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FYI Number 18: February 22, 2001

Outlook on Bush Administration FY 2002 S&T Request

All indications point to a significant change in direction in the forthcoming budget request for science and technology programs in the FY 2002 submission that the Bush Administration will send to Congress next Wednesday. The new administration wants to "hold the line," limiting overall growth in the federal budget to only allow for inflation. After allowing for increases for several priorities there will be little money available for increases in other programs - including science and technology.

This prediction could be wrong. The Bush Administration has successfully kept its budget plans under wraps, and no one has been able to say with any certainty what the request will look like. A February 16 article in The Wall Street Journal has provided the only numbers, without attribution. According to this article, the National Science Foundation request will be up 1%, while the U.S. Geological Survey will be down 22%. The National Institutes of Health would continue to receive increases that would allow its budget to double by FY 2003.

The situation will become somewhat clearer next week. President Bush will address Congress next Tuesday night. In this speech he will discuss his priorities, his rationale for a cut in federal taxes, and the broad outlines of his budget request. This speech is intended to build support for his FY 2002 submission to Congress the following day (February 28.) Owing to the short time the new Administration has been in office, this submission will be brief, with only broad budget numbers. (For instance, it is not known if there will be a breakout for the DOE Office of Science.) The "budget blueprint" will be followed by the full request, now scheduled for release on April 3.

While there will be five weeks between the two documents, the grand total numbers in each are expected to be almost identical. The intervening period will be used to fill out the numbers for various programs. In many cases, these specific numbers appear to be a long way from being firmed up. The overall numbers are firm; indeed, the blueprint document is being printed. About all that the administration is now saying about funding is that "There'll be increases in some areas, there'll be reductions in others."

President Bush's campaign platform seems to be the best guide to where his budget priorities stand. Significant increases were promised during the campaign for defense, NIH, and education. Yesterday in Tennessee, the president said he would request an additional 8% for elementary and secondary school education. Last week in Virginia, Bush declared in a speech about defense, "My 2002 budget will also include $2.6 billion as a down-payment on the research and development effort that lies ahead." How much of that increase will be for defense science and technology (6.1, 6.2, and 6.3) is unknown.

The rest of the budget will not do as well. When one federal S&T officer was asked this week what would be a good request, the answer was for the FY 2002 request to not be below the current budget.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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