FY19 Appropriations Bills: National Institute of Standards and Technology

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Publication date: 
26 June 2018
Number: 
76

Funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s research account would remain steady under the fiscal year 2019 spending bills advanced by House and Senate appropriators. However, the budget for NIST research facility construction would be more than halved from the elevated level the agency received for fiscal year 2018.

House and Senate appropriators are proposing double-digit percentage budget cuts for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in fiscal year 2019, portending a partial rollback of the 26 percent funding boost the agency was appropriated for fiscal year 2018.

The House’s proposed 18 percent cut and Senate’s proposed 13 percent cut for NIST would mostly come out of its research facility construction budget, which Congress significantly boosted this year to accelerate the renovation of laboratory facilities on NIST’s campuses in Maryland and Colorado. The agency’s main Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account, which funds laboratory research as well as special programs, would see approximately level funding level in both proposals, maintaining the 5 percent funding increase it received for fiscal year 2018.

Even with the cuts, the House and Senate proposals soundly reject the Trump administration’s austere 48 percent proposed cut for NIST. The administration’s request would eliminate about one-fifth of NIST’s research base, practically end its manufacturing partnership programs, and greatly slow research facility construction.

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FY19 House and Senate spending proposals for NIST

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More details by account are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker. Additional funding and policy guidance can be found in the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports on the bills, and a side-by-side comparison of report language is provided at the end of this bulletin.

Scientific and Technical Research and Services

House appropriators stipulate no cuts to NIST labs. While the House report calls for a marginal cut to STRS, it clarifies that NIST should provide “no less than the fiscal year 2018 amount” for NIST’s laboratory programs. Laboratory programs received $605 million, almost two-thirds of NIST’s total budget, in fiscal year 2017. Although its fiscal year 2018 is not yet set, STRS as a whole was boosted by 5 percent to $725 million.

NIST’s laboratory programs include the Communications Technology Laboratory, Engineering Laboratory, Information Technology Laboratory, Material Measurement Laboratory, and Physical Measurement Laboratory, as well as the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Center for Neutron Research.

Quantum science and engineering. While the Senate report includes no such language prioritizing laboratory research, it proposes $5 million for the establishment of a private-public consortium to advance quantum science and engineering.

Special programs. The House would leave non-laboratory programs within STRS, such as Standards Coordination and Special Programs, to bear the brunt of the budget cuts. The House report calls for the termination of two special programs: the Urban Dome program, which focuses on measurement science for environmental monitoring and human health, and the Lab-to-Market program, which aims to establish standardized tools and practices to accelerate the transfer of technology resulting from federally funded R&D to the private sector.

In contrast, the Senate praises the value of Urban Dome and calls for NIST to provide it no less than the fiscal year 2018 funding amount and expand the number of urban dome locations.

Disaster resilience and windstorm impact reduction. Both the House and Senate appropriators express support for NIST’s work on disaster resilience and windstorm impact reduction, with the Senate specifying no less than the fiscal year 2018 amount for competitive external awards in these areas.

Materials research. The Senate report underscores the importance of NIST’s research into creating improved-quality products from recycled plastics and directs the agency to provide no less than the fiscal year 2018 amount for competitive external grants for universities to investigate plastic and polymeric materials. It also asks NIST to evaluate the establishment of a new advanced materials center dedicated to graphene, which it describes as “an innovative material with significant commercial and national security potential.” Senate appropriators further direct NIST to fund no less than the fiscal year 2018 level for competitive external grants for universities to support R&D and workforce training related to high-volume additive manufacturing of metals.

Construction of Research Facilities

The House and Senate reports both propose to cut NIST’s research facilities construction account to less than half its current level, after its budget nearly tripled to $319 million in fiscal year 2018. Appropriators are treating the fiscal year 2018 windfall as one-time funding for NIST to accelerate the completion of the Radiation Physics Building on the Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus and continue renovation of the main NIST laboratory building on the Boulder, Colorado, campus.

