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FYI Number 33: March 14, 2003

Science Committee Democrats' Views on S&T Request

Every year, the House Science Committee responds to the administration's budget request with a document known as the "Views and Estimates." This report is written by the committee chairman and the Majority staff, and is usually endorsed by most if not all of the committee's members who are in the majority. FYI #32 provided excerpts from the Majority's FY 2004 report.

Although the Science Committee is bipartisan in its approach, the Ranking Minority Member and his staff have usually issued their own version of the Views and Estimates. Ranking Minority Member Ralph Hall (D-TX) did so earlier this month. Excerpts from this document, signed by 20 of the committee's Democratic 22 members, follow. The full document can be read at http://www.house.gov/science_democrats/welcome.htm

RELEVANCE OF THE PROCESS:

"We generally agree with the policy guidance offered by the Majority in their Views and Estimates to the Budget Committee on the FY04 budget for civilian R&D. Those Views start with a global observation about the importance of adequate funding for science and technology, but the document is actually silent on what level of funding the Majority believes would be adequate. Instead, we are left with a collection of program-level recommendations done up department-by-department. That leaves us wondering what use the Budget Committee can put this document to as it looks for guidance on, for example, funding levels for Function 250 over the next five years. There is a fundamental disconnect between the purpose of composing Views and Estimates and the content of the Majority's report.

"But this is nothing new. Each year for the past decade we have seen the Views and Estimates move further from their intended purpose of providing a solid, analytical, five-year recommendation to the Budget Committee. . . . "

FUNDING RECOMMENDATION:

"The Administration's overall request for R&D amounts to a 4.8% increase over the FY2003 appropriated levels and yet that appears inadequate. Under the President's request, many programs would receive less funding in FY2004 than in FY2003. The Department of Energy's civilian research programs, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Veterans Affairs and Education would all face R&D cuts from the 2003 appropriated level if the President's request were enacted. Perhaps most tellingly, non-defense, non-NIH research in the President's budget grows by just 1.6% from the 2003 enacted level - below the level of inflation. It seems a mistake then to stay wedded to the President's numbers. More than a mistake, it might be irresponsible. The reality is that the appropriators have been pushing for strong growth in R&D accounts; R&D increased by 13.8% from 2002 to 2003. On top of this, there is near-unanimous agreement that the need for national security-related research continues to grow, and there is a consensus that we should be investing more in the physical sciences and in such areas as energy and environmental technologies. Further, while we can't say what impact the Columbia tragedy will have on NASA's budget, we can guess that more money rather than less will be needed at the agency. In light of these factors, it would seem reasonable to recommend an increase in the overall R&D funding in the 8% to 10% range compared to the FY2003 enacted levels. It seems impossible to do the things we know we need to do in R&D with anything less than that, unless we are now willing to start sacrificing biomedical research. As to outyears [beyond FY 2004], we would like to believe that increases for security and physical sciences could decline slightly, say to the 5% to 7% range in the four subsequent years."

The Democrats' Views and Estimates also discuss "Metrics in the President's Budget," stating, "We fully support the effort to identify reasonable measures of performance for programs, both to give program managers useful tools for evaluating progress and to provide policy-makers in Congress and elsewhere with insight into the Administration''s budgetary decisions. However, we remain skeptical that this Administration has demonstrated the utility of metrics in producing sound budgeting decisions."

In a subsequent section on earmarks, the document concludes, "However, we say to our friends at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue that, if you don't like earmarks, don't fund them. Most earmarks do not exist in law. They are contained, by and large, in the detailed report language that accompanies appropriations bills. Report language is not binding on an agency. The ultimate responsibility for earmarks lies with the Administration that cuts the check. From a political perspective, we understand why no one in the [White House's] Old Executive Office Building wants to start telling Appropriators they won't get their earmarks, but if you really believe them to be such a problem, perhaps you should swallow hard and start drawing lines in the sand."

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

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