Expect NSF Funding to Stall

Mike Waring

AUTM Advocacy and Alliances Coordinator

As the calendar turns to fall, attention in Washington will quickly shift to the November mid-term elections.
After the month-long August recess, Congress will be back only for a few weeks.  And with members of Congress looking at heading home by early October to run for re-election, the window for activity is small.
While we all continue to celebrate the new tech transfer provisions authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act passed last month, those new programs will need to be funded through appropriations for the federal fiscal year (FY) 2023. Funding for the programs will come though the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is included in the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill each year. That bill was marked up in the House Appropriations Committee this summer, with NSF proposed to see an increased budget of of $793 million.  However, the bill has not been considered by the full House and the Senate has yet to act on its version of any of the 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the government each year.
Given that Congress will not be able to pass its appropriations bills before the October 1 deadline, we can expect that the House and Senate will pass what is called a “continuing resolution.” That bill will extend, for some limited time, funding for the entire federal government at current FY ’22 levels. This will serve two purposes: keeping the government working and buying more time for Congress to complete its work on appropriations later this fall. More than likely, the funding will keep the government working through mid-November or early December. 
However, the wild card in all of this is how the election turns out. Right now, Democrats have narrow majorities in both the House and Senate. Traditionally, the party in the minority does better in the first mid-term election of a presidency, and it would appear that Republicans are likely to take over control of the House come January.  The races in the Senate are – at this point – too close to call.  Regardless, Republicans may want to postpone any final decisions on the FY ’23 spending levels for the government until the new year. In that case, the NSF and other agencies may have to wait to make major internal decisions about funding various programs until they have a better handle on their final spending limit.
AUTM leaders are already talking to the NSF about the potential for funding the new aid programs authorized for technology transfer. Stay tuned to AUTM communications for updates on any intelligence gleaned from those discussions.