Programs: Science and Policy
S&T Newsletter: September 2005
Although Congress got off to a quick start on appropriations bill, the House and the Senate still remain far apart on funding levels for key R&D programs. The difficult task of resolving their differences before the October 1 start of FY 2006 became further complicated by the profound catastrophe left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The House passed all of its eleven appropriations bills before the 4th of July recess for the first time since 1988, but the Senate has proceeded more slowly, approving only five bills out of 12 by the August recess. The Senate had drafted six additional bills, but left the largest one (Department of Defense) for September. Before the August recess, Congress sent two bills to the President for his signature, including the bill funding Interior and EPA.
Because Congress is working from its FY 2006 budget resolution essentially agreeing to the President’s $843 billion requested total for discretionary spending next year, there is little room for Congress to change the request substantially, although appropriators, particularly in the Senate, have become very creative in utilizing unique mechanisms to fund favored programs. The Senate plan, so far, has been to divert billions of dollars from defense programs and through other accounting tricks to allocate more for R&D programs than the House.
The traditionally more fiscally conservative House has resisted these efforts, and final negotiations over budgets could end up closer to House levels if the House, as expected, insists on minimizing funding shifts and accounting tricks. Thus, although the funding outlook in August looks better than it did in July because of Senate actions, the final federal R&D portfolio for FY 2006 looks like another year of flat or at-best modest increases and a continuation of the downward trends of the last few years after adjusting for inflation. The exception will be defense R&D, where House actions preview another substantial increase in weapons development.
Detailed analysis and a primer of the budget process are available on the AAAS R&D website.
The Senate would provide $58.7 billion for the nondefense R&D portfolio next year, an increase of $2.2 billion or 3.9 percent over this year and a $1.8 billion boost over the request. The Senate’s appropriation would be $1.7 billion more than the comparable House appropriation of $57.0 billion, leaving big differences to resolve this fall.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Commerce account for most of the difference in nondefense R&D. The Senate plan would boost the NIH budget to $29.6 billion for a 3.7 percent gain, roughly $900 million more than the House and the request. The Senate Commerce R&D appropriation of $1.4 billion (up 20.5 percent) would be nearly $500 million more than the House’s 20.6 percent cut.
In some cases congressional appropriators have added funds to turn requested cuts into modest increases for key R&D programs.
For example, both the House and the Senate would add roughly $200 million to the request for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science to turn a proposed cut into a slight increase over this year, with an emphasis on sustaining operating times at DOE scientific user facilities and protecting domestic fusion research. The final budgets for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Interior and EPA show modest increases for their R&D funding (2.5 percent for USGS, 1.2 percent for EPA) in contrast to requested cuts. And the House would add $2.6 billion to the request for DOD’s S&T (research and technology development) programs to bring funding back near current levels at $13.5 billion instead of a proposed 22 percent cut. The Senate is likely to do the same in September.
But in the extremely tight domestic budget approved by Congress this spring, in which overall domestic spending would remain flat in 2006, congressional appropriators have also trimmed some requested increases in order to fund other priorities.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for example, would see its R&D portfolio increase modestly by 1.9 percent in the Senate and 1.3 percent in the House to $1.3 billion, slightly off a 3.6 percent requested increase and well below the 21 percent increase DHS received in 2005. The National Science Foundation (NSF) requested increase of 2.8 percent would be trimmed. The Senate proposal would increase the budget 1.6 percent, while the House would raise it 2.6 percent to bring most research directorates just to last year’s funding level.
The clear winner in the nondefense R&D portfolio would be NASA, but problems with the July Space Shuttle launch threaten to erase these gains. Both the House and the Senate would endorse the Administration’s vision of space exploration for NASA, boosting total NASA R&D by 7.8 percent in the House and 7.1 percent in the Senate to $11.5 billion so that the agency can focus on resuming construction of the Space Station and embarking on the R&D efforts necessary for planned moon-and-Mars missions. But safety problems discovered after the launch prompted NASA to postpone future flights and to invest in further safety investments, which will require continuing diversions from R&D accounts to the Space Shuttle in FY 2006.
For further details on individual agency appropriations, please see the agency R&D Funding Updates on the AAAS R&D web site.
National Institutes of Health (NIH): The House has approved an FY 2006 budget for NIH that would essentially concur with the agency’s request for $28.7 billion next year, an increase of $143 million or 0.5 percent. NIH R&D would rise 0.5 percent to $27.9 billion, failing to keep pace with general inflation for the first time in 24 years. The Senate would add $1 billion to the NIH budget for a total of $29.6 billion, a boost of 3.7 percent, but the increase depends on shifting a program payday from FY 2006 to FY 2007 and other accounting tricks that the House is unlikely to accept. Most NIH institutes would receive increases between 2.8 and 3.8 percent in the Senate plan.
