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Biden Signs Historic Science Legislation

On August 9, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law. This historic and long awaited $280 billion dollar package aims to supercharge America’s international economic competitiveness, overhauling high-tech industrial policy, bolstering domestic manufacturing, and accelerating research and development across the public and private sectors. 

FABBS is tremendously grateful to Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Frank Lucas, Chair and Ranking Member of the House Science Committee respectively, for their diligent work crafting the NSF provisions, and to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Todd Young for tirelessly championing this legislation.

NSF Authorization

For FABBS members, and behavioral and brain scientists broadly, the most salient aspect of this legislation is the National Science Foundation (NSF) reauthorization. This bill is a landmark accomplishment for federally supported basic science. The agency has not had an authorization since 2013, and the CHIPS and Science Act paints an expansive vision for its work over the next five years and expresses bipartisan Congressional recognition that NSF is a core component of America’s innovation economy now and in the future.

The bill authorizes nearly $37 billion in new spending at NSF from fiscal year (FY) 2023 – FY 2027. The budget for existing programs would grow at an average annual rate of 8%, to $13.8 billion. The new TIP Directorate would grow from $1.85 billion in FY 2023 to $5.1 billion in FY 2023, at an average annual increase of 36%, at which point it would represent 27% of the total agency budget.

The legislation includes programs to expand research capacity at institutions across the country and encourage greater minority participation in STEM, along with an expansion of data collection on the makeup of the STEM workforce (policies endorsed by FABBS). It also strengthens research security requirements, and authorizes funding for NSF to help institutions and researchers understand and mitigate security risks.

Context

This bill is vast, but centers around provisions allocating $52.7 billion for American semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development. The COVID-19 pandemic brought into focus the extent to which the U.S. is dependent on international supply chains for the semiconductors used in so many essential products. During months of bipartisan and bicameral debate over the scope of the legislation, this key component sustained lawmakers’ sense of urgency and helped to ensure they eventually found common ground. 

In addition to the semiconductor provisions, the bill includes:

Looking Ahead

This bill sets an exciting path for rapid growth for NSF and the science it supports. It is important, however, to recognize what the CHIPS and Science Act does not accomplish. Authorizing legislation creates new programs and sets funding targets, but does not directly allocate funding. Without follow-through from Congressional Appropriators in annual spending bills, NSF will not be able to meet the expectations set forth in this bill. In fact, without additional funding, these new policies could represent added strains on already stretched resources. 


FABBS, as a co-chair of the Coalition for National Science Funding, is in a position to lead community advocacy efforts to work with lawmakers and ensure that they support these ambitious objectives in coming years. We look forward to working with Members of Congress and officials at NSF to act as a resource in the successful implementation of this critical legislation.

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