Lawmakers Propose Significant Changes to and Funding for NSF

June 4th, 2020

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), with House sponsors Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI), introduced The Endless Frontier Act on May 21. The legislation (pg 2597) (S. 3832), would make significant changes to the structure of the National Science Foundation (NSF), creating a new Directorate of Technology and renaming NSF to be the National Science and Technology Foundation. S. 3832 authorizes $100 billion for the new directorate, covering fiscal years (FY) 2021 through 2025. Keep in mind that NSF’s annual budget for FY 2020 is $8.3 billion.

The bill includes a “hold harmless” provision to guarantee that a new directorate would not come at the expense of existing NSF research and programs. Language would forbid any funds going to the new directorate if the budget for the rest of NSF declines in any given fiscal year.

The legislation allows the directorate to “provide funds to other divisions of the foundation,” including the “directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to study questions that could affect the design operation, deployment, or the social and ethical consequences of technologies in the key technology focus areas.”

The new directorate would fund 10 “key technology focus areas.” The initial list would include:

  • artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • high performance computing, semiconductors, and advanced computer hardware
  • quantum computing and information systems
  • robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing
  • natural or anthropogenic disaster prevention
  • advanced communications technology
  • biotechnology, genomics, and synthetic biology
  • cybersecurity, data storage, and data management technologies
  • advanced energy
  • materials science, engineering, and exploration relevant to the other key technology focus areas

NSF currently supports significant work in many of these identified priorities including within the 10 Big Ideas including: Future of Work at the Human Technology FrontierQuantum Leap, and Harnessing the Data Revolution.

The bill includes an additional $10 billion for the U.S. Economic Development Administration within the Department of Commerce to designate at least 10 regional technology hubs from FY2021-2025, awarding funds for comprehensive investment initiatives to centers for the research, development, and manufacturing of key technologies.