AAAS Budget Expert Kei Koizumi Sees Another Lean Year for R&D
The 2006 budget proposed by President George W. Bush would sharply increase research and development spending for homeland security, but effectively cut it at agencies ranging from energy and defense to health and science education, according to a new analysis by AAAS budget expert Kei Koizumi.
The preliminary R&D budget analysis was released Thursday 10 February, just three days after the White House proposed $2.5 trillion in spending for the year beginning 1 October 2005. The overall budget includes a projected $390 billion deficit even without including funds for the war in Iraq.
Under Bush's proposal, the total federal R&D portfolio for 2006 would rise $733 million to $132.3 billion, an 0.6 percent increase that would be "far short" of the expected 2 percent rate of inflation, Koizumi's analysis says. "In real terms," the report adds, "the total federal R&D portfolio would decline for the first time since 1996."
"After a tough 2005 budget, we expected a tight 2006 budget, but it's striking how much the budget retreats from federal investments in science and technology in important areas," said Koizumi, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at AAAS. "From the Hubble telescope to environmental R&D to defense support of basic research to investments in commercial technologies, the president's proposals would undo the gains of the last several years."
President Bush's budget comes as world economic authorities are expressing concern about the U.S. deficit and the borrowing needed to close the gap. Deficits in recent years have run at record levels, a trend compounded by the expense of the Iraq war. News reports this week show that the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit over the next 10 years will be nearly double the first estimates, a disclosure that has provoked bipartisan objections in Congress.
The budget still must be approved by Congress, and already, news reports have indicated that Democrats and some Republicans may be looking to make significant adjustments in the spending plan.
If approved in its current form, homeland security would be the clear winner in the 2006 budget"the only R&D priority exempt from tough budgetary choices," the AAAS analysis says. The research and development budget at the Department of Homeland Security would rise to $1.5 billion, an increase of $282 million, or 23.8 percent. Total homeland security spending, including programs in all federal departments, would rise 10.7 percent to $4.6 billion.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's R&D budget would increase 4.9 percent to $11.5 billion. But even then, Koizumi found, NASA would face "daunting challenges." New funds would go to completing construction of the International Space Station and preparing for future Moon and Mars missions. But earlier proposals to send a robotic mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope would be scrapped, effectively ending the life of the prized satellite.
Koizumi found that at most other agencies, R&D would suffer a significant loss of spending power:
- Environment R&D spending would sustain deep cuts. Spending would fall 0.5 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency, with the overall EPA budget declining by 6 percent. R&D spending would be cut by 4.6 percent at the United States Geological Service and 11.2 percent at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Defense R&D spending would rise 0.4 percent$321 millionto $75.2 billion, well below the pace of inflation. The controversial missile defense program would see a $1 billion cut, and weapons-related R&D would fall 2.6 percent.
- National Science Foundation R&D spending, after a cut in the current budget, would rise 2.7 percent, but most of that would be spent on facilities. The average NSF research grant would shrink for the second consecutive year, and spending on education would fall sharply.
- National Institutes of Health spending, after doubling between 1998 and 2003, would rise just 0.5 percent. "NIH projects a decline in the number of research project grants for the second year in a row," Koizumi wrote.
- The Department of Energy budget for research and development would decline 1.2 percent, with the department's Office of Science absorbing a 3.8 cut. The cuts "would be spread across a broad portfolio of program in physics, fusion, biology, and energy sciences," Koizumi reported. However, DoE's energy-related R&D budget would climb 11.3 percent to fund investments in hydrogen, nuclear energy, fuel cells and coal. Funding for several other renewable energy technologies would be cut sharply.
For more details, see the full preliminary analysis at www.aaas.org/spp/rd/prel06p.htm
Edward W. Lempinen
10 February 2005