How time flies when you are having fun! As the son of an IRS agent and US Budget officer, I enjoy budgets. Forty Years ago in 1972 the US Budget for total expenditures was $256 Billion (btw, that was the first budget my father made me memorize). Today, our total expenditures will be $3.8 Trillion. This will be my 12th analysis of the NNI Budget. My first was 2001-2002 and here we are 12 budget years later. As we used to say during the 70s…”What I want to know, Where does the time go?”
This week we are taking a look at the 2012 NNI Supplement to the President’s Budget. This annual NNI document presents budgetary data on Federal nanotechnology investments for fiscal years 2011-2013. It also describes how selected cross-agency activities and individual agency programs support each of the four goals of the Initiative. This year’s document serves an additional role as the Department of Defense’s report on the Defense Nanotechnology Research and Development Program, so the information on defense-related activities is particularly detailed.
On the budget front, the news is mixed. The $1.767 Billion overall request for 2013 is a slight increase over the $1.697 Billion now estimated for the current fiscal year, but it is a significant retrenchment from the $2.1 Billion the Administration requested last year (-17%). The final figure for FY2011, $1.85 Billion, is $65 Million less than the total actual expenditures for FY2010 (-3.5%), and the estimated $1.70 Billion FY2012 expenditures represent an additional 8% reduction. So even if the request is fully funded, we are looking at three straight years below the peak 2010 expenditures exceeding $1.9 Billion.
Fifteen agencies are listed with R&D budgets for all three report years. Five of them – the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology – account for 95% of each year’s expenditures or request. These “big 5″ agencies each participate in six to eight Program Component Areas, the topical reporting categories used to further identify NNI investments. Most smaller agencies restrict their funded activities to a few PCAs where they can have a more significant impact; for example, the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Consumer Products Safety Commission together provide roughly 40% of the funding for Environment, Health, and Safety research (PCA7), compared to ~30% from NSF and ~20% from NIH.
Looking at individual agencies, we see that the requested appropriations for many agencies fall between the estimated 2012 expenditures and what they requested a year ago. For DOD, NASA, and FDA, it is below both 2012 numbers. DOE is requesting a $127 Million increase over their 2012 estimate, to $443 Million. But even that pales in comparison to the $611 Million in last year’s request, which Congress cut nearly in half. And despite several years at the top of the request chart, DOE is behind NIH, DOD, and NSF in actually getting money on the street (2011 actual and 2012 estimated).
In terms of program focus, the Supplement notes the continuing emphasis on the three current NNI Signature Initiatives while hinting that 2 or more additional signature areas may be approved in the near future. It also highlights the connections between NNI investments and wider initiatives such as the Materials Genome Initiative and the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. In the proposed 2013 budget, Solar Energy Collection and Conversion ($112 Million) gets the largest increase and would edge out Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond ($110 Million) for the first time. Sustainable Nanomanufacturing would bump up to $84 Million. The NNI briefing memo on the budget notes that two of the applied Program Component Areas , Nanoscale Devices and Systems (PCA 3) and Nanomanufacturing (PCA 5) account for over $1/2 Billion in the 2013 proposal, a reflection of the increasing emphasis on commercially relevant technology and processes.
Overall, we should probably be pleased to see that the NNI is holding its own in a very tough budget climate. One encouraging fact is that Congress provided most of the NNI agencies with approved budgets relatively early this year. This makes it easier for them to plan out their programs and puts the 2012 estimated expenditures on a firmer footing than they have been in recent years.
I encourage those of you interested in more specific information on individual agency activities or anyone looking for good examples of currently funded research to check out the full report.