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AAAS Analysis Calls 2009 a "Remarkable" Year for Federal R&D Investment
Research and development funding will rise $6.8 billion, or 4.7% over 2008, for departments and agencies covered by the 2009 omnibus U.S. budget bill approved by Congress and President Barack Obama, according to a new analysis by the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.
After several years in which funding declined in real terms, the new budget will give every major R&D agency an increase surpassing the rate of inflation, the report found. The federal government's financial stimulus plan would further increase funding for many of the agencies.
After including funds from the stimulus plan, non-defense R&D is set to grow by nearly $25 billion to $85.5 billion, just shy of the $86.2 billion authorized for defense R&D.
The analysis characterizes 2009 as "a remarkable year for federal R&D overall."
The AAAS R&D Budget Program has been tracking federal R&D funding trends since 1976 as a service to the science, engineering and policymaking communities. Today, it is widely cited as the nation's leading nonpartisan authority on federal investment in science and technology.
The 2009 budget year began on 1 October 2008, but only budgets for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs had been approved when the 110th Congress closed; Congress passed a continuing resolution to cover the remaining departments' funding at 2008 levels until the 111th Congress could take up the matter this year. The omnibus bill covering the remaining departments was approved by Congress and signed by Obama earlier this month.
The U.S. budget is a practical guide to federal policy priorities, and 2009 R&D plans and the final stimulus package that included funding for some key research agencies offer insights into the objectives of the Democratic Congress and the new Obama Administration. Among the highlights detailed in the new AAAS analysis:
The agencies that form the research centerpiece of the America COMPETES Act will, for the first time, receive budgets consistent with the plan to double their R&D spending over a decade or less. The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories at the Department of Commerce each were identified by the measure as key agencies for basic research.
America COMPETES, passed in 2007 with strong bi-partisan support, was an effort to strengthen the innovation culture of the United States through R&D and education. In addition to doubling support for the three agencies, it called for support of science and math education programs; authorized programs to encourage U.S. students to pursue S&T careers; and created a new DoE agency to fund high-risk, high-reward energy research.
The total DoE R&D budget portfolio will rise 12.6% under the omnibus bill. R&D funding for the DoE Office of Science will rise 17.3%. R&D in energy efficiency and renewables will increase 16.2%, while funding for nuclear energy R&D will rise 16.8%; R&D for fossil energy will grow almost 45%.
When funding from the stimulus is included, total DoE R&D in 2009 will exceed 2008 by nearly 68%.
The National Institutes of Health will get "significant" increase, the AAAS analysis found; when stimulus funds are factored in, its total budget will grow by 38% to $40.9 billion.
While R&D funding elsewhere in the Department of Health and Human Services will be flat, funding for biodefense countermeasures will nearly triple to $275 million.
With the fiscal year already half-over, attention in the White House and Congress—and in the research community—is already turning to the 2010 budget year, which begins 1 October.
"The picture for FY 2010 remains unclear," the AAAS analysis concludes, "although President Obama released an outline of his initial budget plan on February 26, in the midst of negotiations for finalizing 2009. While the plan specifically aims to reduce deficit spending over the next five years, with an overall goal of halving the federal deficit by 2013, it includes room for several increases in science and technology funding."
The administration's detailed FY 2010 budget request is expected in late April or early May.
27 March 2009