On July 25, as part of a
rush to draft all 13 FY 2003 appropriations bills before a month-long
August recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee drafted an FY 2003
Transportation appropriations bill (S. 2808) that would cut R&D
funding in the Department of Transportation (DOT). The Senate Transportation
bill would provide $697 million for DOT R&D in FY 2003, $94 million or
11.9 percent less than the FY 2002 funding level, though the final
total may be higher at the discretion of the new Transportation Security
Administration (TSA; see Table). The total
DOT budget would fall by $2.8 billion or 4.2 percent to $64.9 billion,
mostly because the FY 2002 total is inflated with billions of dollars
in emergency appropriations to respond to the terrorist attacks on September
11 and to start up the TSA. Both TSA and the Coast Guard may be moved
out of DOT and into a proposed Department of Homeland Security before
the FY 2003 appropriations process is complete.
A major factor in the DOT
budget this year and next year is the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA), which was created last fall in the
aftermath of the September 11 hijackings to federalize control over
airport security. TSA has received $3.9 billion in federal funds in
FY 2002 as it gradually implements federal control over airport security;
nearly all of this funding was approved just last week (August 2) in
the FY 2002 supplemental appropriations bill. The Senate Transportation
bill would provide $2.2 billion in FY 2003 appropriations for the new
agency, up $150 million from the initial Administration request in February.
The total FY 2003 TSA budget would be $4.95 billion in FY 2003 in the
Senate bill; the remainder of the TSA budget would come from user fees,
including the recently imposed September 11 security fee on airline
TSA, once it is up and running,
would take over most aviation security functions currently performed
by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This is supposed to include
$97 million in aviation security research funded by FAA in FY 2002,
of which $50 million is emergency funds. The Aviation and Transportation
Security Act (ATSA) of last November 19 which created TSA authorizes
TSA to award extramural grants for R&D on technologies that enhance
aviation security. These include explosive detection technologies; screening
technologies for carry-on items; and technologies for reducing the vulnerability
of aircraft to terrorist attack. TSA would also fund R&D in DOT
laboratories. TSA received $14 million for FY 2002 aviation security
research in the FY 2002 supplemental bill; unfortunately, precise figures
for TSA R&D in FY 2003 are not available because of the sketchy
and rapidly evolving nature of TSA’s activities and budgets. In the
absence of documentation, the FY 2003 request figure for TSA R&D
($47 million; see Table) assumes that TSA
would take over FAA’s current non-emergency R&D activities at the
current funding level. The Senate bill provides a minimum of $25 million
for TSA R&D in FY 2003, but would not allocate a specific amount
until TSA’s budget requirements for FY 2003 become clearer.
As if this uncertainty were
not enough, the new TSA may barely have time to make its home in DOT
before it is moved to a proposed new Department of Homeland Security
(DHS). Under proposed legislation currently before the House and the
Senate, both TSA and the Coast
Guard would be transferred to DHS as soon as the end of this year.
(For more information on the proposed DHS, please see the AAAS
special analysis of R&D in the Department of Homeland Security.)
Under the Senate plan, at least $48 million in R&D funding would
make the move to DHS from DOT.
Another major factor in
the DOT budget is the perennial issue of the transportation trust funds.
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 three new categories of discretionary spending
created in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
(TEA-21) of 1998 and the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the
21st Century (AIR21) of 2000.
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. AIR21 provided TEA21-like guarantees
of increased funding for many FAA programs beginning in FY 2001.
For the past few years,
transportation revenues rose faster than expected and all these revenues
were required to be spent on transportation, so DOT spending went up.
But since gasoline tax revenues have fallen recently because of a slowing
economy leading to lower gasoline consumption and lower vehicle sales,
TEA-21 provides for automatic spending cuts in FY 2003. The Bush Administration’s
proposed DOT budget followed the TEA-21-mandated cuts and thus totaled
$54.8 billion in FY 2003, a sharp decline from $61.1 billion in FY 2002.
The Senate, however, would pump in general discretionary funds and would
borrow from balances in the Highway Trust Fund to prevent the automatic
cuts from taking place. Thus, the Senate would provide $64.9 billion
for DOT in FY 2003, an increase of $3.7 billion or 6.1 percent over
FY 2002. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the primary beneficiary
of TEA-21 spending would keep its budget even at $33.3 billion instead
of declining to $24.1 billion, thus sparing states from steep cuts in
The infusion of extra highway
funds would also help FHWA R&D, which would rise 6.3 percent to
$293 million under the Senate plan instead of declining in the Administration
plan. The FHWA total would include $51 million for R&D in the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
program and $90 million for surface transportation research. The largest
share of FHWA R&D funds goes to state governments for their transportation
research projects. There would be increases for most FHWA R&D programs.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would receive $223 million for R&D activities, a sharp decline of $136
million or 37.9 percent. Most of the decline is due to the inclusion
in FY 2002 of $50 million in emergency aviation security R&D funds
and $47 million in programs that would be transferred to TSA in FY 2003.
FAA’s R&D addresses a number of aviation-related topics, including
weather research, aircraft safety technology, human factors research,
and development of ‘free flight’ technologies to improve aviation system
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would receive
$59 million for R&D in FY 2003, up slightly from this year. Most
of NHTSA’s R&D involves highway safety research and the development
of new safety-related technologies, including biomechanical research,
tire safety research, and heavy vehicle research.
While the Senate would more than double the request for the Federal
Railroad Administration (FRA) to $1.4 billion in order to bail out Amtrak,
FRA’s R&D portfolio would stay basically unchanged at $23 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.
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
The Senate Transportation
bill did not see floor debate and approval before a month-long August
congressional recess, so full Senate consideration has been delayed
until September. The House will not draft its version of the bill until
September, at the earliest, and possibly not until October.
- August 8, 2002
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005