FY 2021 Budget & Appropriations for Chemistry

The release of the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 (FY21) marks the beginning of the process to fund the government from October 2020 – September 2021. The FY21 request was released on February 10, 2020. In recent years, Congress has largely set its own budget, so the President's budget request is mostly an indication of Administration priorities.

On June 16, 2020, the House passed a minibus, H.R. 7608, covering State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs. These are not the final funding levels, but represents what the House believes FY21 funding should be set at.

On July 31, the House passed a second minibus, H.R. 7617 which includes spending bills for Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development. As with H.R. 7608, these are not the final funding levels.

On December 27, the President signed H.R. 133, which combined FY21 appropriations, COVID aid, and numerous other measures.

Below are agency-by-agency breakdowns of what we know about the FY21 budget, and what it might mean for chemistry.

See how Chemistry did in the FY20 budget

Browse the Breakdowns by Agency

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Proposed FY21 Budget: $7.74 billion, a 6.5 percent cut versus FY20

The basics: NSF funds science and engineering in every discipline except the medical sciences. Money for research grants comes out of NSF’s Research and Related Activities Account (R&RA). For FY21, the Administration requested $6.74 billion for R&RA, $217 million more than in FY20. The proposed budget includes $1.45 billion for the Math and Physical Sciences Directorate (MPS), which would be a 2.8 percent cut from FY19. Within MPS, the Division of Chemistry (CHE) would be funded at $218 million, a 12 percent cut from FY19, while the Division of Materials Research (DMR) would be  receiving a $280 million, an 8 percent cut from FY19. The Office of Multidisciplinary Activities, which co-funds research that is relevant across multiple disciplines within MPS, would be funded at $235 million, a dramatic 80 percent increase over FY19. 

The impact on chemistry:  More than half of all chemistry research at NSF is funded by the MPS through the CHE and DMR divisions. The impact of the overall cuts on MPS, CHE, and DMR would be dramatic.

Status (7/2020): The House passed a minibus which would fund NSF at $8.55 billion, a nearly $270 million increase over FY20. Research and Related activities would receive $7.0 billion.

Status (12/2020): Final funding for NSF was set at $8.49 billion, with $6.91 billion directed to Research and Related Activities.


Department of Energy Office of Science (SC)

Proposed FY21 Budget: $5.8 billion, a 17 percent cut versus FY20

The basics: SC is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the U.S. and the lead entity focused on fundamental research into future energy solutions. In addition to its 6 research programs, SC has primary oversight and stewardship for 10 of DOE’s 17 national laboratories.

The impact on chemistry:  The majority of chemistry research funded by SC comes from 2 research programs- Basic Energy Sciences (BES) and Biological and Environmental Research (BER). For FY21, the Administration has requested funding of $1.94 billion for BES, a 4.5 percent increase from FY20, and BER funding of $517 million was requested, a 31 percent cut from FY20. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would be funded at $720 million, a 27 percent cut from FY20.

Status (07/2020): The House-passed minibus would fund SC at $7.05 billion for FY21, an increase of $50 million over FY20. The bill included $2.24 billion for BES research, an increase of $390 million over FY20. BER would be funded at $760 million, an increase of $10 million over FY20. EERE would be funded at $2.29 billion, nearly $500 million less than FY20.

Status (12/2020): Final passage of the appropriation omnibus provided $7.02 billion for SC. This included $2.25 billion for BES and $753 million for BER. EERE received $2.86 billion. 


Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)

Proposed FY21 Budget: $0 million, with the agency to be eliminated

The basics: ARPA-E, which is modeled after the famous DARPA at the Department of Defense, “advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment.” President Trump is proposing the elimination of ARPA-E and rescinding several hundred million dollars left unspent from FY20, but, just as Congress has declined to eliminate the agency in previous years when defunding was proposed, it is unlikely to do so this year.

The impact on chemistry: Since transformative energy projects will rely on advanced materials and energy storage capabilities, chemistry is at the heart of what ARPA-E does. If the agency is eliminated, ongoing work would wind down and future opportunities for this highly experimental work would be lost.

