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Bush proposes 3.3% increase in FY 2009 R & D budget.

After a rocky end to the fiscal year (FY) 2008 appropriations process, in which R & D funding was hit hard, President Bush on February 4 released a proposed budget of $3.1 trillion for FY 2009. The president's budget includes increases for the three physical sciences agencies in his American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), increases for human spacecraft development, and flat funding for biomedical research in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Overall, Bush requested $145.4 billion for R & D, up $4.6 billion or 3.3% over FY 2008. However, increases for some agencies will mean cuts or flat funding for other agencies.

Congress on December 19 approved an omnibus appropriations bill (signed by Bush a week later) that combined 11 unfinished FY 2008 appropriations bills. In doing so, however, Congress failed, after a veto threat from Bush, in its bid to add $22 billion in new domestic spending. As a result, the final bill did not include a roughly $2 billion increase that Congress had sought for nondefense R & D. Federal investment in basic and applied research for FY 2008 will increase just 1.1% to $57.5 billion, less than the 2.4% expected inflation rate. Total federal R & D (including development) would increase 1.2% to $142.7 billion.

Funding for basic research in the physical sciences, a key element of various plans to sustain U.S. economic competitiveness, fell well short of a planned doubling path over the next decade. The omnibus bill would take away most of the requested increases for the three physical sciences agencies in the ACI in order to reverse requested cuts in medical research, energy R & D, and environmental research. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would see only a 1% increase in its R & D funding instead of a larger increase requested by the president. Most National Institutes of Health (NIH) institutes would get flat funding at FY 2007 levels instead of the cuts the president had requested. A requested 15% increase for the Department of Energy's (DOE's Office of Science was trimmed to 5% in order to provide a 23% increase in DOE's energy R & D programs, including carbon sequestration, biomass, and solar energy. The omnibus bill restores funding for climate change science and other environmental research in several agencies, including R & D in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), up 3.4% to $583 million, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), up 7.6% percent to $573 million. In addition, appropriators boosted climate change research in other agency budgets, including increases for earth-observing satellites and related research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

In the president's FY 2009 budget proposal, the ACI would once again be the big winner among science-related domestic programs. NSF, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories, and DOE's Office of Science would collectively receive $12.2 billion, up 15%.

NSF's budget of $6.9 billion would be a 14% boost, with increases approaching 20% for the mathematical and physical sciences, engineering, and computer science directorates and smaller increases for nonphysical sciences directorates. The proposed $4.7 billion for DOE's Office of Science would be a 19% increase, restoring funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, physics, and other basic research projects hard hit by the FY 2008 final appropriation. The NIST labs would receive a large increase, though at the cost of a proposal to eliminate the Technology Innovation Program and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

The Department of Defense (DOD) would receive a 4% increase in its basic research portfolio, to $1.7 billion, which would be a 16% boost if earmarks in the 2008 base are excluded. DOD weapons-systems development would increase by $4.5 billion or 6.9% to $69 billion, but once again there would be steep cuts in DOD's S & T programs because of the proposed elimination of earmarks. DOD S & T would plummet 11.7% to $11.7 billion, but would increase 5.6% if 2008 earmarks are excluded.

Nondefense R & D would increase 2.7% to $60.9 billion. The increase is due to boosts for the ACI agencies and space vehicles development at NASA, which helped to offset requested cuts to earmarks and other smaller nondefense R & D programs and flat funding for NIH R & D. Excluding the ACI/space programs, the nondefense portfolio continues to be flat or declining since peaking in 2004.

Total federal support of research (basic and applied) would fall 0.5%, or $282 million, to $57.1 billion, even after taking into account the large proposed increases for physical sciences and related research at NSF, DOE, and NIST. Removing 2008 congressional earmarks from the new budget request ($1.1 billion in research earmarks for DOD alone) accounts for the cut.

NIH would receive exactly the same amount ($29.5 billion) in 2009 as in 2008; nearly all of NIH's institutes and centers would also get the same budgets as this year. A number of biomedical research advocacy organizations have already decried the 2009 proposal for leaving NIH 13% below the 2004 funding level after adjusting for biomedical research inflation. The number of new grants, the average real size of a grant, and the expected success rate for grant competitions are all expected to fall in 2009.

NASA R & D would increase to fund the development and construction of new human spacecraft. NASA R & D, in preliminary figures, would gain 2.9% to $10.7 billion, but the entire increase and more would go to the two big projects: finishing the International Space Station and developing the Crew Launch Vehicle and Crew Exploration Vehicle combination. As a result, NASA support of research in the physical sciences, environmental sciences, aeronautics, and other disciplines would fall once again.

The Department of Agriculture budget would decline 1% even when $369 million in 2008 R & D earmarks are not counted, and the Environmental Protection Agency R & D and USGS R & D would fall 1% and 7%, respectively, because of proposed program cuts. NOAA's R & D budget would fall slightly to $582 million, but after taking out 2008 earmarks, the 2009 increase for core NOAA research programs would be 8%.

Homeland security-related R & D would rise 10.2% to $5.5 billion, a gain of $512 million, reflecting a budget proposal that favors defense spending and homeland security over most other domestic priorities. The majority of the multi-agency portfolio remains outside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the largest part in NIH for its biodefense research portfolio. NIH's portfolio, mostly in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, would total $1.9 billion, up 1%. The largest domestic increase would be a $250-million allocation (more than double the $102 million this year) in the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for R & D on biomedical countermeasures.

"From the Hill" is prepared by the Center for Science, Technology, and Congress at the American Association for the Advancement of Science ( in Washington, D.C., and is based on articles from the center's bulletin Science & Technology in Congress.
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Title Annotation:FROM THE HILL; George W. Bush, research and development
Publication:Issues in Science and Technology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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