Just before leaving for the holidays, the US Congress wrapped up negotiations on a massive $1.7 trillion spending bill (HR 2617) that funds the federal government for the remainder of fiscal 2023. The Senate cleared the bill on Dec. 22, nearly 3 months into the fiscal year, and the House of Representatives followed suit on Dec. 23.
Science and technology programs did well in the negotiations and will get a hefty boost. But lawmakers fell short of providing the maximum funding authorized under the recently enacted innovation bill, called the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act.
Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act in August to improve US research competitiveness with countries like China that are vastly increasing funding for science and technology. The CHIPS and Science Act authorized huge funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science.
The 2023 spending bill, known as an omnibus bill because it funds the entire government, does not deliver all of those increases. But it does provide $1.8 billion in new funding, including supplemental funding of $980 million, to implement the CHIPS and Science Act. The NSF gets $335 million of the supplemental.
Indeed, the NSF is one of the big winners. In addition to the supplemental, it will receive $9.5 billion, an increase of $700 million compared with fiscal 2022. The money “will support 2,300 more research and education grants and 35,000 more scientists, technicians, teachers, and students,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said on the Senate floor just before final passage of the omnibus bill. The funding for the NSF is historic, but it is shy of the $11.9 billion authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act.
The DOE’s Office of Science gets $8.1 billion, an increase of $625 million compared with fiscal 2022. The CHIPS and Science Act authorized $8.9 billion.
The omnibus bill provides $1.6 billion for NIST, an increase of $397 million. Scientific and technical research and services gets $953 million of that money. The agreement includes $4 million to establish a NIST center of excellence to develop standards for measuring climate change and its impacts. NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program gets $175 million, an increase of $17 million.
Health-related research also gets a boost in the omnibus bill. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) receives $47.5 billion, an increase of $2.5 billion. Every NIH institute and center is guaranteed at least a 3.8% increase above 2022 levels.
The National Cancer Institute gets $7.3 billion, an increase of $408 million. The increase includes $216 million for the Cancer Moonshot program to end cancer. The bill also provides $3.7 billion, an increase of $226 million, for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research.
The omnibus provides $1.5 billion, an increase of $500 million, for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), an effort to accelerate innovation in biomedical science. ARPA-H will be physically located away from the NIH’s Bethesda, Maryland, campus and will be funded outside of the NIH as a separate entity under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The funding law also includes marching orders for two federal agencies on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These widely used synthetic chemicals, valued for their ability to resist heat, stains, and water, persist in the environment, and some are toxic.
Congress directed the HHS to assess the use, safety, and risk of PFAS ingredients in cosmetics. The agency has a deadline of late 2025 to finish that work.
Lawmakers also gave the Agriculture Department $5 million to test soil, water, or agricultural products for PFAS contamination at the request of growers. The law also allows the US Department of Agriculture to compensate producers for the value of unmarketable, PFAS-tainted crops and livestock.
Overall, agricultural research gets a modest increase. The funding bill provides a total of $3.5 billion, an increase of $175 million, for the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Environmental science and technology also sees a modest funding increase. The Environmental Protection Agency gets $10.1 billion, an increase of $576 million. But science and technology make up only a small part of the EPA’s budget. The omnibus provides $802 million, an increase of $52 million, for EPA’s science and technology efforts.