Majority of US science agency budgets cut for 2024 • The Register

Majority of US science agency budgets cut for 2024 • The Register

An increase in federal spending for the sciences in the US was short-lived, as the 2024 budget has seen significant cuts for many agencies – and 2025 looks to be on a similar track.

Across its latest report and science budget tracker, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) has detailed the federal budgets for 16 agencies in total. For whatever reason, some agencies are only in the report and some are only in the budget tracker.

By our count, four agencies saw an increase in funding, 11 had their budgets cut, and one was given the same budget as in 2023. The cuts ranged in the single digits, with the deepest cuts hitting the National Science Foundation at 8.2 percent and the Department of Defense’s Basic Research at 8.9 percent.

Science budgets increased overall in 2023 – a year in which legislators were enthusiastic about plans such as the $50-billion-plus CHIPS and Science Act. Even the lowest budget boost in 2023, awarded to NASA Science, delivered 2.4 funding growth. Many agencies enjoyed double-digit budget increases – such as the National Science Foundation at 11.7 percent and National Institute of Standards and Technology at 18 percent.

Unfortunately for these scientific agencies, 2023’s financial goodwill didn’t carry over into 2024. The House of Representatives proposed to cut budgets, except for a handful of agencies. And while the Senate was more generous, its own proposal saw about half of agencies left with reduced budgets.

Few agencies were awarded the funding they requested – least of all those that asked for big spending boosts, such as the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and DARPA, which both asked for boosts of a little over 38 percent.

Science got caught in a political firefight

Reducing federal spending is a key priority for the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Given the big budgets that science-focused agencies command, they’re often among the first targets for budget hawks.

The AIP’s data suggest 2025 won’t be much better for science funding. The recently implemented Fiscal Responsibility Act holds that non-defense discretionary spending (which includes science budgets) can rise by just one percent next financial year.

However, if President Biden gets his way, he’d take $5 billion from the Department of Defense’s budget and give at least some of it to science agencies. It’s unclear if this is going to work out, since Congress has given the Department of Defense – the golden child of the federal government – more than what it’s asked for every year since 2017, according to the AIP’s budget tracker.

A sequel to the CHIPS and Science Act might also make up for the weakened science budget, though this would hinge on rare bipartisan support between the Democratic Senate and the Republican House. If the House really doesn’t want to spend more on science, political reality will make that mood hard to change. ®

Source link

News Science