Congressional Committees Review NSF’s FY 2025 Budget

Earlier this month, two Congressional committees heard testimony on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget request. On May 23, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony from the NSF Director and the Administrator of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on the agencies’ budget requests for fiscal year (FY) 2025.

In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) expressed her interest in the committee working on a bipartisan CJS appropriations bill again this year; however, she noted the challenging budget environment, specifically the cuts taken to federal science agencies in FY 2024 as a result of the caps set in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Noting that the budgets included in the FY 2025 request are significant, Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) also acknowledged the tough financial road ahead. With respect to the NSF and NASA budgets, Moran expressed primary concern over scientific competition with China, specifically with respect to space science, noting, “Our country desperately needs your agencies [NASA and NSF] to be successful.”

NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan used his testimony to highlight some of NSF’s notable investments, including new activities enabled through enactment of the CHIPS and Science Act in 2022. Panchanathan highlighted NSF’s latest major investment, the Regional Innovation Hubs, and noted the need for sustained investment if the Hubs are to be successful. He also discussed the agency’s efforts to grow the STEM workforce, advance research security, and seize the opportunities of technology, including through investments in areas like artificial intelligence and research infrastructure.

Chairwoman Shaheen asked the NSF Director how the agency would spend a 12 percent increase if Congress were to appropriate the amount proposed in the President’s budget. Panchanathan replied that funding in FY 2025 at the requested level would allow the agency to “catch up” from the 8 percent cut taken in FY 2024, specifically to address cuts to NSF’s core programs and graduate research fellowships. Additional funds will also be needed for the next round of Regional Innovation Hubs, said Panchanathan.

The director was also asked how the creation of the new Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships Directorate (TIP) is impacting the budgets of the rest of the agency, especially given declining appropriations. Panchanathan replied by arguing that TIP is not a separate directorate but instead acts as a crosscut, working with and providing resources to all other directorates. He does not see increases for TIP as decreases for other parts of the agency, a fact that many stakeholders may not totally agree with given TIP’s mission to support “use-inspired” research with the goal of “fostering innovation and technology ecosystems, establishing translation pathways, and partnering across sectors to engage the nation’s diverse talent.”

Other members of the committee questioned Panchanathan on topics like AI education and workforce and concerns about the administration of the EPSCoR program, specifically with respect to meeting the spending targets set in the CHIPS and Science Act.

A week earlier on May 16, Panchanathan was joined by the past Chair of the National Science Board, Dan Reed, to testify before the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology.

In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Mike Collins (R-GA) expressed concern about the U.S. losing its science leadership globally, specifically to China. Adding that we are currently “in the midst of a technological revolution,” he expressed the need to act quickly in order to keep pace. However, later in the hearing Chairman Collins expressed his objection to the proposed increases for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at NSF.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Haley Stevens (D-MI) noted, noting that this is “the moment for NSF to shine” and that the U.S. “must put our money where our mouth is,” calling the 8 percent cut to NSF in FY 2024 “unacceptable.” In addition, full Science Committee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) expressed concern about the TIP directorate diverting funding away from the rest of the agency in FY 2024, which she called “unacceptable” and “not what the Congress intended.”

In response to the concerns about China, the witnesses underscored the need for urgency, noting that China has already surpassed the U.S. in STEM doctorate production and publications, and is close to beating the U.S. in R&D expenditures.

Details of the President’s FY 2025 budget request can be found in COSSA’s analysis.

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