The House and Senate Budget Committees are now working on a general
budget plan for the next fiscal year. Known as a budget resolution,
this plan recommends levels of funding for various functions of the
federal government. One of these functions includes the budgets for
Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Science
Foundation, and NASA. It is known as Function 250. Not all science
spending is covered by this function.
If the House and Senate can agree on a final budget resolution, known
as a concurrent budget resolution, its most important role will be
establishing an overall level for spending and for revenues. The line
item amounts for various functions are guidance; the appropriations
committees make their own decisions. The budget resolution does,
however, make a statement about how federal funding should be
On Wednesday, Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) appeared before the
House Budget Committee. Selections from Ehlers' testimony on R&D
"The Committee faces many difficult choices in order to balance
priorities, control the deficit and perhaps review our considerable
mandatory and discretionary spending commitments within this year's
austere budget environment.
"In making these choices, we must not overlook the fact that scientific
research and development underpins our economic and national security.
Scientific research and development forms the foundation of increased
innovation, economic vitality and national security. Scientific
research is an investment that promises, and has historically
delivered, significant returns on that investment. As you begin the
budget process, I strongly urge you to give high priority to scientific
research and development and math and science education.
"For the past several years, research and development funding
defense, weapons development, biomedical sciences, and national
security has increased while other areas of federal research and
development, especially basic research in the physical sciences, has
remained flat or declined in real terms. The President's FY 2005
request of $132 billion for research and development continues this
"Basic research and science education are essential to advances
medicine, military applications and continued economic prosperity,
including the development of cancer therapies, GPS- or laser-guided
missiles, and the Internet. As a nation, we cannot afford to starve
basic science research and education.
"With this in mind, I urge you to make the basic research components
function 250 a top priority in the FY 2005 budget. I want to
particularly emphasize several basic science research and development
programs that deserve Congress' utmost attention: the National
Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation,
the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration."
"The President's FY 2005 request of $422 million for NIST's labs
$85 million (22 percent) increase over the levels enacted in FY 2004.
But, it is important to note that NIST's FY 2004 enacted budget was
million below the FY 2003 appropriation, primarily due to significant
cuts in NIST's core laboratory account. I believe that the FY 2005
request for NIST's labs should be considered the absolute minimum
required for NIST to carry out its critical research activities.
"I am very concerned about the FY 2005 request for the Manufacturing
Extension Partnership (MEP) program. The FY 2004 appropriation cut the
funding for MEP by more than 65 percent. Manufacturers throughout the
country have expressed dismay that the FY 2005 request did not seek
restore this cut. I fear that if we embrace this request, it will
cripple this program's ability to promote innovation among small and
medium-size manufacturers as they adapt to the globalized economy, and
further antagonize the beleaguered manufacturers."
"The NSF FY 2005 budget request of $5.75 billion is a 3 percent
increase; however, it is $1.6 billion below the authorized funding
level necessary to complete the commitment Congress made to double NSF
funding in 2002. I continue to support this doubling commitment, and
I regret that in this austere budget environment it may not be
immediately possible to fulfill this obligation. I urge the Committee
to provide NSF with the highest possible budget allocation this year."
"The FY 2005 budget request for the [Department of Energy's] Office
Science is $3.43 billion - a decrease of 2 percent from the FY 2004
enacted level. I respectfully request that the Committee provide the
Office of Science with a budget that reflects the critical role that
plays in maintaining our economic and military pre-eminence. Of
special importance is the need to provide an additional $200 million
the Office of Science to develop the leadership class of supercomputers
and regain our lost lead in that field.
"The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) is an agency
transition. The President has challenged NASA to begin a new era in
its history and accept a mission that will take it beyond low-earth-
orbit and the space station. This mission will be costly and will pose
significant technical obstacles that will only be solved through basic
research. Although NASA's FY 2005 budget request of $16.2 billion
includes an increase of $866 million dollars, most of the increase
would go to returning the shuttle to flight and building the
International Space Station. NASA research and development would
increase by 3.8 percent to $11.3 billion; however, development and R&D
facilities construction would take priority while basic and applied
research funding would actually decline (down 3.4 percent). Basic
science and engineering research underpin all of NASA's major
accomplishments as well as many of the technologies you and I use
everyday. I urge you to protect NASA's future by supporting its basic
research accounts and making the function 250 budget a significant
"I realize that the fate of many of the programs I have highlighted
this testimony lies not with you, but with the appropriations
committee. While the budget does not spell out exact funding for these
programs, I believe that you can send a strong signal about their
importance to the appropriations committee by making basic research
funding in function 250 a top priority in the FY 2005 budget. Behind
your lead, I, along with many colleagues who also support science
funding, will fight for these programs throughout the budget process.
When faced with the difficult choices you must make this year, I urge
you to remember that we cannot afford to sacrifice the research and
education which current and future generations need to ensure their
economic prosperity and domestic security."