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Proposed Federal R&D Funding for FY 2011 Dips to $143 Billion, with Cuts in National Defense R&D

NSF 10-327 | September 2010 | PDF format. PDF  

by Richard J. Bennof[1]

Federal agencies have a proposed total budget authority of $143.4 billion for federally funded research and development in FY 2011. This represents a slight drop (0.3%) in current dollars from FY 2010 preliminary appropriations of $143.9 billion and an expected drop of 2.3% in inflation–adjusted dollars (table 1). The FY 2011 proposed totals are agency estimates of federal funding for R&D based on agency documents and Office of Management and Budget data through May 2010.

TABLE 1. Federal R&D budget authority by funding category, in order of FY 2011 proposed amounts: FY 2004–11
(Millions of dollars)

  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

In current dollars nondefense R&D ($61.4 billion) is up by 6.3% and defense R&D ($82.0 billion) is down by 4.8% from FY 2010. Adjusted for expected inflation, nondefense R&D is up by 4.2% and defense R&D is down by 6.6%.

FY 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds (ARRA, Public Law 111–5) for R&D total $15.1 billion. (About 98% of ARRA funds were for nondefense R&D). Although ARRA funds are listed in this report under FY 2009 actual appropriations, these totals are preliminary; agencies have until the end of FY 2010 to obligate ARRA funds, and some program–funding decisions are still being made.

Unless otherwise indicated, references to dollar amounts' or percentages for the remainder of this InfoBrief are in current dollars.

Defense R&D Funding

The proposed defense component of federal R&D budget authority for FY 2011 is $82.0 billion, a decrease of $4.1 billion from the preliminary FY 2010 amount. The defense share of the FY 2011 proposed R&D budget is 57.2%, down from its FY 2010 share of 59.8%. The majority of federal defense R&D (88.5% in FY 2011) is allocated for development, whereas the nondefense portion of the federal R&D budget is directed mostly toward funding research (80.1% in FY 2011).[2]

Of the FY 2011 proposed R&D defense dollars, 93.7% ($76.8 billion) is funded from Department of Defense military research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) programs (table 2). The Air Force, Army, Navy, and two defense agencies, the Missile Defense Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), account for 86.4% ($66.3 billion) of this RDT&E account.

Proposed figures show the Air Force to be the largest recipient of defense R&D funding in FY 2011 ($27.5 billion), but it is down by 2.0% from its FY 2010 level. DARPA (3.7%) and the Missile Defense Agency (5.6%) show increases in proposed FY 2011 funds (table 2).

TABLE 2. Federal research and development budget authority for national defense: FY 2009–11
(Millions of dollars)

  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Proposed R&D funding for Department of Energy (DOE) atomic energy defense activities is at $4.0 billion in FY 2011, an increase of 5.9%. Most of DOE defense R&D funding is for support of weapons activities (table 2). Environmental restoration and waste management programs are proposed to increase by 56% in FY 2011 after more than doubling between FY 2009 and FY 2010.

Nondefense R&D Funding

Total nondefense R&D budget authority is up by $3.6 billion (6.3%) in FY 2011. The estimated nondefense share of federal R&D budget authority is 40.2% in FY 2010 but increases to 42.8% in FY 2011. The six functions that account for the largest shares of federal nondefense–related R&D activities are discussed below and shown in table 1.


Proposed FY 2011 R&D funding for health, mostly for National Institutes of Health programs, is up by $941 million from the FY 2010 level, or by 3.0%. This is the largest dollar increase in FY 2011 for any individual nondefense R&D funding category. Health, listed at $31.9 billion in FY 2011, is the second largest R&D budget function after national defense.

In constant FY 2000 dollars, health R&D budget authority increases in FY 2011 by 1.0%. Health accounts for 22% of total federal R&D budget authority in both FY 2010 and FY 2011.

General Science

Proposed research funding for general science is up 6.9% in FY 2011, or by $646 million, to a total of $9.9 billion. Of the proposed FY 2011 total, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is expected to account for 51% ($5.1 billion); DOE and the Department of Homeland Security are expected to account for the remaining portion ($4.8 billion).

In constant 2000 dollars, general science funds, excluding ARRA funding, have increased each year since FY 2007. Under the proposed FY 2011 budget, general science will account for 6.9% of the total federal R&D budget authority, up from 6.5% in FY 2010 and up from 6.3% in FY 2009 (excluding ARRA funding).

Space Research and Technology

The proposed FY 2011 total for space research and technology is $7.4 billion, 11.2% higher than the previous year. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) programs account for this entire amount. The share of R&D funding for space research and technology—estimated at 4.6% in FY 2010 and 5.1% in FY 2011—is down from its FY 2007 high of 6.5%.

Natural Resources and Environment

Proposed FY 2011 budget authority for natural resources and environment R&D is $2.5 billion, up 8.3% ($190 million) from the FY 2010 level. Four agencies provide nearly all of the support for R&D in this area: the Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture.


The proposed FY 2011 total for energy R&D is $2.5 billion, up 14.6% from the FY 2010 level. DOE accounts for nearly all of these funds. With a proposed FY 2011 energy R&D constant–dollar total of $1.9 billion, energy R&D budget authority will have increased in constant dollars by 84.6% since FY 2006.


Transportation R&D reached a proposed $2.0 billion in FY 2011, up by 43.5% from the FY 2010 funding level. This represents the largest percentage increase for any individual nondefense R&D funding category. This growth stems from NASA's increased share of transportation funding (52.5% in FY 2011, up from 30.5% in FY 2010) with the addition of the Space Technology Program in FY 2011. NASA receives nearly 53% of these funds for its projects, with the Department of Transportation getting most of the remainder.

Data Comments and Availability

The figures used in this report, provided by federal agencies in May 2010, represent agencies' best estimates of actual (FY 2009), preliminary (ARRA funding and FY 2010), and proposed (FY 2011) federal budget authority for R&D. Budget authority is the primary source of legal authorization to enter into obligations that will result in outlays. These data, tabulated for NSF by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, are based primarily on information that agencies provide to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and account for nearly all federally sponsored R&D activities. The R&D budget figures reflect estimates of R&D based on agency documents and OMB data through May 2010. They include FY 2010 supplemental appropriations. Budget numbers for individual activities, programs, or agencies may therefore differ from those published in the President's budget or agency budget documents. Congressional actions determine the final budget authority for R&D in FY 2011.

A full set of detailed tables on the President's requested federal funding of R&D components of agency programs for FY 2009–11 will be available in the forthcoming report Federal R&D Funding by Budget Function: Fiscal Years 2009–11 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedbudget/. The report will also contain R&D information that became available from the individual agencies after the administration's budget was prepared and reported. Individual detailed tables may be available in advance of the full report.


[1]  Richard J. Bennof (retired), Research and Development Statistics Program (RDS), Division of Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230. Please contact Mark Boroush, RDS, for information related to this report (mboroush@nsf.gov; 703–292–8726).

[2]  Clemins, PJ. 2010. Federal R&D in the FY 2011 Budget: An Introduction. Chap. 1, p. 16, in American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS Report XXXV: Research and Development FY 2011. Washington, DC.

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics
Proposed Federal R&D Funding for FY 2011 Dips to $143 Billion, with Cuts in National Defense R&D
Arlington, VA (NSF 10–327) [September 2010]

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