After a year marked with employee furloughs and budget cuts, employees at the National Institute of Standards and Technology will see more certainty this year, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said Monday at the federal agency’s Gaithersburg headquarters.
“There’s going to be no sequester this fiscal year,” Mikulski (D) of Baltimore told several hundred employees, to a round of applause.
That was “very good news,” said Patrick Gallagher, director of NIST, an agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce. “We have the certainty of a budget in place,” he said. “We have been given new resources to expand our mission.”
NIST’s budget for fiscal 2014 is $850 million, more than $40 million more than fiscal 2013, according to a congressional summary of the federal budget. The Food and Drug Administration, headquartered in Silver Spring, is seeing $2.55 billion this fiscal year, some $96 million more than last year.
The fiscal 2014 budget for Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health is $29.9 billion, about $1 billion more than NIH funding last year after sequestration cuts. But it’s also $714 million less than NIH funding before sequestration cuts went into effect. Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said she also worked to rid the budget of classifying certain federal employees as “nonessential.”
“That is a demeaning label to be called nonessential and should not be a part of our budget,” Mikulski said.
NIST has about 2,700 employees in Gaithersburg. Its research relates to everything from measuring the level of lead in dental crowns to devising stronger building standards. For example, following the 2001 terrorist attacks, a team from the agency traveled to New York to review the World Trade Center rubble and make recommendations to improve future building codes.
Gallagher, who has been director since 2009, joined NIST in 1993 as a research physicist and instrument scientist at the Center for Neutron Research, a national user facility for neutron scattering on the Gaithersburg campus.
Mikulski toured NIST’s Center for Automotive Lightweighting, which conducts research on developing new manufacturing materials to help the automotive industry build lighter, more fuel-efficient cars.
“It’s very impressive research,” Mikulski said. “Manufacturing in this country is coming back, aided by this kind of research.”