FYI: Science Policy News

Final FY20 Appropriations: National Institute of Standards and Technology

JAN 29, 2020
The budget for the National Institute of Standards and Technology is increasing by 5% to just over $1 billion in fiscal year 2020, with much of the additional funding directed toward priority research areas and facility construction projects.

Congress’ recently enacted appropriation for fiscal year 2020 provides the National Institute of Standards and Technology with $1.03 billion, a 5% increase from last year that is distributed across the agency’s three main accounts.

Within NIST’s research account, Congress is increasing funding for quantum information science and artificial intelligence. The boost to the facilities account supports ongoing renovation and modernization projects, while the increase for Industrial Technology Services supports the agency’s manufacturing innovation and assistance programs.

FY20 Appropriations: NIST

An explanatory statement accompanying Congress’ final bill provides funding and policy direction, and the House and Senate reports on their respective spending bills convey additional direction unless the language is negated in the final statement. For summary tables, consult the FYI Federal Science Budget Tracker .

Selected priority research areas

A NIST physicist with an optical “tweezer” clock that offers new avenues for quantum physics research.

A NIST physicist with an optical “tweezer” clock that offers new avenues for quantum physics research.

(Image credit – J. Burrus / NIST)

The Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, which supports NIST’s laboratory programs, is increasing by $29.5 million to $754 million.

Quantum research. The legislation provides $10 million above the enacted fiscal year 2019 level of about $30 million for quantum information science to support NIST’s role in implementing the National Quantum Initiative Act , meeting the agency’s request. The additional funding will support the agency’s new Quantum Economic Development Consortium and work at its quantum science research centers at the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado Boulder. The explanatory statement adopts policy direction from both the Senate and House reports, the latter of which encourages the agency to expand collaborations with industry, universities, and federal laboratories in the field.

Artificial intelligence. The legislation provides $8 million above the enacted fiscal year 2019 level for AI research, meeting the agency’s request. The Senate report notes AI’s connection to the administration’s “Industries of the Future” initiative and directs NIST to “develop resources for government, corporate, and academic uses of AI to train and test systems, model AI behavior, and compare systems.”

Microelectronics. Congress directs NIST to spend at least $2 million to “develop and deliver material characterization, standards, and analytical tools needed for advancing microelectronics technology.” The final appropriation falls short of the $10 million increase over a base amount of $22.5 million NIST requested to advance measurement science for microelectronics applications, including by creating a program to assess the performance of photonic integrated circuits.

Climate change resilience. The House report raises concerns about how building standards account for “increasingly extreme weather events and other climate change challenges.” It also directs NIST to “identify a consistent and authoritative set of climate information that emphasizes forward-looking climate data and projections that should be utilized in the standard-setting process.” The explanatory statement clarifies that this language “neither directs nor authorizes NIST to undertake any regulatory action.”

Research facility construction

The legislation provides $118 million for research facility construction, an 11% increase, and directs that no less than $75 million go toward the “most pressing” Safety, Capacity, Maintenance, and Major Repairs (SCMMR) projects.

It does not adopt NIST’s proposal to create a Federal Capital Revolving Fund that would finance renovations on the main building at its campus in Boulder, Colorado, which the agency estimated would ultimately cost $288 million. Instead, the legislation directs that $43 million from the facility account be used for the project.

Industrial technology services

For the third year in a row, Congress rejects the Trump administration’s request to eliminate federal funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, which provides technical assistance to U.S. manufacturing businesses. Instead, the program’s budget is rising by $6 million to $146 million and Congress instructs that NIST increase spending on the program’s 51 centers by at least $100,000 each.

The legislation also provides $16 million for Manufacturing USA, a national network of advanced manufacturing institutes. The Senate report further directs this $1 million increase over the previous year be used to support competitively awarded grants that “develop technology roadmaps for promising advanced manufacturing clusters.”

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