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R&D Funding Update: Support for All But Three U.S. Agencies Remains Stuck at 2008 Levels
As the U.S. government's 2009 fiscal year began 1 October, Congress was preparing to adjourn without approving new budgets for nine of 12 agencies with major research and development programs, leaving them in limbo.
Three agencies—the departments of Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS) and Veterans Affairs (VA)—are slated to receive "substantial increases for their R&D portfolios" for 2009, according to Kei Koizumi, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.
But all other science-related agencies will be sustained by a continuing resolution, he noted. For all programs in unsigned 2009 appropriations bills, the resolution extends funding for several months, at or below 2008 funding levels.
The lack of action on most 2009 federal R&D budgets was particularly disappointing, Koizumi said, because congressional appropriators previously had endorsed large increases for three physical science agencies related to the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). That effort, proposed by President George W. Bush in February 2006 but never fully funded, was intended to boost innovation and U.S. education. The three largest potential winners, if the proposed increases had been put into place, would have been the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science and Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology.
"Instead, most federal programs will continue to operate at or below 2008 funding levels for several months of the new fiscal year," he noted.
Looking at the bigger picture, Koizumi reported that the 2009 U.S. federal R&D portfolio stands at $147.3 billion, which is an increase of $2.9 billion, or 2%, resulting entirely from a large increase for the DOD. Defense R&D will benefit from a $3 billion, or 3.6% boost to $86.1 billion for 2009. But, Koizumi added: "The flat-funding formula of the continuing resolution results in a $61.2 billion total for non-defense R&D at the start of fiscal year 2009, a cut of 0.1% compared to 2008."
Congress approved a $1.1 billion 2009 R&D budget for DHS, which is a 9% increase. Veterans Affairs would receive $952 million for its medical research programs, an increase of about 7%.
Federal investment in basic and applied research—excluding development-related investments—has been set at $58.2 billion for 2009, Koizumi said. That is a $244 million, or 0.4% increase, reflecting large gains for the DOD, DHS and VA. This small increase is offset by cuts in research funding for agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the NIH. The continuing resolution means that each of these agencies will effectively lose supplemental 2008 funding that they had received this summer.
"After adjusting for inflation," Koizumi concluded, "the federal investment in research could decline for the fifth year in a row in 2009 if the continuing resolution's funding levels hold for the entire year."
1 October 2008