A new study shows that spending at the US’s 39 federally funded research and development centers, which include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory pictured above, declined in 2012. Credit: Wikipedia

A new survey from the National Science Foundation found that the U.S.’s 39 federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) are tightening their wallets and spending less.

According to an NSF press release, FFRDCs—which are financed entirely (or just about entirely) by the government—invested $17.4 billion in R&D in 2012, down from the $17.8 billion spent the year before. Those 2011 figures, however, reflect an increase in R&D expenditures thanks to monies from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. All together, federal monies accounted for 97.5 percent— a cool $17 billion—of total FFRDC spending in 2012.

It’s fair to note that some of these R&D entities receive funds from nonfederal sources—though these sources (businesses, nonprofits, and state and local governments among them)—only account for 2.5 percent ($440 million) of total expenditures.

The work represented by the centers is nearly evenly split among basic research (35.2 percent), applied research (30.7 percent), and development (34.1 percent).

The findings are particularly timely, as the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) most recent long-term cumulative deficit estimates have increased by $1 trillion through 2023. The CBO expects an initial decline over the next two years, but anticipates those deficits will grow again later in the decade. According to their own projections, as well as reports from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, discretionary spending (i.e., close to—if not all—federal research and development) is expected to drop to 5.2 percent in 2024.

To view the NSF report in full, visit www.nsf.gov.