Commerce: Request Provides Gains For Laboratory Services
The research agencies at the Department of Commerce have managed to grow significantly over the past decade, and Obama’s requests for fiscal 2012 would continue that growth. Both the National Institute of Standards & Technology and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration are slated for major budget gains.
The President has requested a total of $1.1 billion for NIST in fiscal 2012, marking the first time the agency could go over the $1 billion level. This would be an increase of $244 million, or 28.5%, over the 2011 continuing resolution. “The President’s budget request for NIST reflects the critical role that measurement science, standards, and directed technology investments play in ensuring and enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and U.S. industry,” said Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards & Technology Patrick Gallagher in a statement.
Most of the NIST increase would go to the agency’s laboratory research programs, which would receive $679 million, an increase of $174 million from the 2011 estimates. This raises the labs’ budget 34.3% above 2011 levels and keeps the labs on a doubling path for the period 2006–17.
A reorganization at NIST last year put what was the Chemical Science & Technology Laboratory into the new Material Measurement Laboratory. This lab program would see a jump in funds from $99 million to $136 million in 2012, a 38.1% increase from this year’s estimate. Other parts of the agency’s scientific and research services favored with large proposed increases include the Engineering Laboratory, whose funding would go up 49.3% to $92 million, and the Information Technology Laboratory, slated for a huge 84.8% increase to $124 million in 2012.
NIST also has proposed increases for its industrial services programs. The Technology Innovation Program, which awards grants for high-risk industrial research projects, is seeking an additional $5 million above this year’s estimate to $75 million, a 7.3% increase. And the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership program is seeking an increase of $18 million over its expected 2011 funding, a 14.4% increase to $143 million. MEP helps U.S. manufacturers navigate economic and technological challenges to increase competitiveness.
The highly competitive NIST postdoctoral research associates program is also trying to grow, with a requested increase of 30.0%, or $3 million, to $14 million for fiscal 2012. The agency estimates the additional funds would enable it to employ about 23 new postdoctoral associates, added to the approximately 35 associates it can employ now.
At NOAA, the President has also requested a rise in spending, increasing the current estimated budget by $749 million, to $5.5 billion in 2012. Much of the 15.8% increase is planned for improving the operation of NOAA’s satellites, which are important for providing unbroken coverage of weather forecasts and climate measurements. On the research side, NOAA expects to support improved development of wind renewable energy through wind resource characterizations and increased ocean acidification research.
A major change in the agency is the proposed creation of a National Climate Service. By restructuring various offices, NOAA hopes to improve services and better understand the U.S.’s vulnerability to climate change. The new office would include the existing Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Research, the National Weather Service, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data & Information Service. It would also be the home of the NOAA research lab and research partnership programs, including the Chemical Sciences Laboratory, in Boulder, Colo. The new service has a budget request of $346 million for 2012.