At NIST, 14% Budget Increase Would Measure Up Nicely

One of the big winners in today's rollout of the Obama Administration's 2013 budget request was the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Its budget would grow by 14%, or $106.2 million, to $857 million—keeping the agency on a path to double its budget over 10 years by 2016. More than half of the proposed increase would go to programs designed to improve manufacturing technologies, part of the Administration's election-year push to ensure that new products are "invented here, manufactured here and sold worldwide."

The bulk of the new money, $81 million, would go to NIST's Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS), which would grow 14% to $648 million. More than one-half of that increase, or $45 million, would go to five measurement science initiatives totaling $90.8 million, including projects aimed at supporting biological products, nanomanufacturing, and a national "Materials Genome Initiative." Four new centers of excellence, to be chosen through a competition, would share $20 million; each is supposed to fuse government, academic, and private research. Beyond that, a program on forensic science would nearly double to $9.6 million, while another on communications networks would nearly double to $20.6 million. Research on natural hazards risk reduction would get a major boost of $5 million, to $6 million, while a cybersecurity initiative would grow by $8 million, to $24.5 million.

Efforts to renovate laboratories at NIST's Boulder, Colorado, campus also get a boost, including $11.8 million to renovate the 60-year-old Building 1 that houses the majority of research and measurement laboratories on the campus. The budget proposal also includes a wish list of sorts, calling on Congress to create two new programs. One is a $1 billion fund for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. It would link several federal agencies, including the Pentagon and the National Science Foundation, to "promote the development of manufacturing technologies with broad applications." The other is a $300 million Wireless Innovation Fund, to "develop cutting-edge wireless technologies for public safety users."