WASHINGTON — The National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg will gain an additional $255.8 million, for a total of $1.1 billion, next year if President Barack Obama’s proposed budget is passed.
The increase is attributed largely to the institute’s sector on industrial technology services (ITS), which is set to rise by $168 million above last year’s enacted budget of $138 million. This sector is responsible for strengthening the nation’s manufacturing infrastructure.
The other two key sectors within the budget are Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) and Construction of Research Facilities (CRF).
The institute, also known as NIST, is a non-regulatory federal agency within the Department of Commerce. It is responsible for promoting measurement standards, conducting scientific research and offering technical assistance to small manufacturers.
ITS will be allocating nearly half of its funding, $150 million, to the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The network consists of organizations whose goals are to create regional centers that would advance manufacturing capabilities through the development of new technology.
Also within the ITS sector is Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), with a budget of $141 million. MEP aids manufacturing companies by identifying growth opportunities and providing them with the tools they need to continue responding to changing technology and business needs.
Nearly two-thirds, or $755 million, of Obama’s 2016 proposed budget for NIST will be allocated to the STRS sector. ITS and CRF will be receiving $306 million and $59 million respectively.
The STRS funding is $79 million above the 2015 budget and will be used to support laboratory programs that conduct research to solve technological problems. NIST has seven laboratories across the nation, including its main facility in Gaithersburg.
The largest portion of the STRS funding, $161 million, goes towards advanced manufacturing, which is responsible for providing measurement tools and technical assistance to manufacturers and start-ups.
As an example, NIST assistance in producing new technology has helped create lighter-weight motor vehicles.
The cybersecurity portion of the STRS budget is set to gain $7 million for a total of $109 million, making it the second largest program in its sector and fourth largest program in the NIST budget.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, attended a GAO press conference Feb. 11 and pointed out his concern regarding cybersecurity.
“Congress and the Executive Branch must do all we can to mitigate risks at federal agencies and ensure that American consumers are protected when they provide their personal information to private companies,” he said in a statement.
One of the solutions NIST has created is the cybersecurity framework.
In response to a presidential executive order, NIST collaborated with other agencies to produce a framework to improve critical infrastructure. The framework is a document that consists of existing standards and guidelines.
“It gets everyone on the same language and same terminology, so they can discuss,” said NIST spokesperson Jennifer Huergo.
The framework helps companies evaluate their assets and risks, so that they can address them as they would with any other business risks, she explained.
However, despite the increase in funding, the agency has allocated 2 percent less to its cybersecurity program than it had in 2014 and 2015. This is due to an increase in NIST programs.