Industrial Technology Services

For a second year in a row, the Trump administration has proposed eliminating NIST’s $140 million Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP), a public-private partnership working to advance the productivity and performance of manufacturing through centers in all 50 U.S. states. Both committees explicitly reject the proposed eliminations and call for increased support for MEP centers.

The Senate would fully fund the administration’s $15 million requested contribution to the Manufacturing USA program, a national network of regional manufacturing institutes, but the House would provide only $5 million.

Report language

The following expandable tabs offer side-by-side comparisons of language from the House and Senate appropriators' reports on NIST. This language details funding proposals, policy guidance, and the appropriators' views on different programs.

Laboratory programs

House: The recommendation includes no less than the fiscal year 2018 amount for NIST Laboratory programs.

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 $55,000,000 for standards coordination and special programs. The recommendation does not adopt the proposed reduction to forensic science. The recommendation terminates Urban Dome and Lab-to-Market.

Senate: The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 amount for forensic science research. Additionally, the Committee provides $3,000,000 to support the Organization of Scientific Area Committees and $1,000,000 to support technical merit evaluations previously funded by transfer from DOJ. … The Committee notes the value of NIST’s Urban Dome program and the importance of accurate measurement science for environmental monitoring and human health. 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 2018 amount for the Office of Special Programs to maintain and consider expanding the number of urban dome locations in fiscal year 2019.

Construction of Research Facilities

House: The Committee recommends $120,000,000 for NIST construction, which is $199,000,000 below fiscal year 2018 and $79,451,000 above the request. NIST shall continue to provide updates on the projects funded within this account, to include milestones and total amount of funding necessary for completion.

Senate: The Committee provides $158,000,000 for construction of research facilities. The recommendation is $161,000,000 below the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $117,451,000 above the budget request. The funding provided includes no less than $58,000,000 for the continued renovation of NIST Building 1 laboratory.

NIST campus master plans

Senate: The Committee commends NIST for having developed and finalized master plans for the Gaithersburg and Boulder Campuses. The master plans provide NIST with a framework for the future physical development of its two campuses and a vision for that development over the next 20 years. The plans focus on existing and future laboratory buildings in addition to other support facilities, while at the same time taking into consideration the needs for roads, parking, security, storm water management, and site utilities infrastructure. The Committee is supportive of meeting NIST’s physical infrastructure needs and directs it to develop an implementation plan for each of its master plans. The implementation plan shall be submitted with the fiscal year 2020 budget submission and shall include timing and phasing of projects along with current and projected budget estimates for each of the projects identified.

Disaster resilience / Windstorm impact reduction

House: The Committee supports NIST’s increased focus on post-impact disaster studies and pre-impact mitigation to protect against multi-hazard risk. As NIST moves forward with efforts to expand the resiliency of buildings, facilities, and communities in the face of multi-hazard risks, the Committee encourages the agency to fund extramural research and designate NIST testing partners from existing nationally designated windstorm testing facilities located at U.S. academic research institutions that are capable of testing large, holistic, multi-hazard structures and models. As recent disasters illustrate, the U.S. needs more focused research and development on how to make buildings, infrastructure, and communities more resistant and resilient to hurricane impacts, from both wind and storm surge. The Committee directs the agency to prioritize funding for extramural grants within the Engineering Division for these types of studies.

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. Additionally, the Committee supports NIST’s increased focus on multi-hazard, pre-impact risk mitigation and post-impact disaster studies. NIST is encouraged to collaborate with the National Science Foundation’s Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure Experimental Facilities. The Committee directs NIST to provide no less than the fiscal year 2018 amount for competitive external awards. NIST shall be responsive to all grant applicants, including acknowledging receipt of applications, providing feedback to any unsuccessful applicants who request further information, and giving adequate notice of the timeline for announcing awards.

Quantum science and engineering

Senate: The Committee provides up to $5,000,000 for the establishment of a consortium between NIST and public and private sector entities for the purpose of advancing the fields of quantum science and engineering.

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 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 about 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.

Metals-based additive manufacturing

Senate: The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 enacted amount 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.

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 no less than the fiscal year 2018 enacted amount 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.

