Science & Technology in Congress
President Clinton announced his FY 1998 budget proposals on February 6, two days after his State of the Union address outlining his policy priorities for his second term. The President proposed a budget of $1.7 trillion in FY 1998, a 3.5 percent increase from the estimate for the current fiscal year.
Federal support for science and technology is contained in the discretionary portion of the budget, the portion of the budget (about one-third of the total) that is covered by annual appropriations. Federal support for research and development (R&D) would total $75.5 billion in the President's budget, an increase of 2.2 percent or $1.6 billion from the current FY 1997 estimate (see Table). With 2.6 percent inflation projected over the next year, the total federal R&D portfolio would lose purchasing power.
The President's support for R&D in the civilian agencies appears to be strong, despite an increasingly constrained federal budget. Every major civilian R&D agency except the U.S. Department of Agriculture would enjoy an increase at or greater than the rate of inflation. On the defense side of the budget, however, the Department of Defense would see its R&D budget fall by 1.8 percent to $36.8 billion.
The 2.2 percent increase in total R&D may overstate the year-to-year trend because the $75.5 billion total includes approximately $1 billion in the Department of Energy (DOE) budget to fully fund construction costs for a number of R&D facilities projects in advance. Most of these funds would not be spent until FY 1999 or later. $876 million of this special request would fund the full construction cost of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (California), of which less than $200 million would be spent in FY 1998. The NIF is part of DOE's defense R&D effort in inertial confinement fusion, and will be completed in FY 2003. DOE has also requested upfront construction funding for facilities associated with the General Science and Research and Energy Supply Programs. The President requested similar upfront facilities funding in DOE, NASA, and NIH in the FY 1997 budget, but Congress rejected these proposals and appropriated only the current year's costs. It remains unclear whether the 105th Congress will be receptive to this year's proposals.
As a result of the upfront facilities request, the total request for R&D facilities jumps by 50 percent to $3.4 billion, while the request for funds for the conduct of R&D (basic research, applied research, and development) would rise by only 0.7 percent to $72.1 billion.
Support for basic research would increase by 2.8 percent to $15.3 billion in FY 1998. DOD's basic research would total $1.2 billion, a 7.8 percent increase, even as its applied research and development budgets would decline. Most of the federal government's support for basic research goes to the nation's colleges and universities. R&D at colleges and universities would total $13.3 billion in FY 1998, an increase of 2.2 percent.
The National Institutes of Health would receive a budget of $13.1 billion in FY 1998, of which $12.5 billion would fund R&D (a 2.7 percent increase, barely ahead of the rate of inflation). NIH has placed the highest priority on funding Research Project Grants (RPG's), competitively awarded grants to investigators, which would increase by 3.9 percent to $7.2 billion. The total number of RPG's would increase by 3.6 percent to a record level of nearly 27,000. Other forms of research support (centers, contracts, intramural research) would increase at a lower rate. The President's budget would consolidate all NIH AIDS research in the Office of AIDS Research (OAR), which would then distribute research funds to the other institutes. In the past two years, Congress has allocated AIDS funds directly to the institutes. OAR's budget would total $1.5 billion in FY 1998, a 2.7 percent increase.
The National Science Foundation's budget would increase by 3 percent to $3.4 billion in FY 1998. NSF's R&D budget, which excludes overhead costs and NSF's education activities, would increase by 3.9 percent to $2.6 billion. The Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate's participation in the Next Generation Internet initiative would win it an increase of 7.6 percent in its budget to $294.2 million. The Major Research Equipment account would increase by $5 million to $85 million and would fund construction of two new projects, the Polar Cap Observatory and the Millimeter Array, in addition to two ongoing projects.
The Department of Defense's R&D budget would total $36.8 billion in FY 1998 under the President's plan, a 1.8 percent cut within a flat total DOD budget of $251 billion. DOD's support of basic research (the "6.1" category) would climb by 7.8 percent to $1.2 billion, reversing a cut in the FY 1997 budget. The budget would continue the President's support of dual-use technologies in the Dual Use Applications Program, for which the request is $225 million, up from $181 million.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's total budget would dip from $13.7 billion in FY 1997 to $13.5 billion in FY 1998. Cuts in the Space Shuttle program, which NASA does not classify as R&D, account for most of the decrease. NASA's R&D activities would climb by 3.1 percent to $9.6 billion. Several of NASA's priority areas would see increases of about four percent, including the Mission to Planet Earth and Space Science. The X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle program would receive $330 million (up 35 percent). Development work on the Space Station would continue with a $2.1 billion request in FY 1998. NASA still anticipates completion of the Space Station in 2002, despite recent concerns that Russian components of the Station may not be delivered on time (see article, page 4).
The Department of Energy would receive $7.3 billion for R&D in FY 1998 out of a total requested appropriation of $19.2 billion. Much of the 18.2 percent increase in DOE's R&D budget is due to a special request for the full construction costs of several facilities (see above). Subtracting the facilities requests, DOE's support for basic research, applied research, and development would rise by 3.6 percent. The President calls for increases for several R&D programs that came under attack in the 104th Congress, including Solar and Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy, and Energy Conservation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds R&D in a nationwide network of USDA laboratories and also in the nation's land-grant universities, agricultural experiment stations, and historically black colleges and universities. USDA R&D would fall by 3.9 percent to $1.5 billion in the FY 1998 budget due to cuts in R&D facilities, most of them congressionally designated in last year's appropriation. R&D in USDA labs and extramural research grants would both increase. The President proposes a 38 percent increase to $130 million for competitively awarded National Research Initiative grants.
The Department of Commerce would see an increase of 6.2 percent in its R&D budget to $1.1 billion. $600 million of that amount would go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its applied research on oceans, atmosphere, climate change, and marine resources. At the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), funding for commercially-oriented technologies in the Advanced Technology Program would increase from $225 million to $275.6 million, despite congressional opposition to its work. Work in the NIST labs on technical standards and measurement technologies would rise 3.3 percent to $276.8 million, while the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (not classified as R&D) would jump from $95 million to $123.4 million to bring the planned national network of extension centers nearly to completion.
- Kei Koizumi, AAAS