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White House Proposes $142.8 Billion in Federal R&D Support for FY 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 R&D budget, unveiled by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) during a 10 April event at AAAS, calls for $142.8 billion in federal research and development funding.

His plan would continue to aggressively support three science agencies seen as critical to national competitiveness, providing an 8 percent increase in R&D funding for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.


John P. Holdren, Obama’s science and technology advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), answers questions about the President’s proposed FY 2014 R&D budget. Shown with Holdren is Patricia K. Falcone, OSTP’s Associate Director of National Security and International Affairs. | Credit: AAAS/Carla Schaffer

Overall, Obama’s proposal would increase non-defense R&D support by 9.2 percent for a total of $69.6 billion, said OSTP Director John P. Holdren, the President’s science and technology advisor. Even considering inflation, he added, non-defense R&D would still receive a significant increase of more than 5 percent, as part of Obama’s plan.


Under the President’s proposal, support would be shifted to reflect the Administration’s R&D priorities, in part by trimming defense R&D (in the Departments of Defense and Energy combined) by $4.0 billion, or 5.2 percent.

The proposal includes support for studies of climate change and the human brain, as well as clean-energy initiatives, advanced manufacturing R&D, asteroid interception, and much more.

It would also result in a significant consolidation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs. Under the proposal, the number of those initiatives would decrease by 50 percent, from 226 to 112, in order to provide more support for K-12 instruction, undergraduate education, graduate fellowships, and informal education activities.

The President’s proposal would provide slightly more support for federal R&D—an increase of $1.9 billion, or 1.3 percent in not-adjusted-for-inflation dollars—compared with the FY 2012 enacted level.

Overall, FY 2014 federal R&D support would remain essentially flat, under his plan, as compared with the level set forth under a Congressional “continuing resolution” for FY 2013. Factoring inflation into the equation “would mean a decline [in U.S. R&D funding], in real terms, over this period, but it’s a small decline,” Holdren said.

“AAAS was pleased to see that the President’s FY 2014 R&D budget affirms his commitment to a strong scientific enterprise by continuing to encourage investments in basic research and the research and development (R&D) budgets of federal agencies across a wide-range of disciplines,” said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science. “These kinds of investments are critical to ensuring that the United States maintains its global competitiveness in many domains long into the future. It also sends a very important message to the next generation of young researchers that there is a national commitment to scientific discovery and innovation.”


NIH Director Francis Collins | Credit: AAAS/Carla Schaffer

Holdren and science-agency heads spelled out the President’s R&D strategy for 2014. Obama’s priorities would include providing $3.1 billion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; $2.9 billion for advanced manufacturing R&D; and $2.7 billion for the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The proposal also would provide about $3.4 billion to advance clean, U.S.-based energy initiatives, plus $2 billion over ten years from revenue generated by federal oil and gas development for an “energy security trust.”


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive $31.3 billion under Obama’s recommended budget for 2014. That would be an increase of $471 million, or 1.5 percent compared with 2012—again, in not-adjusted-for-inflation dollars. NIH Director Francis Collins said the budget would include support for addressing “big data” challenges facing biomedical researchers. In particular, NIH would invest $41 million in a Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program aimed at supporting the broad sharing of large, complex biomedical data sets. NIH also would use 2014 funds to support an initiative called Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity, which is intended to enhance the diversity of students entering graduate-level biomedical research programs. The agency further would contribute $40 million toward the $100 million BRAIN neuroscience initiative.

Obama has proposed to set the FY 2014 Department of Defense (DOD) R&D budget at $68.3 billion, which would represent a $4.6 billion decrease compared with 2012 funding, due primarily to cutbacks to weapons-systems development programs, according to Patricia K. Falcone, OSTP’s Associate Director of National Security and International Affairs. Instead, the FY 2014 DOD budget would support national security-related priorities such as cyber-security, robotics, clean energy, ensuring the safety and security of nuclear arsenals, explosives detection, biodefense, and more. The DOD’s basic research initiatives would see a 6 percent increase in funding, she said. Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security R&D budget would increase by 185.7 percent, mostly to support the construction of a $714 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense facility to study emerging diseases.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said his agency would receive $11.6 billion, under Obama’s request, a 2.6 percent increase versus 2012 enacted levels. The funding would keep NASA on track to regain a capability to send astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017, to send them to an asteroid by 2025, and to Mars by “the 2030s.” The agency would also pursue “game-changing technologies to carry out the first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid,” Bolden said.


