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Commerce: R&D Funding Is Up At NIST, Down At NOAA

by Andrea Widener
February 27, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 9

Both research agencies of the Department of Commerce—the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—would receive funding boosts in the 2013 budget. The increase in NIST’s budget would keep the agency’s core internal labs on an extended budget-doubling track.

NIST would be particularly rewarded by the emphasis on manufacturing to support the economic recovery. The agency’s budget would increase 14.1%, to $857 million. Nearly half of the increase would go “to support NIST’s efforts in promoting emerging manufacturing challenges in new technology areas like biomanufacturing, nanomanufacturing, advanced materials, and systems technologies like smart manufacturing,” NIST Director Patrick D. Gallagher said at a budget briefing.

For example, the $45 million Measurement Science for Advanced Manufacturing initiative would bring NIST and industry together to identify important research areas and to set standards in different manufacturing sectors. A companion project, the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia, would use its $21 million funding to provide cost-sharing grants to industry coalitions that are working to improve manufacturing and address industrywide research challenges.

The 2013 proposal also includes large, one-time infusions to NIST for two mandatory projects. The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation would bring $1 billion to the lab to help develop new manufacturing technologies with broad applications. This would be a joint project with the Departments of Defense and Energy, as well as the National Science Foundation. Another $300 million, from the Wireless Innovation Fund, would support development of a reliable, secure broadband system for first responders and other public safety personnel.

NIST’s internal research labs would receive substantial support as well, slated for a 14.3% increase to $648 million in 2013. The Material Measurement Laboratory, which includes much of the basic chemistry research at NIST, would get a 17.4% boost to $125 million. Other labs that would get double-digit increases are the Center for Nanoscale Science & Technology, up 21.5% to $40 million; the Information Technology Laboratory, up 16.4% to $113 million; and the Engineering Laboratory, up 15.3% to $85 million.

NOAA would receive a funding increase of 3.1%, or $154 million, bringing its total budget to $5.1 billion. But overall funding for R&D at the agency would drop 3.8%, to a proposed 2013 budget of $552 million.

The Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Research, which oversees some of NOAA’s basic science, would receive a funding increase of 7.6% to $414 million in 2013. To balance this gain, several programs would be cut or canceled.

The Administration continues to support a proposed reorganization of the Department of Commerce—although the 2013 budget requests are presented for the current agency structure. The reorganization would consolidate six business and trade agencies under a single Cabinet-level department and move NOAA to the Department of the Interior. None of the changes have been approved by Congress yet.


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