April 26, 2021

Washington Roundup - April 2021- By Lowell Randel

Washington Roundup – April 2021

Science Investments Included in Biden Budget Request

On April 9th, President Biden released information related to his fiscal year 2022 budget priorities.  The submission to Congress highlights discretionary spending priorities for federal agencies but does not include program-by-program details.  A full FY 2022 budget request is expected later in the spring.  Biden’s discretionary request proposes $769 billion in non-defense discretionary funding in FY 2022, which reflects a 16 percent increase over the FY 2021 enacted level. 

Research and development are featured prominently in the budget request.  According to the Biden Administration, the discretionary request proposes historic increases in funding for foundational research and development across a range of scientific agencies—including the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy (DOE), NIST, and others—to help spur innovation across the economy and renew America’s global leadership. These investments would: accelerate discoveries that would transform America’s understanding of the solar system and universe; launch the next generation of satellites to study and improve life on Earth; and support upgrades to cutting-edge scientific user facilities at the DOE National Laboratories to build climate and clean energy research programs and train the next generation of scientists at HBCU and MSI.

Below are highlights from the request related to research supported by USDA and other federal agencies:

Invests in Critical Research and Development Capacity for Farmers: The discretionary request provides $4 billion, or $647 million above the 2021 enacted level, for USDA’s research, education, and outreach programs. These investments in agricultural research would advance innovation and the application of science-based and data driven tools to put American technologies into the hands of farmers. In addition, the discretionary request provides an increase of $161 million above the 2021 enacted level to support a multi-agency initiative to integrate science-based tools into conservation planning in order to measure, monitor, report, and verify carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas reduction, wildlife stewardship, and other environmental services at the farm level and on Federal lands.

Promotes Biomedical Research and Establishes the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H):  The discretionary request includes $51 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a $9 billion increase over the 2021 enacted level, to continue to support research that enhances health, lengthens life, and reduces illness and disability. Included in this increase is $6.5 billion to establish ARPA-H. With an initial focus on cancer and other diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s, this major investment in Federal research and development would drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs.

Advances Climate Science and Sustainability Research: The discretionary request proposes over $4 billion to fund a broad portfolio of research across multiple agencies including the Department of the Interior, NASA, the National Science Foundation and others to improve understanding of the changing climate and inform adaptation and resilience measures.

Drives Breakthrough Solutions in Climate Innovation: The discretionary request includes a total of $1 billion to create a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate and invest in the existing Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Together, these initiatives would support high-risk, high-reward solutions for adaptation and resilience against the climate crisis and enable robust investments in clean energy technology research and development.

American Jobs Plan Incudes Research Infrastructure Investments

On March 31, 2021, President Biden released the American Jobs Plan which would provide $2.25 trillion in investments in a variety of infrastructure initiatives.  While many of the proposed initiatives address traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, the President’s proposal also includes support for research infrastructure.  Biden’s proposal calls on Congress to make the following investments in America’s research infrastructure:

  • $50 billion in the National Science Foundation (NSF), creating a technology directorate that will collaborate with and build on existing programs across the government. It will focus on fields like semiconductors and advanced computing, advanced communications technology, advanced energy technologies, and biotechnology. He also is calling on Congress to provide $30 billion in additional funding for R&D that spurs innovation and job creation, including in rural areas.
  • $40 billion in upgrading research infrastructure in laboratories across the country, including brick-and-mortar facilities and computing capabilities and networks. These funds would be allocated across the federal R&D agencies, including at the Department of Energy. Half of those funds will be reserved for Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions, including the creation of a new national lab focused on climate that will be affiliated with an HBCU.

The $40 billion proposed to upgrade facilities could be used to support investments in university research facilities, as called for by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) recent study entitled “A National Study of Capital Infrastructure at Colleges and Schools of Agriculture”.