Status (07/2020): The House-passed minibus would fund ARPA-E at $435 million, $10 million more than FY20.

Status (12/2020): ARPA-E received $427 million in final appropriations.


National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Proposed FY21 Budget: $38.7 billion, a 7.2 percent cut versus FY20

The basics: NIH is the largest funder of biomedical research in the world. Each of its institutes and centers (ICs) has its own research agenda, and many focus on specific diseases or body systems.

The impact on chemistry: While chemistry can be found in many different ICs, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is the most prominent supporter of chemistry research because of its total focus on basic research.  The President proposes to fund NIGMS at $2.67 billion, a 8.7 percent cut versus FY20. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which also provide significant support for basic chemistry research and tools, would be funded at $5.88 billion, $368 million, and $788 million, cut by 8.7 percent, 9.8 percent and 2.2 percent respectively.

Status (07/2020): The House-passed minibus would fund NIH at $47 billion, an increase of more than $5 billion over FY20. Within the minibus, NCI would recieve $6.30 billion, NIGMS would receive $2.97 billion, and NIBIB and NCATS would receive $407 million and $840 million respectively.

Status (12/2020): The final Omnibus included $42.93 billion for NIH as a whole. Within that, NCI received $6.36 billion,  NIGMS received $2.99 billion, NIBIB received $410 million and NCATS received $855 million.


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Proposed FY21 Budget: $6.66 billion, a 27 percent cut versus FY20

The basics: EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. To develop the foundation for the regulatory part of its mission, EPA funds scientific research in the areas of risk assessment and the impact assessment of substances on human health and the environment. The President’s budget request would set EPA’s funding for Science and Technology at $484 million, a 32 percent cut compared to FY20, reducing the agency’s ability to generate and evaluate scientific data.

The impact on chemistry: S&T research at EPA is housed within the Office of Research and Development (ORD), with most chemistry research falling under the Chemical Safety and Sustainability (CSS) research program. CSS helps EPA evaluate and predict the impacts of manufactured chemicals throughout their lifecycle. For FY21, the President has again asked for $67 million for CSS, a 21 percent cut versus FY20.  In addition, the President has  again asked for the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program to be defunded. STAR grants support extramural researchers in disciplines important to EPA’s mission—and act as a source of independent information and analysis. The President is also proposing the elimination of funding for the Global Change Research Program which supports policy makers, stakeholders, and society-at-large in responding to climate change.

Aside from research, EPA plays a critical role in the chemistry enterprise by regulating the use of chemicals in commerce. The Chemical Risk Review and Reduction program, which oversees this work, would receive $69 million in FY21, an increase of about 14 percent over FY20. 

Status (07/2020): The House minibus would fund EPA at $9.38 billion, a $318 million increase over FY20 levels. CSS would be funded at $131 million, a $5 million increase over FY20 and the STAR program would receive $30 million, $1.4 million more than FY20.

Status (12/2020): The final omnibus provided $9.24 billion for EPA, with CSS receiving $127 million and the STAR program receiving $28.6 million.


Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB)

Proposed FY21 Budget: $10 million, slated for elimination

The basics: CSB was created by Congress in 1990 “to investigate accidents to determine the conditions and circumstances which led up to the event and to identify the cause or causes so that similar events might be prevented.” Despite being slated for elimination by the Trump Administration, CSB's independent request for $13.1 million would allow it to continue opperation with a 12.8 percent increase over FY20. 

The impact on chemistry: Though different from the other agencies covered here, CSB plays a key role in the chemical enterprise. By investigating and widely reporting flaws in the process of chemical production (or in the case of universities, laboratory safety), CSB protects the lives of workers and prevents property damage. This year's request, like FY18, FY19, and Fy20, provides funding only to close down the Board. However, the last three years have seen Congress continue to fund CSB despite the Administration's requests for its elimination.

