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FYI Number 56: April 24, 2001

Reactions to the Bush S&T Budget

Congress is back from its spring recess. One of its first tasks is deciding how much money it should provide for science spending in the FY 2002 budget. The House passed a budget resolution that mirrored the Bush Administration request. The Senate adopted an amendment calling for an additional $1.44 billion in some science spending. Both sides are now working on a final number. While all of this is going on, appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate are holding hearings.

There have been analysis and commentary on the budget since it was released. The day after the budget submission, the Democratic membership of the House Science Committee released an eleven-page analysis of the administration's request. Their analysis centered on four major themes:

"The trend toward parity between defense and non-defense R&D, nearly achieved in FY 2001, has ended;

"The existing imbalance between biomedical R&D and R&D in the physical sciences has become much more pronounced;

"The budget request stops in its tracks a growing consensus that the NSF budget should grow by at least the same rate as the NIH budget;

Cooperative Federal-industry R&D programs fare poorly in the budget submission."

Elaborating on these themes, Democrats commented that "the tilt back toward the Cold War defense/non-defense R&D ratio seems misplaced. More than anything, it may be a reflection of the fact that the President has yet to fill the post of Presidential Science Advisor."

They continued, "the unbalance between biomedical R&D and R&D in the physical sciences is further exacerbated in the budget submission. If there has been a unifying message over the past three years from those concerned with federal R&D funding, it has been the warning that biomedical research itself will suffer if its funding level overwhelms the funding of the physical sciences. This message has been preached by university groups, industry organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers, Newt Gingrich, D. Allan Bromley (George Bush's science advisor from 1989-93), and even Harold Varmus, the former Director of NIH. But the message has gone unheeded in this White House. The President's FY 2002 budget provides a $2.751 billion increase for NIH. All other civilian R&D programs receive a $1.2 billion reduction."

The Democrats also criticize the 1.3% increase requested for NSF for "completely derailing the five-year doubling path that was started in FY 2001," and question the requests for various cooperative Federal-industry R&D programs.

A different perspective on the Bush S&T request was given at an AAAS forum by Marcus Peacock, Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy, and Science at the Office of Management and Budget. Peacock began his presentation by describing the "very compressed time schedule" the new administration had for the preparation of the request. Peacock said that it was "important to look at the whole picture," and went on to call the current fiscal year "unusual." He noted that the administration was moderating the growth of government spending, which would have increased by $1.4 trillion in additional spending over ten years as compared to the administration's recommendation. With a series of graphics, Peacock illustrated how private sector R&D accounts for most national R&D spending, with future private spending being promoted, he contended, by the proposed permanent extension of the R&E tax credit. Peacock said that R&D is "a clear priority" in the Bush request, with its proposed growth rate exceeding that of the growth in all discretionary spending.

Of interest was a graphic used by Peacock entitled "Major Research Agencies. Constitute 90% of Research Spending, Show Big Increases Since FY 2000." The comparison to 2000, instead of 2001 seems to indicate the perspective the Bush Administration has taken toward R&D budget increases. While some of the listed agencies, such as NSF and DOE Science would have double-digit increases over the two-year time span, which Peacock emphasized, there was much less attention given to a column on this same chart which showed that NSF would have a 1% increase in the new fiscal year, while DOE Science would decline 2%, as compared to 2001.

Also of note was a graphic entitled "R&D Balance. In Addition to Life Sciences, Other Disciplines Have Done Well." Showing an upward slope was funding for Life Sciences, with a much steeper increase for Mathematics and Computer Sciences. The budget for Environmental Sciences had uneven growth. The budget history for Physical Sciences was not included in this graphic.

Peacock spoke of various R&D highlights in the FY 2002 submission, some of which are of direct interest to the physics and astronomy community. Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology spending would increase 16%, the Earth Observing System Follow-on Program would increase 136%, and NIST internal research would increase 11%.

Another perspective on the budget was released on the day of the forum by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Among the findings of this analysis:"The request for total federal R&D in FY 2002 is a record $95.3 billion, $5.2 billion or 5.8 percent more than FY 2001 . . . The proposed increases for DOD ($3.6 billion) and NIH ($2.7 billion) account for more than the overall $5.2 billion increase, leaving all other R&D funding agencies combined with less money than in FY 2001." The analysis later states that if NIH is excluded, all other nondefense R&D spending would fall 4.2% in the Bush request.

The AAAS analysis contains a wealth of data, and can be accessed here. It concludes, "For federal R&D programs, the only thing certain is that NIH will eventually receive its requested $23.1 billion, and perhaps even more. For other agencies, congressional appropriators may disagree with the President, and the flat or declining funding for most nondefense R&D programs may change before the FY 2002 budget process is over. But with momentum building for some form of a large tax cut and the real possibility of an economic slowdown depressing tax revenues, R&D and other programs will face steep competition in the annual race for funding."

Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3095

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