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Obama FY 2013 budget keeps total R&D support flat

On February 13 the Obama administration released its FY 2013 budget request to Congress.  The request calls for $140.8 billion in total federal R&D, or a 1.4 percent increase over FY 2012 levels, according to Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) data.  When inflation is taken into account, this would keep total R&D support roughly flat.

Under the request, basic and applied research would receive boosts of 1.5 percent and 5 percent, respectively, above FY 2012 levels. Development activities, which account for more than half of total federal R&D investment, would decline by 0.5 percent.

Similar to last year's appropriations outcome, cuts to defense R&D would partially offset gains in nondefense R&D. According to OSTP's estimates, defense R&D would decline by $1.1 billion, or 1.5 percent. The lion's share of these cuts would take place in R&D at the Department of Defense, as R&D in the Department of Energy's atomic defense activities would receive a 9.6 percent increase. Not all DOD accounts would receive a reduction, however, as basic research would remain essentially flat. Defense health research would be among the hardest hit, as the Administration seeks to cut funding for the program in half from FY 2012.

Nondefense R&D would receive a boost of 5 percent, or $3.1 billion. Among the big winners is the Department of Energy, which would receive an R&D increase of 8 percent, or $884 million above FY 2012 levels, according to OSTP data. In addition to the atomic defense R&D increases mentioned above, the Office of Science would receive a 2.4 percent increase, while the department's energy programs would receive a 16.2 percent increase. Within the Office of Science, the three physics programs (High-Energy, Nuclear, and Fusion Energy) would all be cut. Within Fusion Energy, the administration would increase its commitment to ITER, the international fusion energy project, by 42 percent. Elsewhere, ARPA-E would receive a 27 percent increase to $350 million.

The National Science Foundation would be another winner under the President's request, as every core scientific directorate would receive at least a 2.1 percent increase above last year's levels. Some — including the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (up 8.6 percent) — would fare particularly well. The overall NSF R&D budget would increase by 4.6 percent, to $5.9 billion. NSF's Education and Human Resources directorate would increase by 5.6 percent to $876 million.

Not all agencies and programs would fare as well as these, however. The National Institutes of Health would receive a flat R&D budget, which likely translates to a more than 2 percent decrease when factoring in inflation. In spite of a lack of new funding, NIH will still seek an 8 percent increase in the number of new grants. This goal would be achieved through reduced grant duration, a 1 percent cut to continuing grants, and the end of inflationary adjustments to ongoing grants.

Elsewhere, while NASA would receive a small increase in R&D funding, the Administration made headlines by targeting the Planetary Science program for a 20 percent cut. This is largely due to the proposed withdrawal from the international Mars initiative.

Note: the above material is largely based on OMB/OSTP data, which may not be consistent with agency data or be otherwise unverified.  The AAAS R&D Program is in the process of verifying and, in some cases, revising these data, and will post an update on its website when they are available.

Related links:

  • AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
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