4%|
All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.
* Excludes $1.89 billion in proposed mandatory spending for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and $100 million in proposed mandatory spending for the Construction of Research Facilities account ($20 million of which is for the Radiation Physics Building).