This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved
its version of an FY 2001 Commerce-Justice appropriations bill that
would make deep cuts to the Department of Commerce's R&D programs.
Because it also makes cuts in other Clinton Administration priority
programs, President Clinton has threatened to veto the bill if the full
House approves it. The Commerce bill would cut Commerce R&D by
24.0 percent or $257 million for a total of only $816 million, well
below the FY 2000 $1.1 billion total (see Table).
The bill would cut R&D in both of Commerce's major R&D agencies,
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In NIST, the House
would eliminate the controversial Advanced Technology Program (ATP)
and would provide no funds for a proposed new Institute for Information
Infrastructure Protection (IIIP).
The House Commerce-Justice bill would provide $35 billion
in discretionary appropriations for programs in the Departments of Commerce,
Justice, and State, nearly $3 billion below the Clinton Administration
request. Because the bill would provide increases for Justice programs,
the remaining programs in Commerce and State would suffer cuts. Earlier
this year, Congress laid out a plan to spend $17 billion less than the
President's request of $622 billion for all discretionary programs in
FY 2001 while at the same time increasing defense spending (which makes
up half of all discretionary spending) well above the President's request.
As a result, the House Appropriations Committee received far less money
for the Commerce-Justice bill than the President requested, and as a
result was forced to allocate cuts to many programs.
The House bill would concentrate its deepest cuts on
several Commerce R&D programs. The National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) would receive only $270 million for its R&D
activities in FY 2001, a steep 41 percent cut from the FY 2000 level
of $458 million, and barely more than half the request for $497 million.
While the NIST intramural laboratory research programs would be protected
and would in fact grow by 3.5 percent to $244 million for R&D in
the Measurement and Standards Laboratories, the House would eliminate
the Advanced Technology Program (ATP). ATP is NIST's extramural
research grants program to provide precompetitive cost-shared R&D
support for promising market technologies. The House has repeatedly
voted to terminate the program, including in last year's Commerce-Justice
bill, but the Senate and the Clinton Administration have managed to
preserve it in past budget struggles. Many Republicans regard the ATP
as "corporate welfare," a subsidy to industrial firms that
unnecessarily funds research private firms could and should support.
The House would also slash funding for NIST's Construction
of Research Facilities program from $107 million down to $26 million.
Although NIST itself only requested $36 million for FY 2001 because
most of the FY 2000 funding was a one-time appropriation to fund the
construction of a new Advanced Measurement Laboratory (AML) at NIST
headquarters in Maryland, the House would cut even below the reduced
request for FY 2001. The non-R&D Manufacturing Extension Partnership
(MEP), a program to operate a nationwide network of extension centers
to disseminate better manufacturing technologies to small- and medium-sized
manufacturers, would receive $105 million, up slightly from FY 2000
but down from the request.
Because of the overall squeeze on funds, the House
would provide no funds for a proposed Institute for Information Infrastructure
Protection (IIIP), in contrast to the request for $50 million out
of which $44 million would fund R&D. IIIP would support research
and technology development to protect critical information and telecommunications
infrastructures from attack or other failures. IIIP plans to foster
partnerships between industry, universities, and government through
competitively awarded research grants, mostly to external performers,
but these plans would be canceled under the House plan.
The total NIST budget in the House bill would be $423
million, down a third from FY 2000, including both R&D and non-R&D
programs, and is one of the reasons President Clinton may veto this
The House would also cut the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s R&D programs with an R&D
appropriation of $522 million in FY 2001, a cut of 11.8 percent or $69
million from FY 2000. NOAA's R&D programs on oceans, atmosphere,
marine resources, and the environment would be cut deeper than NOAA's
overall budget of $2.2 billion (down 4.8 percent) because the House
bill would assign a high priority and therefore lesser cuts to NOAA's
non-R&D operations, especially weather forecasting. The House bill
would cut NOAA's main R&D account, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
(OAR), from $301 million in FY 2000 down to $265 million. Climate
and air quality research would decline from $130 million to $117 million.
OAR research on the atmosphere and oceans would also decline. In the
past several years, the House has often proposed cuts to NOAA R&D
programs, while the Senate has advocated large increases, with the final
result often a compromise between the two.
The Commerce-Justice bill now heads to the House floor,
where its approval by the full House is by no means guaranteed. In addition
to the cuts to Commerce, the bill would slash funding for the Legal
Services Corporation, which provides legal aid to the poor, by more
than half, and would make cuts to the President's request for international
peacekeeping operations. In addition, the bill contains a provision
that would effectively prohibit the Department of Justice from pursuing
a lawsuit against tobacco companies to recover some health care costs
associated with smoking. Any or all of these reasons could cause several
House Republicans to vote against the bill, which could endanger House
passage since nearly all Democrats are expected to vote against it.
Even if it passes the House, President Clinton would almost certainly
veto the bill in its current form, leaving it to the Senate to try to
draft a bill more palatable to the President when it drafts its version
of the bill later this month. It is widely expected that later on in
the budget process this fall, Congress will decide to allocate more
funds to this bill to bring its totals closer to the President's request,
and it is likely that the House cuts to ATP and other Commerce R&D
programs will be reversed at that time.
- June 16, 2000
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005