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Science and innovation prominent in Biden’s budget

April 15, 2021
By: Jason Rittenberg

Last week, the Biden-Harris administration released an initial budget proposal for FY 2022 discretionary appropriations. The document (referred to in Washington as a “skinny budget,” not because of the overall size of spending but because it serves as more of an outline or framework for the full budget proposal which will come in May) clearly emphasizes the importance of climate change, economic opportunity, equity and health as cross-cutting priorities. For regional innovation economies, these priorities would translate into significant increases in R&D funding, as well as additional funds for tech-based economic development activities.

The budget document that is available now is not a full presidential budget recommendation, which is expected in mid-May and, therefore, does not provide a suggested funding level for every federal initiative. Instead, the budget is a messaging document highlighting new efforts and existing activities that the administration would like to expand or otherwise emphasize. This insight into the president’s priorities is particularly useful early in the administration, when the government has not had much of an opportunity to shape programs through actions.

Highlights from the budget proposal by agency are available below.

A note about funding levels

Readers may be surprised, or even disappointed, to see that most of the increases discussed in the budget are measured in millions of dollars. Recent emergency legislation that spent trillions of dollars at a time on programs often measuring in the tens or hundreds of billions has changed the scale of the discussions around federal spending. This proposal relates to the annual discretionary spending budget, which provides about $1.5 trillion each year to numerous offices and initiatives — largely with the intention of providing funding again next year. The annual spending bill is a very different vehicle than an emergency spending bill.

Highlights from the skinny budget

The following list includes many of the science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives discussed in the administration’s budget document. When available, both the proposed FY 2022 funding level and the change relative to the enacted FY 2021 budget are provided. More information is available in the document.

 

Department of Agriculture

  • Expanded funding for rural broadband (+$65 million)
  • $4 billion for USDA research, education and outreach (+$647 million)

 

Department of Commerce

National Institute of Standards & Technology

  • $150 million to fund two new Manufacturing USA institutes (+$150 million)
  • $275 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (+$125 million)
  • $916 million for scientific and technological research (+$128 million)

Economic Development Administration

  • $300 million for economic development projects (+$28 million[1])
  • $84 million for assistance to coal communities (+$50 million)

Minority Business Development Agency

  • $70 million (+$22 million)
  • Promoting the agency leader to an assistant secretary position

 

Department of Education

  • Increases maximum Pell Grant by $400
  • Additional funding for institutions of higher education that support disadvantaged students (+$600 million)

 

Department of Energy

  • $1.9 billion for a new “Building Clean Energy Projects and Workforce Initiative” (+$1.9 billion)
  • $8 billion for a variety of energy tech, including nuclear energy and electric vehicles
  • $7.4 billion for the Office of Science (+$400 million)
  • $1 billion for Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA)-Energy and to create a new ARPA-Climate (+$573 million)
  • Funding for research infrastructure for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions

 

Department of Labor

  • $285 million for registered apprenticeships (+$100 million), particularly to support increasing participation by underrepresented groups and in a wider range of industries
  • $100 million for reskilling and reemploying displaced workers in Appalachia (+$100 million)
  • $20 million to train veterans for careers in clean energy (+$20 million)

 

Department of the Treasury

  • $330 million for Community Development Financial Institutions (+$60 million)

 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • $1.4 billion for space technology R&D (+$325 million)
  • $2.3 billion for Earth science (+$250 million)
  • $140 million for STEM engagement (+$20 million)

 

National Institutes of Health

  • $44.5 billion across the existing institutes (+$2.5 billion)
  • $6.5 billion to create ARPA-Health (+$6.5 billion)

 

National Science Foundation

  • $10.2 billion across the agency (+$1.7 billion)
  • Creates a new directorate for technology, innovation and partnerships to “translate research into practical applications”

 

Small Business Administration

  • $30 million for Regional Innovation Clusters, Federal and State Technology Partnership, and Growth Accelerators (+$18 million)
  • Increasing SBA’s “capacity to scale” the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program
  • $10 million to facilitate small business capital access for climate change and clean energy[2]

 

 

[1] This is the increase relative to EDA’s programmatic funding in FY 2021. EDA’s programs would see a $12 million decrease if the budget’s figures are meant to include EDA’s administrative costs.

[2] The budget does not clarify if this would be new spending or a new mandate within existing SBA programs.

fy22budget, federal budget