Department of Defense (DOD): Only the House has acted on the DOD budget; the Senate has postponed its action until September. The House would provide $73.6 billion for DOD R&D; $2.1 billion more than the current year for a 2.9 percent increase in contrast to a requested cut. The House would add $2.8 billion to the request for DOD “Science and Technology” (S&T) programs for a total of $13.5 billion. Basic research (“6.1”) would fall 4.0 percent to $1.5 billion, an improvement, however, over the Pentagon’s proposal to cut that account 13 percent. Applied research (“6.2”) would gain 4.2 percent to $5.1 billion, again despite steep cuts in the Pentagon request.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): The Space Shuttle’s return to flight was expected to allow the agency to shift its focus to its many R&D challenges next year. But safety problems that became apparent after the July 26 launch of Discovery will rearrange the agency’s plans. In the latest Senate plan, drafted before the launch, the total NASA budget of $16.4 billion would be a $200 million or 1.2 percent increase, but NASA’s R&D funding would climb 7.1 percent in FY 2006 and an even larger 7.8 percent in the House as an expected decline in Shuttle costs frees up money for NASA’s R&D programs. But the need to keep spending money on Shuttle safety into next year will most likely result in a repeat of this year’s budget, when NASA transferred money from R&D accounts to the Space Shuttle and even imposed mid-year cuts. The large House and Senate increases would only restore NASA R&D to last year’s level, but now those increases are threatened. Under the Senate and House plans before the launch, the agency would receive additional resources for its ambitious plans to finish construction of the International Space Station and develop the technologies needed for future moon and Mars missions, but there would also be steep cuts in NASA’s aeronautics research portfolio, the earth sciences portfolio, and biological and physical research. Those cuts could become even steeper in the final NASA appropriation.
Department of Energy (DOE): The Senate would provide $8.9 billion for DOE R&D, a 3.1 percent boost over FY 2005 in contrast to a requested cut of nearly 2.6 percent. Both the House and the Senate would add roughly $200 million to the request for DOE’s Office of Science (OS) for a gain of 1.3 percent in the Senate and 1.5 percent in the House to $3.4 billion, both dramatic improvements over a requested cut of 4.5 percent. Energy-related R&D would rise dramatically in both chambers’ appropriations to support Administration priorities in hydrogen, coal, and nuclear energy R&D while at the same time sustaining DOE investments in other energy R&D areas. In defense-related programs, there are sharp differences between House and Senate plans: the Senate would moderate steep requested cuts in defense computing and stockpile stewardship R&D while the House would leave them in place; the Senate would eliminate funding entirely for the National Ignition Facility unlike the House; and the Senate would fund the controversial Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator program in 2006 but the House would eliminate it. Congress also approved an energy authorization bill in July that establishes future priorities for DOE energy and science R&D: the bill envisions dramatic increases FY 2007 through FY 2009, but appropriations are unlikely to meet these targets. The energy bill also creates a new R&D program beginning in 2007 in oil and gas R&D out of mandatory funds.
National Science Foundation (NSF): The NSF budget, after declining in 2005, would barely increase by 1.1 percent to $5.5 billion next year in the latest Senate plan, falling short of the $5.6 billion in the House and Administration proposals and even falling short of the $5.6 billion NSF had last year. NSF’s total R&D funding would increase just 1.6 percent to $4.1 billion, falling short of the 2.0 percent expected inflation rate, while the House would go just above it with a 2.6 percent boost. Most NSF research directorates would receive increases between 1 and 3 percent in 2006, which would barely bring their budgets back to last year’s levels. Most of NSF’s education and training programs, however, would suffer steep cuts for the second year in a row under the House, Senate, and Administration plans.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS): The Senate and the House would both drastically slow down the recent growth in R&D funding that allowed DHS to ramp up its security-related programs. After increases of more than $200 million in each of the past three years the Senate would provide $1.3 billion for DHS R&D in FY 2006, a small gain of $23 million or 1.9 percent, while the House would provide an even smaller 1.3 percent boost. Congress, however, would provide large boosts for some of DHS’ top R&D priorities while slashing funds in other areas. The biggest gains would go to radiological and nuclear countermeasures and the chemical countermeasures portfolios.
