Although many months past due, Congress on March 23 finalized the federal spending for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2018, only hours before a what would have been the third government shutdown of the year. Congressional spending has been allocated in fits and starts since the end of FY 2017 last September, with patchwork deals keeping things running amid pervasive uncertainty. While this clearly isn’t an ideal way to fund the federal government, the end result will make many in the business of research and development pleased with the addition of more resources for science and innovation.
There was grave concern over the future of federal spending with the release of the president’s FY 2018 budget, which would have cut the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget by 11 percent and National Institutes of Standards & Technology (NIST) spending by 30 percent. Relief came with early drafts from Congress that whittled those cuts down to between 2-9 percent. But the real boost was a February bipartisan Congressional agreement that lifted self-imposed spending caps and introduced a generous dose of non-defense discretionary spending, increasing NSF spending 3.9 percent over the previous year and the NIST budget an astounding 25.9 percent over FY 2017 levels.
SEMI applauds this much-needed support for basic research and development (R&D) at these agencies after their budgets were cut or flat-funded for multiple cycles. It is well understood that federal R&D funding is critical to U.S. competitiveness and future economic prosperity. With the stakes that high, full funding of R&D programs at the NSF and NIST should be a bipartisan national priority backed by a strong and united community of stakeholders and advocates in the business, professional, research, and education communities.
With the work for FY 2018 completed, Congress will now turn to FY 2019 spending – already behind schedule due to the belated completion of the previous year’s budget. With 2018 an election year, Congress will likely begin work on the FY 2019 budget in short order, but probably won’t complete its work prior to the November elections. SEMI will continue to work with lawmakers to support the R&D budgets at the agencies and their important basic science research. If you’d like to know how you can be more involved with SEMI’s public policy work, please contact Jamie Girard, Sr. Director, Public Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org.