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Federal Spending Bills Contain 2,526 R&D Earmarks, AAAS Analysis Finds
Congress inserted nearly $4.5 billion in federal research and development earmarks, spread over 2,526 projects, in spending bills for fiscal year 2008, according to a new AAAS analysis.
The earmarks, for projects not included in agency budget requests, amounted to $939 million in the omnibus appropriations bill signed last month by President Bush and $3.5 billion in the Department of Defense appropriations bill enacted in November, said Kei Koizumi, head of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.
After a one-year moratorium in the 2007 fiscal year for most domestic earmarks, Congress resumed the practice for the 2008 fiscal year with new disclosure requirements that have made previously hidden Defense Department earmarks more visible.
The $939 million for non-defense earmarks is down from the $1.5 billion in 2006 and also is down from previous years. The $3.5 billion for Defense Department earmarks is substantially higher than in previous AAAS analyses, but that is due to the improved disclosure requirements, Koizumi reported. According to several independent estimates, he said, the total number of Defense Department earmarks is down for 2008.
Koizumi found that congressional appropriators added more money for R&D earmarks than they added to the administration's overall R&D budget request.
"Although earmarked R&D funding declines in 2008 compared to previous years," Koizumi said, "in a tight budget environment, earmarks once again crowd out hoped-for increases in competitively awarded research programs."
Koizumi's analysis found that the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture are the most heavily earmarked domestic R&D agencies, while the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation remain earmark-free. Earmarks account for nearly 10% of the Energy Department's R&D portfolio and nearly 18% of USDA's. After being earmark-free for the first years of its existence, the Department of Homeland Security is slated to get $82 million in R&D earmarks in 2008.
The AAAS analysis defines R&D earmarks as "congressionally designated performer specific R&D projects not included in agency budget requests." They can be written into spending bills with the force of law or appear in the advisory language that accompanies the bills. For all practical purposes, according to Koizumi, agencies usually follow even the advisory instructions from Congress when it comes to earmarks.
Only in the USDA do earmarks account for more than 1 in 10 of the total R&D dollars, unlike in previous years where earmarks in selected USDA, NASA and Department of Energy programs sometimes made up 1 out of every 5 R&D dollars.
Earmarks tend to be geographically concentrated. The top 10 state recipients of earmarks—led by California with $294 million—account for 44% of all earmarked funds, Koizumi found. The top 10 states are a mixture of the most populous states and states with politically powerful congressional appropriators.
The complete AAAS earmark analysis includes a link to a spreadsheet of all 2008 R&D earmarks by amount, state, performer or project, and agency. The AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program site also includes details of all R&D funding in the omnibus bill for the top R&D agencies.
8 January 2008