The National Institute of Standards and Technology is receiving the largest funding increase, by percentage, of the science agencies in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations law. Most of the increase is designated for research facility construction, but nearly all major NIST programs will see at least flat funding.
The final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2018 provides the National Institute of Standards and Technology with $1.2 billion, a $245 million or 26 percent funding increase over the fiscal year 2017 level. This percentage increase is the largest being provided to a federal science agency in fiscal year 2018.
Congress stipulates that the lion’s share of the increase is for the construction and renovation of research facilities. The unexpected near-tripling of the research construction budget to $319 million will allow NIST to finish its renovation of the Radiation Physics Building on its Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus and make significant progress on the renovation of Building 1 on its Boulder, Colorado, campus. NIST has said for years that these buildings have deteriorated to the point that they are impeding research.
The Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, which supports NIST’s five laboratories, two user facilities, as well as special programs, is growing by a more moderate 5 percent or $35 million, to $725 million.
Congress’ joint explanatory statement with additional budget details and other policy guidance is available here. Unless otherwise noted in the statement, language in the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports also conveys congressional intent. Detailed tables with funding amounts by account are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
Scientific and Technical Research and Services
STRS supports NIST’s five labs — the Communications Technology, Engineering, Information Technology, Material Measurement, and Physical Measurement Laboratories — and two user facilities — the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Center for Neutron Research. In addition, it funds national standards coordination efforts and a number of special programs.
Labs, user facilities, and other programs at no risk of being cut. Congress specifies that NIST may not carry out any of the terminations or reductions the Trump administration has proposed. It also specifies that the following programs should be funded at “no less” than their fiscal year 2017 levels:
- Advanced Networks, Connected Systems, and Data Science;
- Advanced Materials Manufacturing;
- Biological Science and Health Measurements;
- Corporate Services;
- Environmental Measurements;
- Office of Special Programs;
- Quantum Science;
- Resilience and Structural Engineering;
- Semiconductor and Microelectronic Measurements;
- Standards Coordination Office;
- Time and Fundamental Measurement Dissemination; and
- User Facilities.
As this list covers the major themes of NIST’s research and its major program areas, NIST is left with little room to reduce funding for or eliminate programs in fiscal year 2018.
Extramural partnerships for disaster resilience research encouraged. The statement provides at least $5 million for competitive external awards for the Disaster Resilient Buildings program and directs NIST to respond to grant applicants’ requests. House report language clarifies that “NIST’s Engineering Division is encouraged to partner with academic research institutions that have expertise in mitigating the effects of natural disasters to study and recommend best practices for resilient planning and construction.”
Development of national standards for nano-structured materials a priority. Via House report language, Congress directs NIST to assess a framework for statistically rigorous performance standards to be used in the approval and use of nano-structured metals in manufacturing.
Metals and plastics research programs supported. Via Senate report language, Congress provides up to $5 million for each of two competitive external grant programs for academic institutions. The first aims to support R&D and workforce training to overcome barriers to high-volume additive manufacturing of metals, while the second supports investigation into plastic and polymeric materials, including their characterization.
Both House and Senate report language also encourage NIST to investigate the development of national testing standards for sports helmets that would address current safety inadequacies and to explore how future product designs can “reduce the neural risk of playing football, hockey, and other high-impact sports.”
Cybersecurity research, outreach, and partnerships a focus. Via Senate report language, Congress provides at least $33 million for an “expanded” National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. It also encourages the agency to update and enhance the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and develop a model to evaluate its effectiveness.
Industrial Technology Services
Industrial Technology Services is funded at $155 million, level with its fiscal year 2017 appropriation. Within that amount, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership will grow by $10 million, or 8 percent, to $140 million.
The remaining $15 million is going to the Manufacturing USA program, a $10 million or 40 percent cut. The statement designates $5 million of this amount specifically for NIST’s role in coordinating Manufacturing USA institutes across the country, which are supported by various federal agencies.