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FYI Number 28: March 9, 2001

The Office of Management and Budget on Science and Technology

In a little over three and one-half weeks, the Bush Administration will send its full budget submission to Congress. Many of the "unknowns" about the Administration's policies and funding requests will be answered in considerable detail by this document. Until then, hearing transcripts with key administration officials offer some of the best on-the- record information about what to expect in the FY 2002 S&T budget.

The Office of Management and Budget plays an all-important role in this process. A series of oral and written questions and answers at a January confirmation hearing between Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT); Mitch Daniels, OMB Director; and Sean O'Keefe, OMB Deputy Director, have become available. O'Keefe's answers are of particular interest regarding the Administration's view of the federal research portfolio, and are worthy of a careful reading.

QUESTION TO DANIELS BY SENATOR LIEBERMAN:

"A growing concern is the imbalance between the amount of government research support for the life sciences, which Congress has been moving to double over the next several years, and the amount for the physical sciences, which has actually been eroding. But these two parts of science are mutually dependent, and advances in the physical sciences have become essential to further advances in the life sciences. Do you agree with this concern, and, if so, will you act to adjust the imbalance between these two sectors of federal research support?"

ANSWER, DIRECTOR DANIELS:

"The Federal government has an important role to play in supporting research that is too risky or too long-term for the private sector to support. We will examine the overall Federal portfolio of research activity in the context of preparing the Fiscal Year 2002 budget, and will work to develop an appropriately balanced program of Federal research."

QUESTION TO O'KEEFE BY SENATOR LIEBERMAN:

"You indicated that President Bush has made public statements suggesting strong support for civilian R&D, and for prioritizing health research. The President has gone so far as to suggest a nearly $3 billion increase for medical research. As you know, NIH has received significant funding increases in recent years, yet the health community acknowledges that advances in medical research are heavily dependent on advances in other disciplines such as physics and chemistry, whose funding is based primarily in agencies other than NIH. How would you propose to distribute this $3 billion for medical research? Specifically, how much of this will go towards agencies other than NIH? How do you define a balanced civilian Federal Research portfolio?"

ANSWER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR O'KEEFE:

"Advances in disciplines such as physics and chemistry have contributed to advances in medical research. The President's budget continues to invest in research, both at NIH and at other agencies in basic and applied research. However, this Administration has put a priority on research that advances our understanding and capabilities in medicine and health, so that major increases in our already substantial investment in research will be at NIH for FY 2002.

"The Nation needs a balanced portfolio of research, funded by both the Federal government and the private sector, in both defense and nondefense areas, and across fields of science. 'Balance' can and should change over time. For example, a 'balanced portfolio' of research looked very different during the Cold War era than it does now. Many research areas have received very large budget increases over the last few years. Our budget extends this balance by proposing to permanently extend the R&D tax credit. This will help encourage significant increases in private sector R&D investments. We believe that the current portfolio is balanced, but we expect to further refine this balance as we assess new and ongoing research opportunities in future budgets."

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

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