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FYI Number 22: February 22, 2002

Science Committee Minority Staff Analysis of FY 2003 S&T Request

Earlier this month, the Minority Staff of the House Science Committee released a 16-page analysis of the Bush Administration's FY 2003 R&D request. Last week, the full House Science Committee held its first hearing on this request, which will be reported on in a forthcoming FYI. See FYIs #12 - 21 for selections from various Administration budget documents related to physics-related programs.

Excerpts from the Democratic committee staff's report follow. The entire report, containing an analysis of specific budgets under the committee's jurisdiction, can be read at http://www.house.gov/science_democrats/archive/budget03.htm

". . . R&D outlays as a percentage of discretionary outlays will be 14%, an increase over the 10% to 12% level that has persisted over the past 20 years." "The FY03 R&D budget request can be described in one sentence: defense increases eight percent, NIH increases 17 percent, and all other civilian R&D is collectively frozen."

". . . there is a business-as-usual quality to the overall civilian R&D portfolio. As has been the case stretching back through last year's budget and into the Clinton years, NIH is slated to receive most if not all of the civilian R&D increases. But the sense of continuity - perhaps inertia is a better word - extends beyond this persistent trend. Even the multi-agency R&D priorities highlighted in this budget are essentially holdovers from the Clinton budgets: anti-terrorism R&D, networking and information technology R&D, nanotechnology R&D, and climate change R&D. Politically unpopular cuts in renewable energy and energy efficiency, so prominent in last year's submission, have disappeared. Even the Clean Coal R&D Program, a Bush campaign promise, is paid for by other cuts in the coal R&D portfolio. At the macro level, this is very much a steady-as-it-goes budget submission."

'This is not to say, however, that storm clouds are not lurking. Much of the civilian R&D portfolio, the budget warns, will be subject to impending programmatic or management reviews, or both."

". . .a large amount of ink is spilled in the President's budget asserting that management metrics were applied in making budget allocations and promising that performance metrics, still being developed, will be used to guide decisions in the next budget cycle."

". . .despite assertions that management scores mattered, it appears to us that the management scores had little or no effect on what happened to a particular agency's budget. We wonder whether the new and still developing performance metrics will have any greater impact."

"Metrics have become a cloak behind which politics, both Presidential and Congressional, can carry on as before with a new patina of impartiality. We will track the evolution and application of the new R&D metrics with great care, and we hope that the science and educational communities become more alert to the renewed push by this Administration to take a 'business-like' approach to science."

"In summary, the theme for this year's budget submission is incremental change, but with many major programmatic changes lurking, changes that will be justified with as-yet sketchy and opaque management criteria."

". . . in this year's submission, defense R&D would constitute 52 percent of total R&D, only the second budget (last year's was the first) to reverse a 15-year trend toward a greater civilian share. The combined defense/homeland security R&D budget is even higher - approximately 55 percent. In a time of changing national priorities, these trends may be appropriate. But they are worth noting and debating."

". . .the trend toward HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] dominance of the civilian R&D budget continues to grow. This is the first budget submission in which the HHS R&D request ($27.683 billion) exceeds the R&D request of all other Federal civilian R&D ($26.046 billion). HHS would dole out over 60 percent of all civilian funding for basic research in FY03."

". . .the five-year doubling path for NSF, started in FY01, is officially off the rails. NSF's R&D budget would grow from $3.571 billion to $3.700 billion in FY03. However, $76 million of this growth is transfer of R&D programs from other agencies, so the actual increase is $53 million, or 1.5 percent. This is a net loss for NSF, after inflation. The story with DOE's programs in the physical sciences is the same."

"The Administration has yet to explain why some cooperative industry programs are good and some are bad. ATP [Advanced Technology Program] and MEP [Manufacturing Extension Partnership], for example, have received near-unanimous positive outside reviews for effectiveness and for management, but they apparently fail to satisfy some unstated Administration management criteria."

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

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