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President Biden Releases ‘Skinny’ Budget

On April 9, the Administration released the President’s “Skinny” Budget, an overview of the in-depth funding request for fiscal year (FY) 2022 that is expected in the coming months. While lacking detail, the budget provides important insights into the new Administration’s priorities. Overall, the request proposes $769 billion in non-defense discretionary spending, a 16 percent increase, and $754 billion in defense spending, a 1.7 percent increase.

The President notes that, “non-defense discretionary funding—the area of the Federal budget that funds education, research, public health, and other crucial services—has shrunk significantly as a share of the economy.” Throughout the request, President Biden emphasizes the importance of research and lays out priorities across agencies where he would like to see research funding increase, in some cases significantly.

National Science Foundation

President Biden outlines a nearly 20 percent funding increase for the National Science Foundation (NSF), bringing the agency’s budget to $10.2 billion in FY22. The request includes an emphasis on climate change, setting aside $1.2 billion for climate-related research across the NSF Research Directorates, including for social, behavioral, and economic research on human responses to climate change.

Additionally, the request calls for the creation of a new Directorate focused on “technology, innovation, and partnerships within NSF to help translate research into practical applications.” This is similar to bipartisan proposals in Congress, including the NSF For the Future Act and the Endless Frontier Act. It also invests $100 million, a 50 percent increase, in programs that promote increased participation in science and engineering from underrepresented communities.

National Institutes of Health

In addition to basic research funding at NSF, the President’s budget requests investments at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) also of interest to FABBS members. In total, the request suggests $51 billion for NIH, a $9 billion (20 percent) increase.

The Administration is proposing a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). NIH would receive $6.5 billion to launch this program focused on diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes. ARPA-H would be asked to “drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs.” This is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and a similar program at the Department of Energy (ARPA-E), which allow program managers to direct funding decisions and support use-inspired research, directed at societal challenges, that is not pursued by private industry due to the uncertainty of rapid return on investment.  

Additional Research Investments

The President’s request also includes research funding at other agencies that FABBS members may find relevant, including:

  • $10.7 billion to fight the opioid epidemic through research and by expanding the behavioral health workforce.
  • A 100 percent increase in firearm prevention research at NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FABBS recently joined 202 other organizations in calling for Congress to double investments in firearm prevention research.
  • Funding for the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Justice to study domestic terrorism threats, including the root causes of radicalization and enhanced community outreach.
  • $883 million for medical and prosthetic research at the Department of Veterans Affairs, in part to “advance the Department’s understanding of the impact of traumatic brain injury and toxic exposure on long-term health outcomes.”
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