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House Appropriators Provide Large Increases for Federal R&D
House appropriations bills drafted so far provide significant increases for key federal research and development programs, a departure in most cases from the Bush administration's proposed cuts in R&D funding except for programs related to its economic competitiveness initiative, defense and spacecraft, according to a new analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
While a dozen House appropriation bills must go to the full House for votes and the appropriations process has just begun on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, the preliminary House actions suggest that federal R&D funding may fare better this year in Congress than it has since 2004, according to Kei Koizumi, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program. The program is one of the leading nonpartisan authorities on federal investment in science and technology.
"Although it's still early in the process, it's clear that appropriators want to increase federal funding for research, especially research relevant to American competitiveness, climate change, and renewable energy," Koizumi said.
The congressional appropriations target for the 2008 fiscal year exceeds the administration's overall request by $21 billion, and President Bush has threatened to veto any individual bills that exceed his request. As many as 10 of the 12 spending bills could do so, Koizumi said.
President Bush's budget proposal contained large increases over current funding levels for weapons systems, space exploration, and the administration's American Competitiveness Initiative, which stresses the importance of physical sciences to innovation. But proposed cuts in other areas would leave inflation-adjusted federal basic and applied research investment down for the fourth straight year. The Democratic-controlled Congress seems determined to reverse that trend, according to Koizumi.
Details of the House appropriations bills are available on the AAAS R&D Web site. Among the highlights:
- The Department of Energy would receive large increases for both its science and energy programs. The $9.8 billion total exceeds the administration request by $519 million and includes an 18.5 percent boost for energy-related R&D.
- The Environmental Protection Agency would get a 10.6 percent R&D increase, primarily for a new climate change research commission.
- The Department of the Interior would receive an increase in R&D funding to $678 million, including a 6.6 percent increase for the U.S. Geological Survey, the department's lead science agency.
- The Government Accountability Office (GAO) would receive $2.5 million for technology assessment activities, a partial step toward reinstating capabilities missing from Congress since the old Office of Technology Assessment was defunded in 1995.
According to Koizumi's analysis, posted on 14 June, the House appropriations bills would boost funding for all the major R&D funding agencies so far. The Department of Homeland Security, which received a steep cut last year due to congressional dissatisfaction with its R&D efforts, would get a 3.3 percent increase to $986 million (slightly less than the President's request). Radiological and nuclear countermeasures would be the largest part of the R&D portfolio.
The House appropriators, in preliminary action, also would fully fund a 9 percent requested increase in National Science Foundation R&D as part of the Administration's competitiveness proposal. Veteran Affairs R&D would climb 4.8 percent to $891 million, a $69 million increase above the administration's request.
The FY 2008 appropriations process picks up steam in coming weeks, Koizumi said, with the goal of getting all 12 bills signed into law by the October 1 start of the 2008 fiscal year. Any presidential vetoes, as well as expected congressional fights over earmarking and competing priorities, could prolong the appropriations process well into the coming fiscal year, he said. The AAAS R&D Web site will be updated continually throughout the coming months at each step of the process.
The "What's New" page of the Web site has a table on the status of FY 2008 appropriations, providing updates and links related to the latest congressional actions and an update on the progress of the 12 appropriations bills at a glance. The "FY 2008 Budget for R&D" page provides comprehensive coverage of the various federal departments and agencies. Accessible from the page is the full text and ordering information for AAAS Report XXXII: Research and Development FY 2008, a comprehensive analysis of R&D in the proposed federal budget for FY 2008 that was published in April.
15 June 2007