FY18 Appropriations Bills: National Institute of Standards and Technology

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Publication date: 
9 August 2017
Number: 
110

The House and Senate appropriations bills for the National Institute of Standards and Technology would fund the agency’s laboratory programs at near the current level, but NIST’s standards coordination and manufacturing programs are potentially slated for deep funding cuts.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ fiscal year 2018 spending bills for the National Institute of Standards and Technology propose cuts to its overall budget of 9 percent and 1 percent below current levels, respectively. While the bills diverge on how to distribute these funding cuts among programs, both reject the scale of the Trump administration’s proposed 23 percent cut.

The chart below depicts proposed changes in funding for each of NIST’s major accounts. Detailed tables containing funding figures for these and additional selected accounts are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

Below is a summary of the NIST sections of the appropriations committee reports that accompany the bills. The full House report is available here, and the full Senate report is available here.

Appropriators support steady laboratory funding

In their reports, the House and Senate committees prioritize funding for NIST’s Laboratory Programs account, which supports the agency’s five research laboratories and two user facilities. The House committee would cut the account, currently funded at $605 million, by about 1 percent, a much smaller reduction than its proposed 9 percent cut to NIST overall. In addition, the House report includes language explicitly rejecting the administration’s proposed cuts to a number of research programs. The Senate report does not specify an amount for Laboratory Programs, but it recommends a 1 percent increase to the broader S&T Research & Services (STRS) account that funds these programs.

The House report recommends cutting the agency’s Standards Coordination and Special Programs (SCSP) account, which also falls under STRS, by a much steeper 28 percent, nearly in line with the administration’s request. It further clarifies that the committee supports the administration’s elimination of the Urban Dome program. The Senate does not weigh in on the SCSP account, but offers a full-throated defense of Urban Dome. 

The House would also scale back the $130 million Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) by 23 percent and slash NIST’s contribution to the Manufacturing USA initiative, which until recently was known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, by 80 percent to $5 million. The Senate report instead defends MEP with supportive language and would keep its funding at the fiscal year 2017 level. However, the Senate report would also provide the requested 40 percent cut to Manufacturing USA, bringing NIST’s contribution to $15 million.

Committee report comparison

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

Laboratory Programs

House: “The recommendation does not adopt the proposed reductions for: Advanced Networks, Connected Systems, and Data Science; Advanced Materials Manufacturing; Semiconductor and Microelectronic Measurements; Time and Fundamental Measurement Dissemination; Resilience and Structural Engineering; Biological Science and Health Measurements; Quantum Science; and User Facilities.”

Senate: “The Committee directs NIST to provide a detailed spending plan for NIST’s highest priority laboratory programs describing resources used for each program, project, or activity.”

Standards Coordination and Special Programs

House: “The recommendation includes $48,750,000 for standards coordination and special programs. The recommendation does not adopt the proposed reduction to Office of Special Programs Management and Program Coordination. Other requested reductions and terminations are adopted, including those requested for Urban Dome and Lab-to-Market.”

Cybersecurity

House: “The Committee is aware of concerns about the lack of data supporting the effectiveness of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework implemented by Executive Order 13636 in 2013. The Committee supports the development of a model to evaluate the effectiveness of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and believes that such research could be used to identify cost-savings generated by implementation of the framework and incentivize businesses to voluntarily implement its recommendations.”

Senate: “No less than the fiscal year 2017 amount is provided for cybersecurity research, outreach, industry partnerships, and other activities at NIST. Within funds provided, NIST is encouraged to update and enhance the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.

The Committee is still awaiting the report directed in fiscal year 2017 regarding the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence’s (NCCoE’s) absorption of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace mission, personnel, and funding. No less than $33,000,000 is provided for the expanded NCCoE. NIST shall provide a detailed accounting for the NCCoE’s budget and activities in its fiscal year 2018 spend plan.”

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 continues to recognize the importance of industry and municipal standards to better mitigate the impact of natural disasters and extreme weather events. However, because the private sector can provide meaningful contributions to these advancements, the Committee believes this program should be reduced by not less than $5,000,000 from the fiscal year 2017 enacted amount. Furthermore, no funding shall be provided through competitive external awards under [Scientific & Technical Research & Services] for Disaster Resilient Buildings.”

