At a briefing yesterday afternoon Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren declared “the state of the R&D budget is quite strong,” but acknowledged the FY 2014 request for federal science and technology programs is “not the budget we would want if the financial times were better.”
Of note, the Obama Administration proposes to increase total funding for the three “key science agencies” that “are critical to preserving America’s place as the world leader in innovation.” Continuing the drive that first started in 2006 to significantly increase funding for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Administration requested an 8.0% total increase over FY 2012 levels for the three agencies.
While overall federal R&D funding would increase 1.3 percent over the enacted 2012 level, agency budget requests vary significantly. “The 2014 Budget recognizes today’s fiscal constraints and makes tough but discriminating choices, limiting spending in many areas that in other times would be deemed worthy of greater support” an OSTP document explains. Preparation of the FY 2014 request was done, Holdren said, “under intense pressure” of a legislative hard budget cap on total discretionary funding that represents the smallest percentage of the nation’s economy since the Eisenhower Administration.
Choices were made. Total federal Development funding would be reduced in FY 2014 by 5.0 percent as compared to FY 2012, an OSTP document explaining “mostly due to reductions in weapons-systems development activities in the Department of Defense (DOD) as its programs mature and transition to the production phase.” Funding for the multi-agency National Nanotechnology Initiative would decline by 9 percent. R&D funding for the Environmental Protection Agency would decline 1.4 percent.
Against a backdrop of much discussion about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching in our nation’s schools, the Administration proposes to increase federal support for federal STEM education programs by 6.7 percent over FY 2012. The number of STEM programs in a variety of federal departments and agencies would be reduced by 50 percent and under a reorganization plan would be administered by just three federal entities: the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and the Smithsonian Institution.
The Administration’s budget materials make all comparisons to FY 2012 levels. Holdren explained that the late enactment (March 26) of final FY 2013 funding legislation prevented current year comparison calculations from being made. In most cases, FY 2013 levels are similar to those of FY 2012, less sequestration. In response to a question about FY 2013 levels, Holdren said total FY 2013 federal R&D funding was $142.9 billion; under the new request it would total $142.8 billion.
Future issues of FYI will provide information on selected department and agency budgets. OSTP has an archived webcast of yesterday’s briefing that included presentations from representatives of OSTP, NASA, NIH, NSF, and NOAA; fact sheets; and other materials here.