Biden administration again looks to increase AI R&D funding at civilian agencies

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The Biden administration proposed once again increasing funding for artificial intelligence research and development at civilian agencies, in a supplement to its fiscal 2022 budget request.

At $1.7 billion, the requested funding represents an 8.8% increase over enacted fiscal 2021 civilian AI R&D investments of $1.5 billion.

The Networking and IT Research and Development (NITRD) program — consisting of 25 member and 60 participating agencies coordinating federal R&D investment in advanced digital technologies — developed the request alongside the National AI Initiative Office launched in January.

“President Biden has proclaimed the need to advance American [science and technology] leadership for generations to come,” wrote Eric Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in the supplement‘s introduction. “The nation needs cutting-edge technologies that are made in the United States by U.S. workers and new solutions that will propel market-driven change and jump-start economic growth.”

NITRD member investments support 12 technical R&D areas, including AI, known as program component areas (PCAs). Electronics for networking and IT which covers investments in micro- and nanoelectronics in NITRD’s core networks and silicon and non-silicon hardware is a new PCA for fiscal 2022.

Of the $1.7 billion in requested funding for civilian AI R&D, $1.1 billion is for federal AI programs, and $561.7 million is for AI-related efforts among the other 11 PCAs.

The National Science Foundation separately funds AI education at $73.6 million and supports 18 National AI Research Institutes, with the help of other agencies, which together requested $68.1 million in fiscal 2022. Additionally the Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs operate their own AI institutes, which requested $40.2 million for a total of $108.3 million — a 0.5% increase over the $107.8 million allotted to all AI institutes in fiscal 2021.

Among the 12 PCAs, AI would receive the third-most funding, at 14% of the budget request, behind high-capability computing infrastructure and applications at 22% and large-scale data management and analysis at 15%.

NSF would receive the most overall funding among agencies, at 27% of the budget request, followed by the National Institutes of Health at 27% and the Department of Defense at 17%.

DOD’s budget would still decrease $96.3 million largely in large-scale networking, cybersecurity and privacy, and enabling R&D for high capability computing systems. Similarly the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s budget would decrease $40 million primarily in large-scale networking.

NSF would see the largest budget increase of $494.1 million “to enhance fundamental R&D and strengthen U.S. leadership in emerging technologies,” according to the supplement. The next-highest budget increase would be $108.8 million at NIH mostly for increased clinical research using structured electronic healthcare and related data.

The budget shifts reflect NITRD’s efforts to address challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic like the high cost and low availability of computing and health resources, climate change, industries of the future, diverse workforce development, and the long-term health of the U.S. science and technology R&D ecosystem.

NITRD also features 12 interagency working groups (IWG), including one introduced in August: the Information Integrity R&D IWG.

“For FY2022, the NITRD program anticipates greater involvement with many of the [National Science and Technology Council] committees and greater focus on data and equity issues in creation and delivery of digital services,” reads the supplement.

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artificial intelligence (AI), Department of Defense (DOD), Eric Lander, National AI Initiative Office, National AI Research Institutes, National Science Foundation (NSF), Networking and IT Research and Development (NITRD), Office of Science and Technology Policy