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (top), NSF Acting Director Cora B. Marrett (middle), and Kathryn Sullivan of NOAA (bottom). | Credit: AAAS/Carla Schaffer

The National Science Foundation total budget would be set at $7.6 billion for FY 2014, up 8.4 percent compared with 2012, according to the agency’s Acting Director Cora B. Marrett. Of that budget, $6.2 billion would be allocated to R&D, an increase of 9.2 percent above FY 2012 enacted levels. She listed NSF R&D priorities as including the BRAIN initiative, the ALMA large-millimeter array telescope, STEM education, and more.


Kathryn Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said NOAA’s R&D budget would rise by 28 percent to $733 million under Obama’s FY 2014 proposal. The bulk of this funding ($439 million) would go to NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, which supports weather and natural disaster assessments. A key objective, Sullivan said, would be to make sure the country’s Joint Polar Satellite System remains robust, capable of providing high-quality global data in support of weather forecasting.

Holdren and others at the OSTP event confirmed that STEM education would be the only area likely to undergo significant “consolidation” under Obama’s FY 2014 budget proposal. A White House fact sheet said of the plan: “The Administration is proposing a comprehensive reorganization of STEM education programs. The 2014 Budget makes choices to enhance the impact of STEM federal investments by reorganizing or eliminating 114 STEM education programs in 11 agencies, while increasing funding in support of a cohesive national STEM education strategy focused on four priority areas: K-12 instruction; undergraduate education; graduate fellowships; and informal education activities. This will decrease the number of STEM programs from 226 to 112, a 50 percent reduction.”

Noting that “President Obama has long been a strong supporter of U.S. science education,” AAAS CEO Leshner said the association “will examine carefully the recommendation to restructure and consolidate federal STEM education programs over the coming weeks as we consider the advantages, disadvantages and implications of such a proposal.”

Obama’s proposed FY 2014 science budget, covering the time period from 1 October 2013 through 30 September 2014, was released at a time when federal R&D spending levels are at their lowest point since 2002, according to Matthew Hourihan, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program.

Congress only recently passed a final appropriations bill for FY 2013. That bill allocated $130.9 billion for R&D across more than a dozen science-related federal agencies, Hourihan said. Combined with the effects of across-the-board budget cuts mandated by sequestration, the FY 2013 appropriations bill reduced federal R&D investments by $9.6 billion, or 6.9 percent compared with estimated FY 2012 spending of about $140.9 billion. By comparison, actual R&D expenses in FY 2011 came to $144.4 billion. “These are the largest cuts we have actually seen in a single year in about 40 years,” Hourihan has said.

The full impacts of sequestration are not yet clear, but the National Institutes of Health, for example, sequestration will mean R&D funding for FY 2013 that is $1.4 billion, or 4.8 percent below FY 2012 levels, AAAS has reported. Hourihan said NIH has already signaled it will reduce funding for continuing grants, mostly in support of university research, by about 10 percent. “That is going to translate into fewer opportunities for postdoctoral researchers and graduate assistants,” he noted.

The FY 2013 Congressional appropriations bill cut Department of Defense funding by $1.3 billion below FY 2012 levels. In addition, sequestration resulted in a 4 percent decrease in NASA funding, and 2.4 percent less for the National Science Foundation.

The R&D budgets for the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology were the only ones that would see increases under the FY 2013 appropriations, even after sequestration is taken into account.

According to a report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the country’s federal investment in long-term, basic R&D has dropped from 1.25 percent of the gross domestic product in 1985, to 0.87 percent in 2013. China’s support for science, as a percentage of its economy, has been growing 10 times faster than America’s R&D investment. The United States also invests a smaller share of its economy than Japan, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, and Finland.

Obama’s proposed FY 2014 budget must now be submitted to Congress, where it is likely to undergo significant changes. AAAS will release a detailed analysis of the President’s proposal soon. Additional insights to the U.S. R&D budget will be shared 2-3 May during the AAAS Science and Technology Forum in Washington, D.C.


Video of 10 April OSTP Event

AAAS FY 2013 R&D Analysis

White House OSTP FY 2014 Budget

Proposed FY 2014 R&D Spending (see page 369)

ScienceInsider: U.S. Science Budget 2013


Ginger Pinholster

Former Director, Office of Public Programs

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