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AAAS Disappointed With R&D Funding Levels
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has expressed its disappointment with the FY 2008 federal research and development funds approved by Congress as part of an omnibus appropriations bill.
"While we recognize that both the Congress and the White House face many competing priorities as they attempt to reach a compromise for final spending limits, we see a missed opportunity to honor the commitment made by both branches of government to support basic research, as articulated in the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and the America COMPETES Act," the AAAS said in a 20 December statement.
"For the past two years, AAAS had seen impressive signs of collaboration between the branches of government and across party and regional lines on how best to meet the challenges of global competitiveness. Today, our nation's ability to invest in innovation and to enhance the economy, health, education and quality of life for all Americans has received a serious setback."
According to an analysis by Kei Koizumi, head of the AAAS R& D Budget and Policy Program, federal investment in basic and applied research for 2008 would grow just 1.1 percent to $57.5 billion, less than inflation and substantially less than earlier congressional proposals. The federal research investment would decline in real terms for the fourth year in a row, according to Koizumi.
The omnibus bill would take away most of the requested increases for the physical sciences agencies in the American Competitiveness Initiative—the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. A 15 percent requested increase for Energy Department's Office of Science would be trimmed to just 5 percent.
The bill would hold most institutes at the National Institutes of Health at or below their funding levels for fiscal year 2007. The National Science Foundation would receive a 1 percent increase for its R&D programs, not enough to keep up with inflation. While NASA would receive an overall increase in its budget, the space agency's basic and applied research portfolio would decline. The R&D budget at the Environmental Protection Agency also would fall. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce would gain substantial R&D increases.
After an earmark moratorium last year, the omnibus bill contains $927 million in R&D earmarks for nondefense agencies. That's a dramatic reduction from the $1.5 billion in earmarks in 2006. Still, for the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Transportation, the inclusion of earmarks was sufficient to turn proposed cuts for those agencies into modest increases. The total for nondefense R&D earmarks exceeds the $786 million Congress was able to add to the President's request for nondefense R&D programs.
The omnibus bill funds domestic programs overall at the President's request rather than the higher levels in earlier House or Senate appropriations bills.
For details on the R&D funding levels for the various federal agencies, see the Web site of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.
20 December 2007