Science Community Warned About Impacts of Budget Resolution "It will be virtually impossible" predicts VA, HUD, Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman James Walsh (R-NY) about the writing of his FY 2001 appropriations bill because of the numbers in the Budget Resolution that was passed yesterday. Walsh was talking about how much money his subcommittee, which funds NSF and NASA, could have to work with for its bill. Walsh could have $403 million less for next year than he did for the current year. Walsh added, "expectations are very, very high this year in the research community. . . . "
Under the Budget Resolution, the appropriations bills funding DOD, DOE, NIST, and the Department of Education are likely to have more money, although it is too early to tell how it would be distributed among various programs within these bills. The $1.8 trillion plan would, depending on how the math is done, lead to flat funding or significant cuts in most FY 2001 domestic programs. The White House warns of an average 10% reduction for domestic programs, saying that the plan would "dramatically cut" science and technology spending. An AAAS analysis released today calculates that the resolution would mean $515 million less for non defense R&D than that requested by the president, although it would be 5.3% over the current year. Subcommittee chairman John Porter (R-IL), who voted against the resolution, said, "I believe this resolution puts us exactly in the same position we were in last year, putting our necks in the noose and handing the president the rope."
Final numbers for the appropriations subcommittees will be determined after Congress returns from its recess. House Appropriations Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) has promised a "very, very aggressive" schedule that targets the mark up of the VA, HUD bill toward the end of May.
The Budget Resolution was the subject of several presentations made earlier this week at an AAAS colloquium. A senior Senate Budget Committee staffer warned that "it's going to be a brutal year." She added, however, that the final congressional number was higher than the limit previously agreed to by the president. Commenting on NSF and NASA, she cautioned that they will be competing with HUD, VA, and EPA, and said, "there are a lot of tradeoffs that must be made . . . it is a fine line that we all walk."
Neal Lane, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, was the keynote speaker at the colloquium. He took direct aim at the budget resolution, and called on the science community for its assistance. He stated:
"The President's S&T budget plots a bold course of strategic growth and prosperity through discovery. Many people, especially the President and the Vice President, worked very hard to present this $3 billion increase to Congress with the hope - even the expectation - that we could work with the membership on a bipartisan basis to see it successfully enacted.
"That why it is especially galling this year to find ourselves - yet again - confronted with Congressional budget resolutions that threaten our ability to adequately fund the S&T investments needed to carry our nation into the 21st century. There are members of Congress - in both parties - who are trying to help. I particularly want to acknowledge the efforts of Congressmen Rush Holt and Vern Ehlers and Senator Edward Kennedy, who have worked to add $1 billion for R&D to the Budget Resolutions. But the Budget Committee Chairmen have established shortsighted spending priorities and budget ceilings that could translate into severe cuts for many vitally important programs.
"If allowed to proceed unchecked, Congress could stall our progress toward national goals and toward balance in a healthy R&D portfolio precisely at the moment in history when we can best afford to invest in America's future. As of today, the Republican's budget plans reduce the discretionary accounts by $17 billion below the President's request. And Mr. Domenici and Mr. Kasich indicated that they would spend more on defense (about $500 million higher than the President requested), and would equal or beat the President's request on education, veterans' medical care, and NIH. The result is that all the rest of non- defense discretionary spending must be cut deeply in order to meet the ceiling imposed by the Budget Committee Chairmen -- our estimates show this will need to be on the order of a 10 percent cut. Clearly, as President Clinton recently stated, a budget that shortchanges critical national priorities, like R&D, is not the best path for our nation. The American people agree with the President on this.
"So please, we must not become complacent in the face of the 'sense of the House' or 'sense of the Senate' resolutions to provide increases to Function 250 [General Science and Technology programs] that don't meet the President's request. We should remember that our S&T budget is not just a balance sheet, it's a blueprint for our future . . . Such a budget would be unrealistic, unwise, and unconscionable and would fail America's scientists and engineers by asking them to do more with less. There's a lot of work to be done if we want a good R&D budget at the end of this appropriations cycle. Each of you needs to become deeply involved in this effort."
Richard M. Jones