On March 23, the Omnibus Spending Bill—a 2232-page document outlining spending of $1.3 trillion for the federal government’s 2018 fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2017–Sept. 30, 2018)—was approved. Up to that point, federal spending had been funded by continuing resolutions that avoided shutdowns for the most part, but provided little guidance. The signing of a spending bill has been welcomed by many agencies.
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), total R&D spending in the FY2018 omnibus is $176.8 billion, an increase of 12.8% or $20.1 billion above FY2017. This includes a total increase for basic and applied research of 10.7% or $8.1 billion above FY2017. Additionally, total research funding (excluding development and R&D facilities) would rise to an estimated $83.2 billion, an all-time high in inflation-adjusted dollars. Specific changes for research programs of interest to the manufacturing community are summarized in Table 1.
For the Manufacturing USA program, the bill allocated funding to the 13 institutes established by the Department of Defense and by the Department of Energy; however, the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office at NIST saw a 40% budget cut. NIST funds only one of the 14 institutes established so far. Up to $5 million was allocated for coordination activities, and the remainder for “center establishment.” In the spending bill, Congress requested additional explanation of Manufacturing USA coordinating funds. They required a report detailing a funding breakout over the past three years, differentiating between coordinating funding and direct funding for manufacturing institutes.
As shown in Figure 1 (see below), both the House of Representatives and Senate bills departed significantly from the Office of Management and Budget recommendations, but they still called for reductions in most of the programs affecting manufacturing. However, the final Omnibus Spending Bill contains increases to almost all of the federal investments in manufacturing.
Congress noted that “strong investment in basic research reflects the Congress’ growing concern that China and other competitors are outpacing the United States in terms of research spending, as noted in the 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators report of the National Science Board.” The gap in manufacturing research investment has previously been outlined in an SME white paper, “Advanced Manufacturing Initiatives: A National Imperative.” The white paper can be downloaded at sme.org/white-papers-and-reports.
Each year, over 700 international researchers convene at SME’s North American Manufacturing Research Institution’s North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC) to share the latest manufacturing innovations and developments in manufacturing and cyber-physical systems and materials processing. The 2018 convergence will be held June 18-22 at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. NAMRC is a great opportunity to see what’s next on the horizon for manufacturing and manufacturing education. This year, we’re also offering two new tracks: What’s New at NSF – Update from NSF Program Directors and Federal Agencies’ Perspectives on Advanced Manufacturing. If you’re interested in attending, please visit sme.org/namrc46 to register.
K. Scott Smith has been an SME member since 1986.