House Committee Advances NSF for the Future Act

On June 15, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology took the next step in advancing the bipartisan National Science Foundation for the Future Act, which FABBS has endorsed. After incorporating a number of amendments, the committee voted unanimously to advance the bill, paving the way for its consideration before the whole House. The bill authorizes funding increases at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the next five years and would adopt important new policies, including the creation of a new Directorate.

Of interest to FABBS members, the legislation includes an explicit requirement that the Director ensures social, behavioral, and economic researchers are encouraged to participate in cross-cutting and interdisciplinary programs at the Foundation and are represented on review panels for those programs.

Funding Provisions

The Committee amended the funding structure, creating a minor change from earlier versions of the bill by providing a slightly larger up-front increase to the Foundation’s budget in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, while slightly reducing the peak funding level in FY26. Under this new framework, NSF would receive over $12.5 billion in FY22, a 41 percent increase over FY21. The Foundation’s budget would grow to almost $18 billion by FY 2026. The new Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions would receive a substantial portion of new funding, though existing NSF programs would almost double over the life of the bill.

Authorization levels proposed in the NSF for the Future Act

 TotalResearch and Related ActivitiesExisting NSFExisting NSF IncreaseNew DirectorateTotal Increase
2021 Enacted$8,487,759,000$6,909,769,000 

New Directorate

The NSF for the Future Act would create a new directorate aimed at addressing major national and societal challenges. The Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions (SES) would be charged with translating NSF-supported fundamental research to advance technology and facilitate the application and commercialization of federally funded research. This new directorate, situated within the Research and Related Activities account, would grow from $1.4 billion in FY22 to $3.4 billion in FY26.

The legislation also gives the NSF Director the authority to move relevant existing programs, such as the Convergence Accelerator, into the SES portfolio. Not only would this place related programs together under one roof, but it could also free up additional funds for the existing directorates by shifting these line items to the SES budget.

Research Security

Members of Congress focused a number of provisions on strengthening research security for federally funded studies. The bill makes permanent the Office of Research Security and Policy and the Chief of Research Security position, and mandates partnerships across federal research agencies to support trainings and resources for scientists to encourage best practices.

Additionally, the Committee voted to adopt an amendment from Rep. Feenstra (R-IA) meant to prevent intellectual property theft. It would require researchers to “certify that they are not an active participant of a malign foreign talent recruitment program from a foreign country of concern.” Those countries are defined as China, North Korea, Russia, Iran, and any other deemed as such by the State Department of State.

Additional Policy Provisions

The Committee adopted other notable amendments to the bill that would further support STEM education through the creation of new professional development, fellowship, and scholarship opportunities. They also voted to expand NSF investments in cybersecurity research, including on how to recruit and maintain a strong cybersecurity workforce.

The next step for the NSF for the Future Act will be a full vote in the House. It is uncertain, however, when that may happen. House leadership could still alter the bill before bringing it to the House floor, and the bill may be included in a larger package. Legislators would need to negotiate differences between this and the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act.

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