House Budget Bill Would Have “Devastating” Impact on Research, Orbach Says in Science Editorial

A budget bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last month poses substantial long-term risk to the U.S. science enterprise and the nation’s economy, writes Raymond L. Orbach, a physicist and influential energy policy expert, in an editorial this week in Science.

H.R. 1—designed to fund the U.S. federal government for the rest of the 2011 budget year—would dramatically reduce research and development spending as part of a broader effort to address federal budget deficits. But Orbach, under secretary for science in the Department of Energy under President George W. Bush, warns that the bill would end the nation’s bipartisan commitment to double the budgets of key science agencies over the span of a decade and have “a devastating affect on an array of critical scientific research.”

“Left intact,” he says, “the massive cuts in research contained in the bill… would effectively end America’s legendary status as the leader of the worldwide scientific community, putting the United States at a distinct disadvantage when competing with other nations in the global marketplace.”

0304sp_orbach_150w

Raymond L. Orbach

Orbach, now the director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, insists that overcoming the current budget deficit will require economic growth as well as budget restrictions. Well over half of the U.S. economic growth in the past century can be traced to investments in science and technology, he says.

Orbach is a member of the AAAS Board of Directors.

A separate Science News & Analysis article by Adrian Cho examines in more detail the impact of the proposed budget cuts to the Office of Science, looking specifically at the thousands of academic and industrial researchers using facilities operated by the Department of Energy’s national laboratories.

Links

Read the editorial, “Research Vital to Economic Growth,” by Raymond Orbach.

Read the article, “House Cuts to DOE National Labs Would Also Hamstring Industry,” by Adrian Cho.