Science Funding Edges Up in President’s FY 2013 R&D Budget Proposal, Says AAAS Analysis

Federal research and development funding would rise 1.3% under President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget request, but the increase would not keep pace with inflation, according to a new analysis by AAAS’s R&D Budget and Policy Program.

In all, R&D spending would grow to $142.2 billion, a $1.8 billion increase over 2012 funding, with much of the new money used to support innovation and make permanent the R&D tax credit, said program director Matt Hourihan. But because of growth in federal entitlements and other mandatory spending, federal R&D spending would fall to 3.7% of the total budget, its lowest share in more than 50 years.

Matt Hourihan
Matt Hourihan

The new budget broadly follows funding trends from last year’s request, with a proposed increase in nondefense investments in basic and especially applied research. Defense R&D investments, particularly in weapons development, continues a decline under the proposed 2013 budget, shrinking by 1.9%, or $1.5 billion.

The Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation continue their trends of increased budgets in the 2013 budget year, in keeping with the president’s priority research areas in energy innovation, manufacturing, and science education. Budgets for interagency R&D initiatives, such as the National Nanotechnology Initiative and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, also would increase under the 2013 proposal.

“It’s clear when looking at the long-run trends that policymakers have come to understand the importance of investing in research and innovation over the years,” said Hourihan. “But the more recent history also makes clear that these investments are going to be highly constrained in the current fiscal environment.”

In constant dollars, the new budget leaves R&D spending approximately 10% short of its peak funding in the 2010 budget year. Congress’s 2010 funding for R&D was the highest since World War II when adjusted for inflation, Hourihan said, even when that year’s special stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is left out of the equation.

The 2013 fiscal year begins 1 October 2012. The numbers proposed by the president are likely to change substantially, as his budget must be submitted for action in Congress.

The AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program is a leading authority on how the United States and other nations invest in science and technology; it annually provides an assessment of the U.S. president’s R&D budget proposal soon after it is submitted to Congress. Using data from the Office of Management and Budget and individual federal agencies, the program tracks the R&D budget’s evolution through the year.


Read the full analysis of President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget by the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program, including in-depth numbers for all federal R&D agencies.