On October 5, Congress released the conference report
(final version) of the Transportation FY 2001 appropriations bill (HR
4475), which provides funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT).
The next day, the House and Senate both gave final approval, [and President
Clinton signed the bill into law on October 23.] The Transportation
bill provides $702 million for DOT R&D, a substantial $96 million
or 15.8 percent more than the FY 2000 funding level, though less
than the President's request (see Table).
The large increase to DOT R&D mirrors the large increase to the
DOT budget as a whole, which rises by $7.8 billion or 15.6 percent to
$57.9 billion thanks to large, guaranteed funding increases provided
in recent highway and aviation authorization bills.
Much of the spending in the Transportation bill is exempt
from limits on discretionary spending set out in spending caps and the
annual budget resolution because of two new categories of discretionary
spending created in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st
Century (TEA-21) of 1998. TEA-21, a six-year reauthorization
bill for most highway and transit programs, dedicates all highway and
transit trust fund receipts to transportation and creates two new categories
of discretionary spending (highways and transit programs) for that purpose.
Spending in these two categories is determined by receipts from transportation
taxes and not by legislative limits. (Previously, Congress had diverted
a substantial portion of transportation receipts to other discretionary
programs, which had the effect of limiting transportation spending.)
Because transportation revenues have been rising and all these revenues are required to be spent on transportation, the Transportation bill is generous toward the two primary beneficiaries of TEA-21 spending, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA; $33.4 billion, up 16.4 percent) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA; $6.3 billion, up 8.4 percent). The FHWA budget also increases because of extra congressionally designated highway projects attached to the final Transportation bill, including funding for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge between Maryland and Virginia and a long list of other earmarked highway projects. In FY 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) receives an even larger percentage increase (up 20.1 percent or $2.0 billion to $12.0 billion) because the recently-enacted Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21) would provide TEA21-like guarantees of increased funding for many FAA programs beginning in FY 2001.
Most other DOT agencies, which are funded primarily or partially from general discretionary funds, also increase in the final Transportation bill because these programs deal primarily with transportation safety, a high priority for congressional appropriators.
FHWA's R&D programs receive $273 million,
a gain of $15 million or 6.0 percent over FY 2000, mostly because of
the guaranteed funding in TEA-21. The Administration's request was for
$314 million. In the budget request, DOT had proposed to reallocate
a portion of unexpected additional revenues from the highway trust fund
toward uses not specified in TEA-21, including a significant diversion
of funds to R&D. Congress rejected this proposal, and the final
Transportation bill distributes all the additional revenue to the states
according to the TEA-21 distribution formula, just as Congress rejected
a similar proposal in last year's budget request. The FHWA total includes
$49 million for R&D in the Intelligent Transportation Systems
(ITS) program, up from $41 million in FY 2000. There are increases
for most FHWA R&D programs, though not as significant as those proposed
by the Administration.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), because of the increased guaranteed funding in AIR21, receives $293 million for R&D activities, a substantial increase of $67 million or 29.6 percent. FAA's R&D, however, totaled over $300 million annually in the early 1990s until FY 1995, and then declined sharply due to budget cuts. The final Transportation bill assigns especially high priority to aircraft safety technology, particularly research on aging aircraft, and system security technology, but most FAA research areas receive substantial increases.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) receives $58 million for R&D in FY 2001, up $7 million from last year. Most of NHTSA's R&D involves highway safety research and the development of new safety-related technologies. R&D in the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) declines to $14 million from $17 million.
The majority of DOT's R&D is performed by intramural laboratories and industrial performers. Universities and colleges perform about a tenth of DOT's R&D, and a similar proportion is performed by state and local governments.
Figure 1. (click on image to view or download a full-page
version of this chart)
Although DOT wins a large increase in FY 2001, its support of R&D is still below the levels of the early 1990s in inflation-adjusted terms. DOT's R&D peaked in FY 1995 and then suffered a steep decline, particularly in the FAA, as a result of efforts to bring the federal budget into surplus (see Figure 1). The large increase in FY 2001, especially in FAA, helps to bring total DOT R&D back toward its early 1990s funding levels.
Figure 2. (click on image to view or download a full-page
version of this chart)
Two-thirds of DOT's research (excluding development and R&D facilities) is in the engineering sciences, particularly in civil engineering, but DOT also is a key federal funding source for research in psychology and physics (see Figure 2). DOT is only the fifth-largest supporter of engineering research despite its importance in the DOT portfolio, funding 5 percent of all federal support for engineering. The major sponsors of engineering research are the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, with about a third each of total federal support, followed by the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation. FAA funds 5 percent of total federal support for psychology, mostly into the role of human factors in aviation safety.
Although FY 2001 began on October 1, most FY 2001 appropriations
remain unfinished. [President Clinton signed the Transportation bill
into law on October 23.]
- October 6, 2000 (updated November 1)
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005