News: News Archives
AAAS Analysis Finds Mixed News in White House R&D Budget
While the proposed 2009 federal budget proposed by President George W. Bush would boost the government's overall investment in research and development, support for basic and applied research along with key environmental and agricultural budgets would decline in constant dollars, warned AAAS's top budget expert.
The overall R&D increase would be driven by spending for development of missile defense systems and new NASA spacecraft. But by cutting research at agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and flat-lining support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) even as it supports large increases for three key physical sciences agencies, the administration is shifting federal investments from critical programs that foster innovation and U.S. competitiveness, said Kei Koizumi, director of the AAAS R&D Budget Program.
Koizumi added that large increases for some physical sciences research agencies would be offset by cuts or flat funding in other programs leading to an overall 0.3% drop in basic and applied research funding. Adjusted for inflation, next year would be the fifth in a row that the federal investment in basic and applied research would decline, Koizumi said.
"At a time when nations like China, South Korea, and Japan are increasing their government research investments, it's disappointing that federal research spending is falling instead of expanding," he said at the 13 March briefing on Capitol Hill. "If these trends continue, the U.S. could lose its innovative edge in the future."
Held in conjunction with the U.S. House Research and Development Caucus, the luncheon brought together representatives from congressional staffs and scientific societies, along with policymakers, journalists, and the public. Organized by the AAAS Center for Science, Technology, and Congress, the briefing focused on the impacts of the budget proposal on the major research and development agencies and the political outlook for science and technology in the appropriations process.
Driven by significant increases for Department of Defense (DoD) weapons development and NASA spacecraft design, along with budget increases for three agencies named under the America COMPETES Act, the overall 2009 federal science budget—including all research and development—would rise $4.9 billion, or 3.5%, from last year's funding levels to $147.4 billion.
Under the proposed budget, the Department of Defense weapons development program would receive an 8% increase in funding, while its basic and applied research programs would be cut by 15%. In addition, NASA would cut funding to some of its aeronautics and other research programs to support the development of the next human spacecraft.
"The president's budget proposes large increases for many federal R&D programs within a very tight domestic budget, but many of the proposed increases are for development programs," Koizumi said.
Suggesting the federal science budget process can create "chaotic research and development funding outcomes," AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner opened the briefing by calling the president's budget proposal "mixed news for scientists" due to uneven funding levels. Leshner, who also serves as executive publisher of the journal Science, provided written testimony to Congress during a separate 11 March hearing on basic research and U.S. competitiveness.
Koizumi's analysis shows that climate change research funding rose 9% in the president's proposal. Interestingly, he continued, the overall budgets of the four agencies that do a majority of the federal earth science research—USGS, EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA—received cuts adjusted for inflation. Koizumi attributes this to the president supporting new research priorities within an agency, like climate change, while forcing senior agency officials to pull funding from other programs to cut costs.
The AAAS analysis also shows sharp cuts to the Department of Agriculture's research budget, which supports several programs within its Research, Education, and Economics initiatives. These programs, which include the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service and the Agricultural Research Service, fund basic and applied agricultural research and analysis and communicate the results to the public.
Koizumi said among the bright spots for researchers in the 2009 federal budget is strong support for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as part of the America COMPETES Act of 2007.
The America COMPETES Act and the Bush Administration's American Competitiveness Initiative are initiatives to double the budgets of the NSF, DoE Office of Science, and NIST laboratories—three agencies that broadly support basic and applied research—over the next seven to 10 years. In the president's 2009 budget, NSF received a 15.5% increase in funding, with a 20.7% increase for the DoE Office of Science, and a 4.7% boost for NIST.
In remarks at the briefing, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D- N.J.), co-chair of the U.S. House Research and Development Caucus, said that "it is really important for scientists and the public" to urge policy makers to support research and development.
Although the 2009 proposed science budget is inconsistent, Koizumi said that the U.S. still has the largest share of total world research and development, with an estimated $353 billion from pubic and private sources. He estimates that the total world support for research and development is $1.124 trillion.
"The United States compares relatively favorably in research and development in total amount spent and percent of gross domestic product," Koizumi said, "but many Asian nations like China are not far behind."
20 March 2008