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Interagency Initiatives: Education Reshuffled, Climate Up, Nanotech Reduced

by Britt E. Erickson , Cheryl Hogue , Andrea Widener
April 22, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 16

Credit: Office of Science & Technology Policy
A table shows how a consolidation benefits NSF, Education Department.
Credit: Office of Science & Technology Policy

A mass consolidation of federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs would be implemented if Congress agrees with the President’s fiscal 2014 proposal. These programs would be reduced from 226 in 2012 to 112 in 2014.

Credit: White House Office of Science & Technology Policy
A table shows that NIH gets big percentage boost in funding in the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
Credit: White House Office of Science & Technology Policy
Credit: White House Office of Science & Technology Policy
A table shows that nanotech research takes a hit.
Credit: White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

This consolidation would include eliminating or reorganizing 114 programs to save approximately $180 million. But the President’s proposal includes new funding, and overall, the STEM education budget would rise from $2.9 billion in 2012 to $3.1 billion in 2014.

The budget also provides for the creation of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) in the Department of Education to test high-risk, high-reward education research—a program the Administration has proposed for several years, but Congress has yet to support it.

Under the President’s plan, almost every agency faces a decrease in its STEM education budget.

Only two agencies are spared cuts: the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. Together, these two agencies will become hubs for STEM education government-wide under the new plan.

The Education Department would become the primary agency supporting STEM education at the K–12 level, with funding of $814 million in 2014, up 53.9% from 2012. NSF would become the point agency of both undergraduate and graduate STEM funding, including many fellowships. It would get a boost of 7.7% to $1.2 billion in 2014.

In addition, the Smithsonian Institution would get $25 million to become the lead on informal STEM education efforts that happen outside of schools or universities, including museums and other settings.

The White House is also proposing a 6.0% increase for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). This climate-change-focused effort involving 13 federal agencies would get $2.7 billion for fiscal 2014, up from the $2.5 billion Congress provided in 2012.

The National Institutes of Health would see the largest percent increase, with funding more than doubling from $6 million in 2012 to $15 million in 2014 to continue its support of research on the health effects of global change. The U.S. Geological Survey, part of the Interior Department, would also see a significant rise, increasing 22.0% from $59 million in 2012 to $72 million in 2014. According to USGS budget documents, the boost would in part go to a program that identifies long-term patterns of drought, improves estimates of potential sea-level rise, and examines ecosystem response to sea-level rise.

See 2014 budget tables for USDA, STEM education, climate change, and nanotechnology at

In actual dollars, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, which gets more than half of this research program’s budget, would get the largest increase. NASA would see its funding for USGCRP efforts rise from $1.4 billion in 2012 to $1.5 billion in 2014. NASA’s dollars in USGCRP go mainly to satellite programs.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute of Standards & Technology would see their combined USGCRP monies rise by some $44 million to $371 million in 2014, a 13.5% increase from 2012. NOAA would use most of the increase for Earth observation activities, which include detecting, understanding, and forecasting climate change at the global and ecosystem levels. NIST’s contribution for USGCRP would be development of optical technology standards for environmental monitoring instruments used in climate studies for measuring temperature and composition of the atmosphere.

In contrast to education and climate research, the federal effort on nanotechnology research would take a hit under the President’s proposed 2014 budget. The National Nanotechnology Initiative, established in 2001 to coordinate nanotech research among 25 federal agencies, would receive $1.7 billion, a decrease of 8.6% compared with 2012.

The Departments of Energy, of Health & Human Services (HHS), and of Homeland Security, as well as NIST, will all invest more in nanotech research in 2014 than in 2012. DOE’s investment would increase 17.8% to $370 million; HHS would spend 1.7% more, or $488 million; DHS would increase its portion 86.5% to $35 million; and NIST would boost its investment 7.0% to $102 million. The bulk of the additional money will be spent on signature initiatives, including nanomanufacturing, solar energy, sustainable design of nanoengineered materials, nanoscale sensors, and nanoelectronics.

On the other hand, under the White House request, DOD’s contribution will decrease 49.1% to $217 million, and NSF’s investment will fall 7.6% to $431 million. It is unclear what areas will be subject to the cuts.



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