Department of Commerce : The House and the Senate could not disagree more strongly on R&D funding in the Department of Commerce. In a sharp reversal from a 20.6 percent cut in the House appropriation and a similar one in the request, the Senate would dramatically increase Commerce R&D by 20.5 percent to $1.3 billion in FY 2006. The Senate would keep the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) funded at this year’s budget of $140 million next year, in contrast to House and Administration plans to eliminate it. The House would slash National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) R&D by 23 percent, while the Senate would boost it by 6.5 percent to $693 million. The House and the Senate do agree, however, to sustain the non-R&D Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program at $106 million, in contrast to a requested cut of almost two-thirds.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): The USDA, enjoying a record R&D portfolio in FY 2005, would see its research funding fall by 1.3 percent in the latest Senate budget plan and 7.4 percent in the House plan. Both proposals, however, still would be far higher than Administration proposals for cuts of 14.6 percent. The House and the Senate would add to the request to restore earmarked intramural research, construction, and extramural research projects that the request proposed to delete. And both chambers would reject USDA’s proposals to slash formula funds in its extramural research portfolio, keep Hatch Act formula funding for land-grant colleges at $179 million, and boost competitive grants in the National Research Initiative.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): President Bush signed the fiscal year 2006 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (PL 109-54) on August 23, 2005 . It contains a slight increase of 1.2 percent to EPA’s R&D portfolio for a total of $579 million in FY 2006. Because of a reduction in congressional earmarks, most EPA R&D programs are set to receive increases.
Department of the Interior : Congress has come to an unusually early agreement on a final budget for the Department of the Interior, which was part of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act signed into law (PL 109-54) on August 23, 2005 . Interior R&D totals $620 million in FY 2006, a slight gain of 0.8 percent. Congress reverses proposed cuts to R&D in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and instead agreed on a 2.5 percent increase to $555 million, primarily by restoring funds for minerals research. -- Kei Koizumi, AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
Reports and Publications
Wilderness: Overview and Statistics (RL31447)
This report examines the history and distribution of federal wilderness areas, which were first designated by the Wilderness Act in 1964. The Wilderness Act defined wilderness as an area of generally undisturbed federal land, but did not establish criteria or standards to determine whether an area should be designated. In general, wilderness areas are undeveloped, and commercial activities, motorized access, and roads, structures, and facilities are prohibited. In response to conflicting demands, however, Congress has granted exemptions to the general standards and prohibitions. Currently, there are 649 wilderness areas, totaling more than 105 million acres in 44 states, with another 46 million acres protected as possible additions to the system.
Legislative Approaches to Chemical Facility Security ( RL33043 )
The Department of Homeland Security identifies chemical facilities as one of the highest priority critical infrastructure sectors and some security experts fear these facilities are at risk of a potentially catastrophic terrorist attack. This report discusses current chemical facility security efforts, issues in defining chemical facilities, policy challenges in developing chemical facility security legislation, and the various policy approaches. The report examines potential chemical facility security enhancements such as: providing high risk facilities security grants; mandating site vulnerability assessments; compelling vulnerability remediation; establishing federal security standards; or requiring the consideration or use of specific technologies.
Environmental Liabilities: EPA Should Do More to Ensure That Liable Parties Meet Their Cleanup Obligations (GAO-05-658) A number of legal and administrative barriers make it difficult for the EPA to ensure that bankrupt companies fulfill their environmental cleanup responsibilities. For example, businesses can restructure in ways that transfer liabilities to subsidiaries without assets, and bankruptcy laws release companies from their obligations to allow them a chance to start over. However, the EPA has not used available methods to collect from bankrupt companies. In particular, EPA has not required companies that use hazardous substances to financially guarantee their ability to clean up environmental damage, as mandated by the act that created the Superfund Program.
Data Mining: Agencies Have Taken Key Steps to Protect Privacy in Selected Efforts, but Significant Compliance Issues Remain (GAO-05-866) A study of five federal agencies that use data mining found that although all of the agencies had taken steps to protect individual privacy, none followed all of the requirements established by law and Executive Branch policy. Of the five agencies, all of which search large collections of data to detect patterns that indicate fraud, waste, criminal activity or terrorist activity, most notified the general public that they were using data mining techniques and provided notice when appropriate to individuals whose data was used. However, the agencies did not establish adequate security to protect individual privacy, and no agency conducted a privacy assessment that complied with the Office of Budget and Management’s guidelines. Although none of the agencies studied uses data mining to analyze scientific information or research data, the report’s authors stated that this is one of the most common purposes of federal data mining.
These reports are currently only available on the NAS website, but hard copies will be available shortly.
