FY22 budget request roll out:
The White House is set to release a preview of President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget request in the near future, with the full, more detailed budget expected to be sent to Capitol Hill later in April or even in May. During his first press conference since taking office, Biden indicated his science and technology priorities include increasing federal funding for research and development as a share of gross domestic product from the current level of about 0.7% to nearly 2% and focusing on quantum computing, industries of the future, and more.
COVID relief and infrastructure package:
President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law last month. In addition to more relief for universities, extended unemployment benefits, and other COVID-related provisions, the package included $600 million for the National Science Foundation to “fund or extend new and existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, fellowships, and apprenticeships, and related administrative expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”
On Wednesday the Biden administration unveiled the broad outline of the president’s $2.3 trillion proposal for an infrastructure/highway and economic stimulus package focused on boosting job growth. The plan proposes corporate tax increases to offset its costs. The proposal is extremely broad in scope, with only about 5% targeted for actual roads and bridges. It includes a proposed $180 billion for investments in research and development and another $100 billion in workforce development.
A similarly sized proposal that will focus on social services is also in development, but no date for its release has been announced. Several House committees have already started introducing and marking up bills that will become part of the eventual House version of the infrastructure and jobs package, which they want to move through the legislative process this spring and summer.
National Science Foundation bills:
Before Congress adjourned for Easter break, there was a flurry of activity regarding new legislative proposals to reform and expand the National Science Foundation (NSF). The House Science Committee introduced the NSF for the Future Act last week, which is a bipartisan bill that proposes an approximate doubling of NSF’s budget over five years. The bill is seen as an alternative proposal to the Endless Frontiers Act that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) introduced in the last Congress, which would have grown the NSF budget and directed the agency to do more applied research.
Schumer and Young are now planning to incorporate parts of their Endless Frontiers Act into a new bill they are drafting that focuses on bolstering U.S. competitiveness and countering economic threats from other countries. Additionally, House Science Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) reintroduced his Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act, which would double the budgets of certain science agencies over 10 years including NSF.
The National Academies released a report last week recommending the U.S. spend $100 million to $200 million over five years on exploratory research into methods to curb global warming by altering the atmosphere to reflect more sunlight. While cautioning that solar geoengineering should not be viewed as a substitute for climate mitigation or adaptation, it recommends an initial research program that should focus on “developing policy-relevant knowledge, rather than advancing a path for deployment.”
Cabinet nominee confirmations:
While President Biden has yet to name his pick to lead NOAA, he has now announced that former Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is his pick for NASA Administrator. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will likely schedule his confirmation hearing during April. Separately, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced that former NOAA head Jane Lubchenco is going to be the OSTP’s deputy director for climate and environment, a role that is not subject to Senate confirmation. In addition, NASA has joined the White House’s National Climate Task Force after the agency’s initial absence raised eyebrows given its key role in federal Earth science research.