U.S. R&D Investment “at Risk” as Debt Ceiling Agreement Limits Spending, AAAS Reports

The hard-fought agreement to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and reduce spending will put “at risk” federal research investments that are needed to drive future job creation and economic growth, AAAS reports.

The agreement approved by Congress and signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama imposes caps on discretionary spending, including R&D spending. When inflation is factored in, the caps “could result in a real decrease in R&D investment for the foreseeable future,” said Joanne Carney, director of the AAAS Office of Government Relations.

Here is the full statement issued by Carney on Monday 1 August:

“Federally funded U.S. research and development in the out years—a vital driver of innovation, new enterprise and long-term economic progress—unfortunately remains at risk following the preliminary debt-limit agreement reached by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders Sunday July 31. Strong support for U.S. science, engineering, and higher education organizations remains essential, particularly as the recovering economy remains fragile.

“That agreement, as posted on the House Rules Committee website Monday, caps fiscal year [FY] discretionary spending at $1.043 trillion, $23 billion more than the House budget resolution, but $73 billion less than the president’s request. The agreement specifies non-security and security spending caps for FY 2012 and FY 2013, both increasing by just $2 billion for FY 2013.

“Thus, for the short term, the compromise will allow for more discretionary spending than is currently being considered in the House appropriations bills, which, while good news, would still need to be amended and voted on by Congress to reflect any additional increases. However, the small overall spending increase for FY 2013 will further stress the agencies’ R&D investments going into next year.

“In the long term, the budget cap increases of between 1.8% and 2.3% each year will continue to put additional pressure on agency budgets as they struggle to keep pace with inflation and could result in a real decrease in R&D investment for the foreseeable future.”


Follow reports from the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.