AAAS Applauds Congress for Protecting Fiscal 2017 R&D Spending

AAAS commended members of Congress in a May 9 letter for their bipartisan efforts to avoid a government shutdown. | Phil Roeder/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The American Association for the Advancement of Science applauded congressional leaders for their bipartisan support in backing fiscal 2017 funding for research and development programs, according to a letter AAAS sent to House and Senate leaders on Tuesday.

“We commend Congress and the White House for working together to prevent a government shutdown and finalizing appropriations for fiscal year 2017,” said Rush Holt, AAAS CEO and executive publisher of the Science family of journals, in the letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Holt stressed that the United States has long relied upon federal investment in research and development programs for significant economic benefits. Support for such programs has ensured that the United States remains at the forefront of innovation, he added.

“Our nation’s research enterprise is among the most powerful engines for American prosperity, and investment in U.S. research agencies is critical to encouraging innovation and economic growth,” Holt said.

The $1.1 trillion spending agreement that funds the government through the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends on Sept.30, set aside many spending reductions proposed by the Trump administration.

In the end, federal R&D programs received an estimated 5% boost in fiscal 2017 compared to the previous year level and each of the basic and applied research, development and R&D facilities programs received spending increases, according to an analysis by AAAS’ R&D Budget and Policy Program.

Congress penciled in significant increases for National Institutes of Health; the research office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Defense Department science and technology programs; and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the AAAS analysis stated.

Research and development programs in the Energy Department won modest increases, while the Agriculture Department fared better. Still, the final spending package rejected many of the reductions the administration had sought for the remainder of fiscal 2017.  

The House passed the spending deal on May 4 and the Senate followed suit the next day, sending the spending measure to President Donald Trump, who signed it into law, avoiding a government shutdown.  

“A consistent area of bipartisan agreement for 70 years has been the importance of the federal government’s role in supporting research and innovation,” Holt said. “We are pleased to see continued support for the research budgets at NIH, DOE, DOD, USDA, NASA and NOAA in the FY 2017 omnibus bill, even as other federal agency budgets remain flat or face decreases.”

In early April, AAAS was among more than 280 leading business, science and engineering, medical and health and higher education organizations to sign an earlier letter to congressional leaders calling on their support for the nation’s research and development enterprise, stressing that it has elevated the United States to be “the world’s preeminent, most effective and sought-after partner for innovation.”

[Associated image: Phil Roeder/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]