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Draft Economic Stimulus Bill Would Provide “Big Boost” for Federal R&D, Koizumi Says
The U.S. science and technology sector would get an estimated $13.3 billion infusion for research and development under the sweeping economic stimulus bill proposed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a new analysis by the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.
Nearly $10 billion would go to research projects, with significant new funding proposed for energy and health research, said program director Kei Koizumi. Another $3.4 billion would go to research infrastructure—new facilities, laboratory construction and renovation, and large equipment.
"The $9.9 billion in conduct of R&D (basic and applied research, plus development) will be a big boost to the fortunes of federal research" in the 2009 budget year, Koizumi writes in his new analysis. "For a federal research portfolio that has been declining in real terms since fiscal year 2004, the stimulus bill would provide an immediate boost and would allow federal research funding to see a real increase for the first time five years."
New U.S. President Barack Obama said he hopes to approve an economic stimulus package by mid-February in hopes of staunching job losses and jump-starting economic activity by pumping billions of dollars in federal spending into the spiraling economy.
In all, the measure drafted and released on 15 January by the House Appropriations Committee would provide $550 billion in new federal spending and tax cuts totaling $275 billion. According to a news report from the New York Times, $90 billion in new funds would be allocated for infrastructure spending, and another $54 billion to encourage energy production from renewable sources. More than $165 billion would go to state Medicaid programs and local school districts.
But the U.S. Senate is drafting its own stimulus measure, and the House bill is likely to change as the two chambers negotiate a compromise.
Still, Koizumi suggested, the draft measure is a sign of significant hope for the U.S. science and engineering enterprise at a time when many researchers are pressing for action on climate, energy and other critical issues.
He found that the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology would do "extremely well" under the House spending plan. The three agencies were at the center of President George W. Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and the America COMPETES Act of 2007.
"The $5.5 billion allocated to these three agencies would finally put all three budgets on track to double over the next seven to 10 years as envisioned in the ACI, America COMPETES, and Obama campaign promises," Koizumi said.
An additional $2 billion would be allocated to Department of Energy for research into energy efficiency and renewable energy, with significant sums set aside for biomass and geothermal energy projects, Koizumi found.
The National Institutes of Health would receive $3.9 billion under the stimulus plan, which would reverse budget declines that date to 2004. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $600 million.
Koizumi said that the $3.4 billion allocation proposed for research infrastructure reflects a desire to stimulate the economy by spending money "as quickly as possible in 'shovel-ready' projects." And, he added: "Considering that R&D facilities funding totaled $4.4 billion in fiscal year 2008, half of which went to just one laboratory (the International Space Station), the $3.4 billion supplemental will be an enormous boost in the federal government's spending on scientific facilities."
The AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program is the nation's leading independent source of insight on research and development in the U.S. budget. Koizumi will provide regular updates on the progress of economic stimulus legislation and other 2009 budget issues on the program's Web site.
22 January 2009