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Biden's tech policy wish list

Illustration of Joe Biden on a pile of cursors.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

President Biden's budget wish list includes big tech and science asks, especially to help agencies make headway on his AI executive order.

Why it matters: Congress fell short on funding tech policy priorities this year, with many agencies nowhere near their authorizations or budget requests.

  • Now agencies are staring down a series of deadlines to make good on a highly consequential EO that will determine how the federal government develops and uses AI.
  • Lawmakers haven't even finished the work they need to do on this year's spending. They've got a March 22 deadline for the next batch of six bills.

Let's break down what you need to know about Biden's dream FY25 budget for tech, agency by agency:

Commerce: The agency wants $11.4 billion in FY25, and received $10.8 billion in the most recent spending package. Some tech policy specifics that Biden's asking for:

  • $65 million to implement key components of the AI executive order, specifically by having NIST establish the U.S. AI Safety Institute.
  • $4 billion for the regional tech and innovation hubs program, after lawmakers doled out only $41 million in FY24.
  • $312 million for maintenance and renovations at NIST, which has a nearly $900 million deferred maintenance backlog, according to its FY24 budget submission to Congress.
  • $223 million to the Bureau of Industry and Security, which works on export controls and received just $191 million this year.

National Science Foundation: The agency, which plays a key role in fulfilling the CHIPS and Science Act, wants $10.2 billion next year, $1.14 billion more than Congress provided in FY24.

  • CHIPS had authorized a whopping $16.7 billion for the agency in next year's budget, calling for a doubling of the agency's budget over five years to $18.9 billion in FY27.
  • NSF also wants $30 million for the second year of its AI research pilot, more than $2 billion for R&D in critical technology areas like AI and quantum and $1.4 billion for STEM education and workforce development programs that have an emphasis on DEI and accessibility.

Justice: The Antitrust Division is asking for $288 million next year, after getting just $233 million of a requested $325 million in FY24.

  • The DOJ also wants $2 million to support its AI EO responsibilities.

DHS: The department is asking Congress for $5 million to open an AI office, plus "additional AI funds" to support its work on the AI EO.

State: The State Department is calling for $20 million in "targeted artificial intelligence investments firmly aligned with the goals laid out" in the AI EO.

Context: The U.S.-China tech competition is ramping up, with Beijing vowing to spend nearly $52 billion on science and technology this year, a 10% increase over last year.

Our thought bubble: Congress is talking a big game about even more ambitious plans for AI and other emerging tech. But everyone is lowering the bar when it comes to cash.

  • Lawmakers didn't come close to matching the CHIPS and Science authorization levels in the most recent deal.
  • Now the administration's own requests are falling far short of what Congress told them to aim for just a few years ago.
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