Washington Update

Special Report: Overview of Administration’s R&D FY 2020 Budget Request

By: Meg Thompson and Joel Widder
Wednesday, March 27, 2019

On March 18, the administration released its detailed fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request. The White House is proposing $134 billion for all federal R&D in its fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget. This includes defense and non-defense research and development (R&D) and represents about a five percent reduction from the FY 2019 level.

Overall support for basic research would decline by 10 percent while applied R&D would drop by 14 percent. Within the overall federal R&D portfolio, the administration has prioritized these cross-cutting areas: national security, artificial intelligence, quantum information science, emerging wireless networks, and advanced manufacturing.

Summary of the FY 2020 NIH Budget Request

The total administration request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for FY 2020 is $34.4 billion, $4.9 billion less than the FY 2019 enacted level. This reduction is spread across NIH Institutes and Centers: for example, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences would see its budget fall by about $400 million (14 percent) compared with FY 2019.

The request incorporates investments to address the opioid epidemic, develop a universal flu vaccine, implement the Strategic Plan for Data Science, and support cutting-edge intramural research by addressing the significant backlog of repair and improvements across NIH facilities. NIH’s FY 2020 research investments will be guided by the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for FY 2016-2020. Overall NIH focus areas will be developing transformative tools and technology, translating basic science into clinical breakthroughs, and investing in the next frontier of biomedical research.

Key themes within these broad areas include research to revolutionize the practice of medicine, develop gene editing technologies, continue to support the BRAIN initiative, change the course of childhood cancer, and understand and harness the immune system. The Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative would also receive support. Other efforts include making sense of big data, precision medicine, and supporting the next generation of researchers.

Summary of the FY 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Budget Request 

On March 18, NSF unveiled the details of its FY 2020 budget request. As previously reported, under the Administration’s plan NSF’s budget is slated to decline by $1 billion, or 12 percent from the FY 2019 appropriated level. NSF’s research and related activities would decline to $5.7 billion, an 11.2 percent reduction from FY 2019, while education and human resources programs would drop by 9 percent. NSF’s major research equipment and facilities construction account – used to fund the construction or acquisition of large-scale instrumentation – would grow by nearly 20 percent.

Funding for NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO)  is proposed to decline by nearly 10 percent from the FY 2018 level (directorate funding levels for FY 2019 are not yet available). Within BIO, activities receiving priority investment include artificial intelligence via the Advances in Biological Informatics program, and interagency BRAIN initiative funding would increase to $19.5 million. BRAIN support will help sustain the Next Generation Networks for Neuroscience (NeuroNex) program. NSF BIO will also play a leading role in NSF’s Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) initiative.

URoL is one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, research areas at the frontier of science and engineering that promise to be transformative in the coming decade, from quantum computing and artificial intelligence to agriculture and space exploration.

Each idea will be supported by dedicated investments in core Big Ideas activities, as well as additional foundational support from across the agency. NSF is proposing to increase support for the 10 Big Ideas portfolio to just over $350 million, an increase of $75 million or 26 percent over the proposed FY 2019 level.