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U.S. R&D Spending
Presidential Science Advisor, Democratic Senator
and AAAS Analyst Deliver Three Views
The U.S. Administration "is abdicating its responsibility" to provide scientists with the funding needed to meet cutting-edge research demands, U.S. Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) said 22 April at the 29th Annual AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy. "This is not real science. This is vending-machine science. The Administration thinks it can pull a lever and get the results it wants at no cost." (Read Daschle's speech in its entirety.)
Daschle's comments contrasted sharply with those of U.S. Presidential Science Advisor John H. Marburger III, who cited President George Bush's science and technology accomplishments. According to Marburger, the President's proposed FY 2005 budget would represent a 44-percent increase in federal R&D over the past four-year term. Moreover, the President's proposed budget reflects strong support for basic research, which would be increased by 26 percent, to $26.8 billion, compared with $21.3 billion four years ago. Marburger, providing data from a 2 April document, Administration S&T Accomplishments, said that R&D funding under the President's proposed FY 2005 budget would represent a "historically high" share of the gross domestic product, or GDP. Further, it would set total discretionary outlays to R&D at the highest level in 37 years, Marburger told some 600 Forum attendees. (Read Marburger's speech in its entirety.)
Providing yet another perspective, Kei Koizumi, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program, said that the President's proposed FY 2005 budget, combined with his plan to cut the deficit in half within five years, would mean cuts in R&D funding for all but three federal agencies by 2009.
"The projected cuts to most nondefense R&D programs would leave key programs with budgets well below recent historical levels," said Koizumi.
"Particularly during a Presidential election year, it's important for policymakers and taxpayers to understand the impacts of any federal budget changes, especially any proposals that may have implications for the pace of scientific discoveries in coming years," added Al Teich, AAAS's director of science and policy program.
Under the President's proposal, only three agenciesthe Department of Defense (DOD), NASA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)would realize increases to R&D budgets over the next five years, according to Koizumi.
Koizumi presented a detailed analysis of the President's FY 2005 budget at the Forum, 22-23 April. The report, Analysis of the Outyear Projects in the FY 2005 Budget (R&D to FY 2009), as well as the annual AAAS Report XXIX: Research and Development FY 2005 are both available online.
Read the related news story for more details on Koizumi's latest analysis.
Daschle, the Senate Democratic Leader, described Thomas Jefferson's leadership and the Lewis & Clark expedition as "the model for government's partnership with science." Over the past 200 years, he said, "government support for scientific research has helped invent the telegraph, split the atom, conquer space, create the Internet, map the human genome, and much more."
Today, however, "there are disturbing signs that America's dominant position in the scientific world is being shaken," according to Daschle. He contended that U.S. innovation is lagging, while Europe, for example, has increased its rate of discovery. Daschle said that federal funding for research currently is set to increase by 4.7 percent, but increases are devoted to weapons development and counter-terrorism technology, with funding reductions for other types of research.
Daschle also referenced the 18 February Union of Concerned Scientists' report, which alleges a pattern of misuse of science by the U.S. Administration. "When the Administration has the opportunity, it has stacked the deck by staffing research boards and advisory councils with under-qualified researchers who have shown allegiance to the White House's political goals," Daschle charged. "Just recently, the President dismissed two advisers from his Council on Bioethics because they were outspoken proponents" of stem-cell research.
Marburger said, however, that "the President believes policy should be made with the best and most complete information possible," and with respect for the integrity of the research process. "There is no intention of this Administration to undermine or distort that machinery," he added. Marburger pointed to the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, as well as the $1.2 billion, five-year Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, as evidence that science is a budget priority for President Bush. In particular, he said, the President is committed to "a sustained, step-by-step approach" to space explorationa field with the power to inspire future generations to pursue science and mathematics.
Workforce issues and concerns about future U.S. competitiveness in science and technology were cited by all three of the first speakers at the AAAS Forum, as well as moderator and AAAS President Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Jackson described "a perfect storm" of converging societal factors that threaten U.S. competitiveness, as the S&T workforce continues to age, fewer students are studying science, and foreign-born students are returning home to work. Filling the pipeline will require nurturing scientific curiosity among all students, particularly underrepresented minorities, she said. (Jackson's 14 February 2004 presentation at the AAAS Annual Meeting is now online.)
AAAS R&D Analysis
According to Koizumi's analysis, the President has proposed budget decreases at nine of the 12 federal agencies with the largest R&D portfolios, with only the DOD, DHS and NASA staying ahead of inflation. Large projected increases in NASA and DHS obscure the steep cuts in all other nondefense agencies, he said. In fact, DHS will see a $100 million increase from FY 2004 to FY 2005, with small increases projected each following year, culminating in a 25-percent boost and record-breaking funding levels over five years, after adjusting for inflation.
Although the space exploration programs at NASA will benefit from large funding increases, Koizumi said, all other R&D areas will decline dramatically over the next five years, including earth science (down 15.9 percent), aeronautics (down 16.2 percent), and biological and physical research (down 11.8 percent).
AAAS analysis shows that even a past favorite like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is susceptible to cuts. Over the next five years, NIH's $27 billion portfolio will see a modest rise due to increases in biodefense research. But funding for non-biodefense programs will fall by seven percent.
Many R&D funding programs face steep cuts over the next five years. The AAAS analysis describes the following impacts:
- Department of Energy (DOE) programs will see dramatic decreases such as: energy R&D (down 21 percent by FY2009), fossil energy R&D (down 22 percent), and energy conservation (down 26 percent).
- Department of Agriculture (USDA) intramural research will decline by 19 percent and extramural research grants will see a 28 percent cut.
- At the Department of Commerce, the Bush Administration would eliminate the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), as well as cut the budgets of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) by 10.5 percent and 17.3 percent respectively by FY 2009.
"In order to meet deficit reduction targets, even agencies receiving modest increases like NIH and NSF will see their R&D funding fall beginning in FY 2006," Koizumi said.
Discretionary Defense Spending
In the wake of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, Koizumi reported, there have been spectacular increases in defense discretionary spending after nearly a decade of relative restraint in the 1990's. To reduce the amount of discretionary spending, Koizumi added, the President's budget allots nothing for future costs in those countries. President Bush has promised to postpone further funding requests until after the November election, he said, although at least $50 billion will be needed by the end of 2004.
"While specific reductions in these projections are not inevitable, similar cuts will be necessary of future Congresses and Administrations focus on restraining domestic spending instead of considering other budget options," Koizumi said.
As the FY 2005 budget now moves to Congress, the President faces Republican control in both chambers, Koizumi noted, making it much more likely than in past years that his FY 2005 proposal will be enacted in close to its proposed form. However, he added, with the crisis in the Middle East, and a slow track-record for passing the 2003 budget, it may be months before we see the FY 2005 budget resolved.
Ginger Pinholster and Monica Amarelo
22 April 2004
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