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AAAS Analysts See Mixed Prospects for Federal R&D Investment in 2007 and 2008
The U.S. budget proposed by President George W. Bush for 2008 includes significant research and development funding increases for weapons development, space exploration, and basic physical sciences, but calls for cuts across most other research-related areas, from health and agriculture to climate, environmental regulation and defense.
The AAAS R&D Budget Program, one of the nation's leading nonpartisan authorities on the federal investment in science and technology, concludes in a new report that the proposed U.S. R&D portfolio in FY 2008 would reach a record $143.0 billion in the budget year beginning 1 October, up 1.4% from expected funding this year.
But the full increase—and more—would be consumed by development of weapons systems and space vehicles, program director Kei Koizumi reported. While research funding linked to the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) would increase at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories in the Department of Commerce, overall federal investment in basic and applied research would fall 2% from the likely 2007 total, Koizumi said.
The mixed report on the 2008 budget came as a measure moved through the U.S. Congress that would provide significant increases for research and development in the still incomplete 2007 budget. In a report earlier this month, Koizumi found that the joint funding resolutions crafted in Congress included "pleasant surprises" for federally financed R&D: Increases for the three ACI agencies; an increase at the National Institutes for Health to cover inflation, rather than flat funding; and funding for energy research that would climb "dramatically."
On Friday (9 February 2007), AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to thank her for supporting R&D in the 2007 joint funding resolution. [Letters also were sent to Reps. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), chair of the House Commerce, State, Science appropriations subcommittee, and Rep. David Obey, (D-Wis.) chair of the Appropriations Committee.] In a separate letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other members of the Senate, he asked them to back the measure as well, noting that "both Congress and the Administration support increasing funding for basic research."
"Federal support for these agencies reflects a balanced portfolio of R&D investments and the important interaction of the physical, biological, behavioral, and social sciences," Leshner wrote, "each of which contributes to innovation and to the improvement of the economy, health, education and quality of life of all Americans."
The continuing resolution, which provides funding for the current year at 2006 levels, expires on Thursday 15 February. If approved by the Senate, the joint funding resolution would still have to be signed by President Bush. The White House budget proposal for 2008 did not anticipate these 2007 increases, but instead assumed that 2006 funding levels would be maintained in 2007.
President Bush on 5 February submitted his 2008 spending plan, a $2.9 trillion budget that emphasizes cutting the deficit by reducing domestic discretionary spending, extending tax cuts, and increasing expenditures to combat terrorism and increase national security. As in his 2007 proposal, he focuses R&D spending increases on development of weapons systems and space vehicles, and on the agencies that support basic physical research under the American Competitiveness Initiative.
"In real terms, the federal research investment would fall for the fourth year in a row after peaking in 2004," Koizumi wrote in a preliminary report on the budget.
"Within a declining domestic budget," he added, "there would be stark contrasts between these priority programs and everything else: nearly all other non-defense R&D programs would face cuts, and defense research would also fall steeply."
Percent Change from FY 2007
See the full-sized budget chart and notes
R&D performed in the NIST laboratories would increase 21.5%; the Department of Energy's Office of Science would get a 16% increase (compared to funding levels containing in Congress' joint funding resolution), and funding at NSF would rise 8.3%. But, Koizumi found, the two other major sponsors of the physical sciences would face cuts: Support of basic and applied research at the Department of Defense would fall 18%; such research at NASA would fall 0.5%.
The White House budget anticipated an increase for R&D at NIH in FY2008—but that assumed flat funding in the 2007 budget. If the continuing resolution is approved in the Senate and signed by President Bush, the proposed 2008 funding level at NIH would amount to a 1.1% cut.
In addition, Koizumi reported, many R&D agencies not linked to the ACI or space would see their R&D funding fall from levels contained in the 2007 continuing resolution:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which does much climate and marine research, down 9.5%.
Energy-related R&D in the Department of Energy, down 9.2%.
Department of Homeland Security, down 1.5%;
Koizumi's report notes that climate research overall is declining in the federal budget, despite heightened concern among the public and elected officials. "Although climate change funding in most participating agencies remains stable," Koizumi concluded, "steep cuts in recent years to NASA research (the largest sponsor of climate change science) have resulted in a diminishing overall federal effort."
At the Climate Change Science Program, which integrates federal research on climate and global change sponsored by 13 federal agencies, R&D funding would fall 7.4%. In all, the program has lost a quarter of its funding since 2004.
See the full preliminary report on the proposed FY2008 budget by the AAAS R&D Budget Program.
See the R&D budget Program's analysis of the joint funding resolution on the 2007 budget now pending in the U.S. Senate.
See Alan Leshner's letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
See his letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Edward W. Lempinen
12 February 2007