NIST Science Down 13% in Trump Budget

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President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget requests a 23 percent cut for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The proposed cuts fall hardest on NIST’s manufacturing programs, while its primary research account would see a 13 percent decrease.

President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request proposes to reduce funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology by 23 percent below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Currently funded at just under $1 billion, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness through the advancement of measurement science and standards.

The chart below depicts proposed changes to NIST’s three primary accounts. More detailed budget information is available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker, and the full fiscal year 2018 budget document for NIST is posted here.

NIST FY18 Budget Request bar chart

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The Scientific and Technical Research Services account, which funds the agency’s five laboratories and two user facilities, is spared from the deepest cuts, receiving a $90 million, or 13 percent, reduction. Funding for research facility construction is also shielded, with the budget providing level funding for modernization and renovation of the Radiation Physics Building in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

The Industrial Technology Services account, on the other hand, would be scaled back dramatically. The budget proposes eliminating the $130 million Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership program and downsizing by $10 million NIST’s contribution to Manufacturing USA, a network of advanced manufacturing institutes launched during the Obama administration. Of the $15 million request for the program, $10 million would maintain support for a recently launched biopharmaceutical manufacturing institute and $5 million would support coordination activities for the full network.

Laboratory Programs

Within NIST’s laboratories and centers, the budget targets funding reductions for lower priority programs “for reasons such as technology maturity, sub-critical effort, or where the work no longer requires the leading-edge measurement science capabilities of NIST.” The agency estimates that the proposed 11 percent cut to Laboratory Programs would entail the elimination of nearly 200 scientific positions, a 10 percent reduction in the agency’s scientific workforce.

Reductions are distributed across a range of activities, including advanced networked systems; advanced materials manufacturing; semiconductor and microelectronic measurements; environmental measurements; time and fundamental measurement dissemination; and quantum science. For example, the budget would specifically eliminate certain research into the advanced material graphene, thin film photovoltaics that reduce the cost of solar energy, inorganic materials for electronics, materials for advanced battery systems, and the application of quantum sensors to detect greenhouse gases. Funding for certain extramural research contracts and grants in these fields would be eliminated or scaled back. NIST would also mothball two instruments at the Center for Neutron Research user facility.

Standards Coordination and Special Programs

A 35 percent, or $24 million, cut to Standards Coordination and Special Programs, also funded through the Scientific and Technical Research Services account, would fall to a large extent on basic research and scientific applications. The NIST Greenhouse Gas Measurements Program, which develops advanced tools and standards for accurately measuring greenhouse gas emissions, would be cut by $6 million, leading to the termination of urban test beds in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and the Northeast Corridor, as well as associated modeling efforts at universities. The budget also terminates support for the NIST Consortium for Semiconductor and Future Computing Research, which aims to “catalyze industry investment in use-inspired basic research.” It would also eliminate support for a centrally managed forensic science research program.

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