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AAAS Unveils Tool to Track R&D Spending Levels for Fiscal 2018

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The R&D Appropriations Dashboard shows the percentage change in funding under the White House's budget proposal, as compared to fiscal year 2017 spending levels.| AAAS

As Congress begins reshaping President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, the American Association for the Advancement Science has launched an interactive resource to help keep track of congressional appropriations decisions and their impact on research and development spending levels.

The R&D Appropriations Dashboard, created by AAAS’ R&D Budget and Policy Program, provides anyone with an interest in following federal science funding an easy and accessible way to monitor a process that is often hard to follow, said Program Director Matt Hourihan. A wide range of stakeholders, from scientists to university administrators to federal agency personnel, carefully monitor such developments, he added.

The appropriations process is sprawling and difficult to follow. It involves a dozen separate House and dozen separate Senate measures that impact 12 departments and agencies and multiple offices responsible for carrying out leading science programs. The collection of such a dizzying array of data from multiple sources into a single place is the dashboard’s strongest feature and makes it a particularly useful analytical tool, Hourihan added.

“The challenge is presenting information in one place and in a way that makes it easy to understand exactly what’s happening at a glance,” said Hourihan.

Since the White House released its budget proposal, the R&D Budget and Policy Program has analyzed the impact of the budget blueprint on science programs throughout federal agencies. The latest budget analysis, for instance, reports that while the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal calls for 9.4% increase in Defense spending, very little of that increase would benefit the Pentagon’s science and technology programs. Indeed, the Defense Department’s S&T programs would decline by about 5.4% below current fiscal 2017 funding levels. Still, the proposed funding level, while a decline, would represent a 3.5% spending increase above FY 2016 levels.

The budget cycle begins with the president’s annual budget proposal outlining White House spending requests for each federal agency and program. House and Senate appropriators separately debate and draft spending measures that work their way first through the House and then the Senate. Congress eventually sends a final version to the president for his signature.

In recent years, Congress has rarely followed the course designed by the founding fathers and more often completes action only on select appropriations measures – the bill setting Defense Department spending being a case in point – and wraps the remaining measures into a giant omnibus appropriations bill that sets spending levels for the rest of the government for the fiscal year.

The dashboard – launched on June 5 – displays the president’s requests and will track changes made by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees and the full committees as they move through each chamber and the final version sent to the president to sign into law. Observers will be able to follow bills through each step of the decision making process.

The tool currently presents data from the White House’s May 23 budget proposal. The R&D Budget team will update the dashboard as the House and Senate appropriations panels work through the appropriations system.

On June 21, Hourihan will lead a webinar providing in-depth analyses of the president’s science funding proposals and outline any potential congressional action. 

[Associated image: Courtesy of the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

Author

Stephen Waldron