On June 15, the full Senate approved by a unanimous
99-0 vote its version of the FY 2001 Transportation appropriations bill
(S. 2720) for the Department of Transportation (DOT). The House approved
its own version of the bill on May 19. Both Transportation bills are
generous with increases because funding for most of its programs increases
automatically with increasing gasoline and other transportation tax
revenues. The Senate would provide $686 million for DOT's R&D
in FY 2001, an increase of $79 million or 13.1 percent (see Table).
The House would provide even more, for a total of $694 million. (For
details of House appropriations for DOT R&D, please see the May
22 AAAS R&D Funding Update on DOT.) Both increases, though substantial,
would still be well below the President's request for $778 million.
DOT's R&D would grow slightly faster than the DOT budget as a whole,
which in the Senate bill would reach $54.7 billion, an increase of $4.7
billion or 9.3 percent.
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; $30.7 billion, up 6.9 percent)
and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA; $6.3 billion, up 8.4 percent).
In FY 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would receive
an even larger percentage increase (up 18.1 percent or $1.8 billion
to $11.8 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
Most other DOT agencies, which are funded primarily
or partially from general discretionary funds, also increase in both
the House and Senate bills because these programs deal primarily with
transportation safety, a high priority for congressional appropriators.
FHWA's R&D programs would 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. Both the House and Senate bill would reject this
proposal and would distribute 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 would be 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, would receive $288 million
for R&D activities, a substantial increase of $62 million or 27.5
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 Senate would assign especially high priority to aircraft safety
technology, particularly research on aging aircraft, and system security
technology, but most FAA research areas would receive substantial increases.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) would receive $51 million for R&D in FY 2001, the same
amount as this 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) would decline 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.
Nearly 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. 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.
The generous funding increases in both the House and
Senate Transportation bills, and the fact that so much of DOT funding
is already set by TEA-21 and AIR21, should make the House-Senate conference
on this bill relatively easy. The final Transportation bill may be one
of the first of the FY 2001 appropriations bills to be signed into law.
- 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