Composites

Senate: The Committee recognizes that composites have wide-ranging proven characteristics that include lightweight, high strength, corrosion resistance, life cycle cost benefits, and long-term durability that translate to increased factors of safety for infrastructure engineering designs. The Committee urges NIST to work with relevant Federal agencies to coordinate existing standards and test methods for the use of composites and other innovative materials in infrastructure.

Graphene research and commercialization

Senate: The Committee recognizes the emergence of graphene as an innovative material with significant commercial and national security potential. The Committee also recognizes that other countries are ahead of the United States in patenting and commercializing applications with this material. The Committee encourages NIST to continue to fund and pursue graphene research activities and designate industry and academic institutions with expertise, existing capabilities, and infrastructure related to the commercial application of graphene. NIST shall also provide the Committee with updates on the recompetition of NIST Centers of Excellence, including an examination of designating an additional Advanced Materials Center dedicated to graphene.

Cybersecurity

Senate: The Committee is aware of the Nation’s growing need for a trained cybersecurity workforce and directs that no less than the fiscal year 2018 level is provided for cybersecurity research, outreach, industry partnerships, and other activities at NIST, including the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. Within the funds provided, the Committee encourages NIST to fund additional university system-led State and regional alliances and partnerships to focus on meeting the demand for a trained cybersecurity workforce, with a priority being placed on areas with a high concentration of Department of Defense, automotive, and health care related industries.

Cybersecure medical technology. The Committee directs NIST to partner and work directly with academic institutions focused on computer security and privacy, with expertise in research to develop secure medical technologies, including secure medical devices, secure and privacy preserving medical software systems, and in training future scientists and practitioners in state-of-the-art techniques for supporting secure medical technologies. The focus of this partnership shall include exploring and testing how to develop new E-Health and connected medical devices with cybersecurity in mind, how to protect patient information in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (Public Law 104–191) requirements, and how to guarantee that critical network communication support patient needs.

Internet of Things

House:The Committee recognizes the importance of United States’ leadership in addressing security concerns for users and data within the Internet of Things and appreciates NIST’s ongoing work in this area. The Committee encourages NIST to continue strengthening its cybersecurity standard-setting efforts related to the Internet of Things.

Senate: The Committee provides no less than $2,000,000 for the continued development of an IIoT cybersecurity research initiative and to partner, as appropriate, with academic entities and industry to improve the sustainable security of IIoT devices in industrial settings, including new designs, protocols, algorithms, system architectures, identity and lifecycle strategies, and system hardware features, as well as proposed security standards. This proposed research will account for human, technical, and economic dimensions. These advanced strategies should couple computer science and engineering, psychology, economics, cryptography, and network research to deliver significant mitigations and options for industrial adoption, as well as guidance to consumers and industry on how to manage and utilize these devices consistent with best security practices.

Manufacturing Extension Partnership program

House: The Committee recommends $145,000,000 for Industrial Technology Services, which is $10,000,000 below fiscal year 2018 and $129,906,000 above the request. This amount includes $140,000,000 for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)…. The Committee is aware of efforts by MEP to examine ways to reduce administrative costs and provide more direct assistance to the centers. Accordingly, MEP shall provide to the Committee an updated report within 60 days of enactment of this Act detailing the amount of funds to be maintained at headquarters and the uses of those funds. NIST shall also provide the Committee with updates on the status of recompetition of the centers.

Senate: The Committee rejects the proposed elimination of MEP and instead provides $140,000,000 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.

Manufacturing USA / National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

House: The Committee recommends $145,000,000 for Industrial Technology Services, which is $10,000,000 below fiscal year 2018 and $129,906,000 above the request. This amount includes … $5,000,000 for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

Senate: The Committee provides $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, of which up to $1,000,000 may be used to support the Food and Drug Administration’s participation in biomanufacturing innovation institutes. The Manufacturing USA program promotes American competitiveness by fostering the development of new manufacturing techniques and fields, accelerating commercialization, and providing technical assistance to U.S. companies. Within funding provided, NIST shall strive to minimize administrative costs in order to provide more direct support for research and development.

About the author

mhenry [at] aip.org
+1 301-209-3094

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