Status (07/2020): The House-passed minibus would fund CSB at $12 million, flat relative to FY20 levels. The bill includes an increase of $2 million over the Presidential budget request to restore proposed cuts.

Status (12/2020): CSB received $12 million in the omnibus.


National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)

Proposed FY21 Budget: $737 million, a 29 percent cut versus FY20

The basics:  NIST, part of the Department of Commerce, develops and maintains the national measurement and standards system that makes cross-sector research, development, and commerce easier and more efficient. For the third year in a row, the President is proposing major cuts to NIST that would impact both scientific and industrial programs.

The impact on chemistry:  As part of its Scientific and Technical Research Services (STRS) program, NIST provides world-class measurement science, standards, and technology in a range of S&T areas. This includes chemistry: NIST researchers have projects studying reaction mechanisms and rate constants, complex chemical systems, advanced materials, and more. NIST also operates a NanoFab laboratory and the Center for Neutron Research, two user facilities that attract researchers from across sectors. For FY21, the budget request included $652 million for STRS which would be a 14 percent cut from FY20.

NIST’s manufacturing programs under Industrial Technology Services (ITS) would be dramatically downsized as a result of the budget request, funded at $25 million, a 84 percent cut from FY20 while the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) is again slated for elimination. 

Status (07/2020): NIST would be funded at $1.04 billion by the House minibus, $10 million more than FY20. The MEP would receive $153 million, an increase of $7 million over FY20. STRS would be funded at $789 million, $35 million more than the FY20. ITS would be funded at $170 million, $8 million more than FY20. Finally, research facility construction would be funded at $85 million, $33 million less than FY20.

Status (12/2020): NIST received $1.03 billion in the final omnibus, basically flat vs FY20. The MEP was funded at $150 million, a modest increase. STRS received $788 million. Research facility construction was funded at $80 million.


STEM Education

The basics: The federal government sponsors an array of programs designed to increase science literacy and train the next generation of science and engineering professionals. While many agencies have STEM education programs, the Department of Education (DoEd) and NSF’s Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate are the top funders in this area.

  • NSF requested $930 million for EHR which would represent a 1 percent cut from FY20.
  • DOE Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists would receive $20.5 million for FY21, a 27 percent cut from FY20.
  • DOEd overall would receive a 8 percent cut  versus FY20, with the following allocations for STEM-related programs:
    • Like in its FY19 request, the Administration has slated Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grants—designed to augment state programs for a number of academic areas, including the sciences—for elimination in FY21. 
    • The Administration requested $2.05 billion for the Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, which are sources of federal funding to states for postsecondary career and technical education, an increase of 59 percent over FY20.
    • Proposed for elimination are $2.13 billion from Teacher Training under Title II Supporting Effective Instrucution Grants, $190 million from Title IV funding for Education Innovation and Research Programs, and $1.25 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers that support after-school programs. Each of these programs would be consolidated into the Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged (ESED) Block Grant.

The impact on chemistry:  The future of chemistry depends on students receiving strong STEM education at all levels. The proposed cuts to teacher training, Title IV funding, and 21st Century Community Learning centers will increase the challenge of retaining a qualified STEM teacher corps, undermine efforts to increase underrepresented communities' participation in STEM, and allows school STEM infrastructure to fail further behind the needs of STEM- educated workforce.

Status (07/2020): The minibuses passed by the House would fund DOE Workforce Development at $30 million, an increase of $2 million over FY20. Finally NSF EHR would receive $970 million, an increase of $30 million over FY20. DOEd CTE State Grants would be funded at $1.99 billion, an increase of $695 million over FY20. SSAE grants funding would be set at $1.22 billion, $10 million more than FY20. Community Learning Centers would be funded at $1.26 billion, an increase of $113 million over FY20.

Status (12/2020): The minibuses passed by the House would fund DOE Workforce Development at $29 million. NSF EHR received $968 million. DOEd CTE State Grants would be funded at $2.03 billion. SSAE grants funding was set at $1.22 billion. Finally Community Learning Centers were funded at $1.26 billion.


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