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NIST Director Testifies on Budget Challenges

MAY 29, 2024
The agency is seeking to surge funding for sorely needed facility repairs and its growing role in AI policy.
Jacob Taylor headshot
Senior Editor for Science Policy, FYI American Institute of Physics
Locascio at a House Science Committee Hearing May 2024.png

NIST Director Laurie Locascio at a House Science Committee hearing in May 2024.

(House Science Committee)

Budget strains facing the National Institute of Standards and Technology were the focus of a House Science Committee hearing last week. NIST Director Laurie Locascio said that in the wake of the reduced budget it received from Congress for fiscal year 2024 the agency had to freeze hiring, reduce its number of students and postdocs, and pare back some programs.

Locascio highlighted how the president’s 2025 budget request for NIST proposes to surge funding for priority areas such as informing standards for artificial intelligence and addressing the agency’s large backlog of facilities maintenance. Aging and decaying research facilities have emerged as major issues across federal research agencies, but the situation at NIST has received particular attention following reports calling out major problems at its labs and offices.

Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) applauded NIST’s work on AI in his opening statement but expressed concerns that the agency is being overburdened. “While mighty, NIST is a small agency, and its resources are spread exceptionally thin. I am concerned that some of these additional responsibilities may end up taking focus away from core NIST programs,” he said.

Committee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) emphasized the maintenance backlog in her opening statement. “Congress has not funded any real solutions to that problem. Now, the infrastructure issues are coming to a head, decreasing the effectiveness of the agency, damaging staff morale, and in some cases, putting those staff in real danger,” she said.

This news brief originally appeared in FYI’s newsletter for the week of May 27.

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