FY17 Appropriations Bills: National Institute of Standards and Technology

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Publication date: 
6 June 2016

Following the president’s request for a 5.2 percent discretionary funding increase for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in fiscal year 2017, the House and Senate proposals are a field apart. The House is proposing a 10.3 percent overall cut but would spare laboratory research, while the Senate would provide a slight 1.0 percent increase.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have completed work on the fiscal year 2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill that will fund the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) next year. While neither full chamber has yet considered the bill, both appropriations committees have approved committee reports that provide policy guidance and detailed spending proposals for NIST.

The NIST section of the Senate CJS committee report begins on page 18, while the corresponding section of the draft House CJS committee report begins on page 10.

The below table compares the House and Senate spending proposals for NIST, based on the figures in the committee reports. Additional details are available in AIP’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.


FY17 NIST Appropriations Summary Table

Funding Line FY16
House Change
Senate Change
NIST 964 1,015 5.2% 865 -10.3% 974 1.0%
Scientific & Technical Research & Services 690 731 5.9% 680 -1.4% 700 1.4%
Laboratory Programs 605 639 5.5% 608 0.5% -- --
Standards Coordination 68 71 4.4% 55 -18.5% -- --
Corporate Services 17 21 23.1% 17 0.0% -- --
Industrial Technology Services 155 189 21.9% 135 -12.9% 155 0.0%
Manufacturing Extension Partnership 130 142 9.2% 130 0.0% 130 0.0%
National Network for Manufacturing Innovation 25 47 88.0% 5 -80.0% 25 0.0%
Construction of Research Facilities 119 95 -20.2% 50 -58.0% 119 0.0%
Radiation Physics Building 60 40 -33.3% - - 60 0.0%

* Excludes $1.89 billion in proposed mandatory spending for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and $100 million in proposed mandatory spending for the Construction of Research Facilities account ($20 million of which is for the Radiation Physics Building).

** All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.

Administration, House and Senate a field apart on NIST budget

In his fiscal year 2017 budget request, President Obama championed NIST in ways that went above and beyond his support for the other science agencies. In addition to proposing $1.89 billion in mandatory funding to vastly expand the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation over the next decade and another $100 million for construction of research facilities, the president would boost NIST’s discretionary funding budget by $51 million or 5.2 percent. If Congress had the appetite to approve all of the president’s NIST proposals for next year, the agency would more than triple in size over the next decade.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees, however, are rejecting the president’s approach toward NIST. There is no sign that any of the president’s mandatory spending proposals are being considered. In addition, unlike the president, the committees do not appear to have any appetite for favoring NIST over the other departments and agencies funded in the CJS appropriations bill.

In a fiscally constrained year in which non-defense discretionary spending is flat, the Senate would increase NIST’s topline budget by a slight 1.0 percent and the House would impose a deep 10.3 percent cut, although the House would spare laboratory research from bearing the brunt of that cut. Much of the House’s proposed cuts would fall on the president’s priorities: the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the construction of research facilities, including the ongoing renovation of the radiation physics laboratories (Building 245) on NIST’s Gaithersburg campus.

Side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate committee reports

Below are a set of expandable tabs which contain excerpts from the explanatory reports for NIST that accompany the House and Senate bills.

Scientific and Technical Research and Services

Laboratory Programs

House: “The recommendation includes $608,000,000 for NIST Laboratory programs.”

Lab-to-market Program

House: “The recommendation does not provide funding for the lab-to-market program.”

Forensic Science

Senate: “The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2016 enacted level for the Forensic Science Center of Excellence. The Committee recommends that NIST continue to work in concert with statisticians and researchers in related scientific fields to bring additional scientific resources and expertise to the practice and application of forensic science. Additionally, within funds provided, NIST is encouraged to work with the forensic science community to establish developmental validation standards for forensic science test methodologies.”

Disaster Resilient Buildings

House: “As part of its efforts to improve the resiliency of buildings, NIST’s Engineering Division is encouraged to partner with academic research institutions that have expertise in mitigating the effects of natural disasters to study and recommend best practices for resilient planning and construction. The Committee also urges NIST to study building standards and develop recommendations on how building standards for buildings, homes, and infrastructure could be improved (e.g. fortified structures and durability of materials) to enhance resiliency.”

