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AAAS Analysis Finds Congress Would Add Billions to FY 2008 R&D Investment
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are poised to add billions of dollars to the fiscal year 2008 research and development (R&D) budget, with much of the proposed new funding targeted for environmental, energy and biomedical initiatives, according to a new report by the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.
Congressional appropriations measures also propose to meet or exceed President George W. Bush's spending plans for physical sciences research in the American Competitiveness Initiative and for dramatic expansion of spending to develop new craft for human space exploration, says Kei Koizumi, the program's director, in a report released 6 August.
But where the White House proposed a budget for the fiscal year beginning 1 October 2007 that would have cut overall basic and applied research investment for the fourth straight year, Congress would increase research budgets at every major non-defense R&D agency. And with Congress exceeding the president's overall domestic spending plan by $21 billion, Koizumi sees the possibility of a budget conflict that could extend into FY 2008.
"Because the president has threatened to veto any appropriations bills that exceed his budget request, these R&D increases could disappear or diminish this fall in negotiations between the president and Congress over final funding levels," Koizumi concluded.
The AAAS R&D Budget Program has been tracking federal R&D funding trends since 1976 as a service to the science, engineering and policymaking communities. Today, it is considered one of the nation's leading nonpartisan authorities on the federal investment in science and technology.
Koizumi's latest report comes as Congress began its August recess. The House has approved all 12 of its 2008 appropriations bills; the Senate Appropriations Committee has drafted 11 of its 12 bills, but the full Senate has approved only the spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate still must draft a spending bill for the Department of Defense.
In all, appropriations approved by the House total $144.3 billion for R&D—$3.2 billion (or 2.3%) more than the current budget and $4 billion more than the White House 2008 budget proposal. The Senate would spend $500 million more on R&D than the House for the appropriations it has drafted.
Based on action thus far, Koizumi summarized Congressional moves in several critical S&T areas:
Energy: The Department of Energy's (DOE) energy-related R&D initiatives had received significant increases in 2007, but the Bush administration requested cuts for 2008. "Congress would keep increasing DOE energy R&D spending dramatically, by
18.5 percent in the House to $1.8 billion and a staggering 29 percent to $2.0 billion in the Senate for the renewable energy, fossil fuels, and energy conservation programs," Koizumi reported.
Environment and Climate Change: "Congress would turn steep requested cuts into increases for environmental research programs," Koizumi found. Total R&D spending on environmental initiatives would rise 9.2% under House measures, compared to a 3% cut proposed by the Bush administration. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration R&D, for example, would get a 9.9% increase in the House and 18.1% in the Senate. Among other prospective winners: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the U.S. Geological Survey; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Some of the proposed funding for NASA would go to address concerns expressed by the National Research Council, the AAAS Board of Directors and others that the number of earth-observing sensors on NASA spacecraft could plunge in the years ahead if current NASA budget trends continue. "NASA's satellite capabilities for earth observation are vital for environmental research, especially on climate change," Koizumi said.
Innovation and Competitiveness: Lawmakers approved President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), in some cases exceeding his funding requests to support physical sciences R&D at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Meanwhile, both the House and Senate have approved the 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007, also known as America COMPETES. The measure would authorize a 10-year doubling of budgets for the three ACI agencies; support science and math education programs; authorize programs to encourage U.S. students to pursue S&T careers; and create a new DOE agency to fund high-risk, high-reward energy research.
Biomedical Advances: Lawmakers in both chambers would add more than $1 billion to the White House's spending plan for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, turning a proposed cut into an increase. But, Koizumi noted, both the House and Senate would direct a significant part of that increase to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS. As a result, the House plan would give most NIH institutes and centers raises of 1.5% to 1.7%, well short of the 3.7% rate of inflation expected next year in the biomedical fields; the institutes and centers would get 2.3% to 2.5% raises under the Senate bills.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education: In addition to their support of STEM education measures in the American Competitiveness Initiative and America COMPETES, lawmakers would "add significantly" to NSF education programs, Koizumi said. Its Education and Human Resources budget, "after years of steep budget cuts, would soar" 18% in the House and 22% in the Senate.
Overall NSF R&D spending was cut in 2005 and 2006, but would jump to a record $4.9 billion in FY 2008 under both House and Senate plans.
NASA: After a decade of flat funding, overall NASA R&D funding would jump 9.8% under the House plan and 8.4% in the Senate. "Both chambers would endorse large requested increases for the International Space Station facilities project, and the $3.1 billion Constellation Systems development project to replace the Space Shuttle and carry humans toward the moon," Koizumi found.
Koizumi noted that earmarks—funds designated by Congress to be spent on a specific project rather than for an agency's general policy agenda—comprise one-fifth of the proposed new R&D spending. Critics say that earmarking encourages spending for pet projects in lawmakers' home districts, and Congress placed a moratorium them last year.
Edward W. Lempinen
7 August 2007