Quarantine Stations at Ports of Entry Protecting the Public's Health This report from the Institute of Medicine warns that the system for intercepting microbial threats at the nation's airports, seaports, and borders needs strategic leadership and a comprehensive plan to meet the challenges posed by emerging diseases and bioterrorist threats. It recommends that the CDC be given the responsibility, authority, and resources to lead the effort and to work with national, state, and local partners to develop a more comprehensive approach that clearly delineates each partner's roles and responsibilities. (Prepublication ISBN: 0309100135)
America 's Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science This report is the result of a comprehensive review of research on how U.S. high school science labs affect science learning, and found that most were inadequate. It recommends four key principles of effective instruction be implemented that could improve the quality of science laboratory experiences for students: design science lab experiences with clear learning outcomes in mind; sequence lab experiences into science instruction; integrate learning science content and learning about the processes of science; and incorporate ongoing student reflection and discussion. (Prepublication ISBN: 030909741X)
Priorities in Space Science Enabled by Nuclear Power and Propulsion. This NRC report is the result of an independent assessment of potential NASA missions that may be enabled if space nuclear systems became operational. It provides a series of space science objectives and missions in the areas of astronomy and astrophysics, solar system exploration, and solar and space physics that could be launched in the period beyond 2015. The report, however, also recommends that NASA commission more detailed mission studies to examine the feasibility, performance, cost, and complexity of using nuclear-powered spacecraft for any future robotic and human missions. ( Prepublication ISBN: 0309100119)
Free Brain Power for Congressional Offices
A new class of AAAS congressional fellows began their orientation this week, and will be available for placement as of September 19. This program brings scientists and engineers to Washington to work in congressional offices for a year. Since their stipend is paid by scientific societies, fellows are free sources of expertise for congressional offices. For more information, visit the website or contact Cori Goodyear.
Mark your calendars:
Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
Reception and Briefing
Tuesday, September 20, 2005, 5:00 – 7:00 PM
2325 Rayburn House Office Building
Meet 60 scientists from across the nation who welcome undergraduates into their laboratories as research assistants. Learn why exposing undergraduates to laboratory research makes them more likely to go to graduate school or enter the scientific and technical workforce.
RSVP to Laura Pomerance via email or phone (202/326-6771).
As used in the analysis, R&D refers to research and development activities in the sciences and engineering as well as R&D facilities. The definitions below are used by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Management and Budget, and federal agencies in reporting R&D funding data.
Research is systematic study directed toward more complete scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied. The federal government classifies research as either basic or applied according to the objective of the sponsoring agency.
Development is the systematic use of the knowledge or understanding gained from research for the production of materials, devices, systems, or methods, including design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes. It excludes quality control, routine product testing, and production.
R&D funding normally includes those personnel, program supervision, and administrative support costs directly associated with R&D activities. Laboratory equipment is also included. Defense R&D also includes testing, evaluation, prototype development, and other activities which precede actual production.
Funding for R&D facilities includes construction, repair, or alteration of physical plant (reactors, wind tunnels, particle accelerators, or laboratories) used in the conduct of R&D. It also includes capital (major) equipment used in the conduct of R&D.
The federal R&D funding data presented by AAAS are provided in terms of budget authority. Budget authority is the initial budget parameter for congressional action on the President's proposed budget.
Other R&D data sources (such as National Science Foundation R&D funding reports) may express R&D funding in terms of obligations or outlays. There are also R&D data sources which obtain funding data from funding recipients (companies, universities) rather than from funding sources (agencies).
Budget authority is the legal authorization to expend funds. Budget authority is most commonly granted in the form of annual appropriations by Congress.
Obligations represent orders placed, contracts awarded, services received, and similar transactions during a given period, regardless of when the funds were appropriated and when the future payment of money is required.
Outlays represent checks issued and cash payments made during a given period, regardless of when the funds were appropriated or obligated. (Outlays are equivalent to expenditures.)
As an example, Congress may appropriate $100 million to NASA for FY 2000 for an R&D laboratory. NASA may then issue contracts to build the lab and sign $50 million of the contracts in FY 2000 and $50 million in FY 2001. Upon completion of the lab in FY 2001 NASA may then write checks to the contractors for total of $100 million. Budget authority would be $100 million in FY 2000; obligations would be split $50 million each in FY 2000 and FY 2001; outlays would be $100 million in FY 2001. In the federal budget process, there is normally a lag between budget authority and outlays for large capital projects and research contracts; for expenses such as staff salaries, budget authority and outlays usually occur in the same year. -- Definitions adapted from National Science Foundation, Federal R&D Funding by Budget Function: Fiscal Years 2003-2005, Arlington, VA, 2004.
The initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and a comparison with the human genome were published in the September 4 edition of Nature. The results showed that fewer than 4% of the DNA base pairs in the two species are different. Most of the differences are in areas that do not appear to have function, but others are clearly significant. The researchers identified a number of genes that are present in one species but not the other, such as a chimpanzee gene that produces an enzyme that seems to protect the species from Alzheimer’s disease. A companion article in the same journal found that the majority of the differences are the result of errors that occur when sections in the genome are copied multiple times. This type of copying is typical of humans and other primates, and reveals an important mechanism of human evolution. Full article ...
Citation for chimp genome: Nature 437, 69 (2005)