Senate: “The Committee recognizes the importance of industry and municipal standards to better mitigate the impact of natural disasters and extreme weather events, which can save lives, reduce destruction to property, and enable faster economic recovery. Current building codes often do not provide the necessary protection against natural hazards, particularly with regard to enabling immediate occupancy after a significant earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, or other natural disasters. The Committee supports efforts to promote the use of resilient engineering design and construction techniques to improve the resiliency of buildings, homes, and infrastructure, and encourages NIST to partner with academic research institutions and industry stakeholders that have expertise in mitigating the effects of natural disasters to study and recommend best practices for resilient planning and construction.

Of the amounts provided for Disaster Resilient Buildings and Infrastructure, not less than $5,000,000 shall be distributed through competitive external awards to academic institutions to support the evaluation of potential technologies and architectural design criteria to aid the overall effort for science-based building codes to improve disaster resilience. Additionally, not later than 1 year after the enactment of this act, NIST, in coordination with other relevant agencies and standards development organizations, shall provide to the Committee a plan detailing the basic research, applied research, and implementation activities necessary to develop a new ‘‘immediate occupancy’’ safety building performance objective for commercial and residential properties, as well as the engineering design principles needed to fulfill this objective.”

Spectrum Challenge Prize

Senate: "The Committee encourages NIST, subject to the availability of funds, to conduct prize competitions to dramatically accelerate the development and commercialization of technology that improves spectrum efficiency and is capable of cost effective deployment. NIST is encouraged to work with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and other relevant Federal agencies to assist in the design of the prize competitions."

Urban Dome Program

House: “The recommendation does not provide funding for the Urban Dome program.”

Senate: “The Committee notes the value of NIST’s Urban Dome program and the importance of accurate measurement science for environmental monitoring and human health, as more than half the world’s population is living in urban areas, and this concentration is expected to intensify over the coming decades. The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2016 amount for the Office of Special Programs to maintain and expand the number of urban dome locations in fiscal year 2017.”

Helmet Safety

Senate: “The Committee is aware of scientific data that demonstrates a correlation between football-related collisions and concussions, as well as other traumatic brain injuries that can lead to debilitating neural diseases such as dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The Committee encourages NIST to investigate an effective national testing standard to better scientifically understand the inadequacies of football helmets while exploring future product designs that can safely reduce the neural risk of playing football. A number of academic institutions have substantial capabilities and knowledge of these issues and NIST should work cooperatively with the academic community by funding research for advanced helmets and equipment and in developing new testing standards to ensure player safety.”

Metals-Based Additive Manufacturing

Senate: “The Committee provides up to $5,000,000 for competitive external grants for academic institutions to support research, development, and workforce training to overcome barriers to high-volume additive manufacturing of metals. While the Committee is aware of recent breakthroughs in metals-based additive manufacturing, major technical barriers still exist to dramatically improving build rates that would enable commercial markets to benefit from high-volume, metals-based additive manufacturing. In addition, NIST is directed to support partnerships and research opportunities with academic institutions in the advanced manufacturing of plastics and polymers and to explore ways to further reduce inefficiencies in the polymer manufacturing and extrusion process.”


Senate: “The Committee provides NIST’s full requested level for biomanufacturing activities.”

Industrial Technology Services

Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP)

Senate: “The Committee provides $130,000,000 for MEP. The Committee supports MEP’s focus on strengthening the existing network of MEP centers and providing additional support to centers based on the documented performance of the center’s activities and the manufacturing capacity of the area served by the center.”

National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

Senate: “The Committee provides $25,000,000 for NIST’s activities in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, to include funding for center establishment and up to $5,000,000 for coordination activities. NIST shall follow the direction of the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–235), which requires open competition to select the technological focus areas of these industry-driven institutes.”

Construction of Research Facilities

Radiation Physics Laboratories

Senate: “The Committee provides $60,000,000 for the continued renovation of NIST’s radiation physics laboratories. NIST is directed to proceed with an aggressive construction and funding schedule in future budget requests, targeting a completion and occupancy date not later than fiscal year 2023.”


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