Internet of Things

House: “The Committee is aware of the very real threat that vulnerabilities in IoT devices pose for individuals, business and government alike. The Committee encourages NIST to develop an IoT cybersecurity research initiative and partner, as appropriate, with academic entities and industry to address vulnerabilities of IoT devices. The initiative should seek to improve the sustainable security of IoT devices in consumer and industrial settings. It should account for human, technical and economic dimensions.

The Committee also recognizes the importance of United States leadership in addressing security concerns for users and data within the IoT and commends NIST for its ongoing work in this area. In conjunction with this and other ongoing efforts related to cybersecurity, the Committee encourages NIST to continue strengthening its cybersecurity measurement science and standard-setting efforts related to the IoT, including, but not limited to, industry-led best practices such as flexible connection points and network segmentation.”

Senate: “The Committee provides up to $2,000,000 to develop an IoT cybersecurity research initiative and partner, as appropriate, with academic entities and industry to address vulnerabilities of IoT devices. The initiative shall seek to improve security of IoT devices in consumer and industrial settings, including new designs, protocols, algorithms, system architectures, identity and lifecycle strategies, system hardware features, and proposed security standards.”

Nano-structured metals

House: “The Committee is aware that the use of nano-structured metals in manufacturing is being explored with increasing frequency. The Committee is aware of concerns that the current regulatory framework, focused on process based standards, restricts the introduction of these new materials even if they demonstrate significantly better performance. Therefore, the Committee directs NIST to review the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Interlaboratory Study (ILS) Program and conduct a study as to how the ASTM ILS Program could be used as a framework to develop statistically rigorous performance standards for nano-structured metals to be approved for use and report back to the Committee by April 1, 2018.”

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.”

Plastics and polymeric materials

Senate: “The Committee recognizes the significant contributions that plastics have made to virtually all sectors of the economy, including in healthcare, infrastructure, food, and cosmetics, among many others. However, plastics take significant time to degrade in the environment due to their durability—a feature that makes them valuable for various societal uses. The Committee believes advancements in creating products from recycled plastics could provide a more sustainable option for their use. Many hurdles remain in manufacturing products from recycled plastics with the same strength, color, odor, and malleability of new plastic products. Therefore, the Committee provides up to $5,000,000 for competitive external grants for academic institutions to investigate plastic and polymeric materials, as well as novel methods to characterize both known and newly developed materials. Such investigations should address ways to increase the strength of recycled plastics and better understand mechanical properties including tensile stress, compressive stress, thermal properties, and nanostructure of polymeric materials that could serve as industry standards for recycled plastic products.”

Urban Dome program

House: “The recommendation does not adopt the proposed reduction to Office of Special Programs Management and Program Coordination. Other requested reductions and terminations are adopted, including those requested for Urban Dome and Lab-to-Market.”

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 2017 amount for the Office of Special Programs to maintain and consider expanding the number of urban dome locations in fiscal year 2018.”

Helmet safety

House: “The Committee is aware of scientific data that demonstrates a correlation between football-related collisions and concussions and 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 determine scientifically 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 to examine advanced helmets and equipment and in developing new testing standards to ensure player 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 sports helmets while exploring future product designs that can safely reduce the neural risk of playing football, hockey, and other high-impact sports. The academic community has substantial 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. Additionally, NIST should consider establishing an effective national testing standard to inform the development of youth-specific helmet safety standards.”

Manufacturing programs

House: “…includes $100,000,000 for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and $5,000,000 for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.”

Senate: “Supporting the Nation’s manufacturers, especially small businesses, is critical to keeping America innovative in a global marketplace. The Committee rejects the proposed elimination of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) and instead provides $130,000,000 for the program. 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.

The Committee provides the full request of $15,000,000 for NIST’s activities in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) (also known as ‘Manufacturing USA’), to include no more than $5,000,000 for coordination activities. The Manufacturing USA program promotes American competiveness by fostering the development of new manufacturing techniques and fields, accelerating commercialization, and providing technical assistance to U.S. companies.”

Radiation physics laboratories construction

Senate: “The funding provided includes $60,000,000 for the continued renovation of NIST’s radiation physics laboratories. Additionally, NIST is directed to request sufficient funds in fiscal year 2019 to accelerate completion of the Building 1 renovation, which has been underway since 2010 and is currently scheduled for completion in 2028.”

About the author

mhenry [at] aip.org
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