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FY '89 budget: lean and much less defense-oriented.

FY '89 budget: Lean and much less defense-oriented

Late last week, President Reagan released his blueprint for federal spending in fiscal year (FY) 1989, which begins in October 1988. While it includes a $2.7 billion increase for research and development (R&D) spending -- to $64.6 billion -- this increase barely covers the rate of inflation being predicted for FY '88 by the Office of Management and Budget. Although there are several substantial increases tucked away within this somewhat austere budget proposal, most are aimed at a few large-ticket items like the space station, space shuttle and Superconducting Super Collider.

In sharp contrast to recent years, the administration has proposed some of its toughest fiscal belt-tightening in defense programs. In FY '88, for example, the President proposed giving defense -- which accounts for two-thirds of the federal R&D budget -- almost a 14 percent increase (and that's after adjusting for inflation). In FY '89, defense programs would increase roughly 2 percent -- that's a projected decline of 1.6 percent in real dollars from the previous year. By contrast, civilian programs in the FY '89 budget would climb an average of 6 percent -- or 2.4 percent after inflation.

Except for the major decline in defense increases, there's a general similarity between the R&D policies evident in this year's budget proposal and those of the past few years. For instance, the administration is once again proposing: to eliminate the congressionally popular Sea Grant Program; to double the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget over five years; to roughly halve budgets for the Energy Department's programs in fossil energy and energy conservation; to merge and shrink the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) fire-technology and building-technology programs; and to greatly expand the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Though these and many similar administration proposals have not survived the congressional budgetcrafting process intact -- often for several years running--they show up again in the 1989 budget plan.

Basic research: Though the President has proposed a 6.4 percent increase for basic research, all disciplines do not fare equally. Basic research within agencies conducting primarily physical science and engineering would climb an average 10.7 percent, whereas agencies whose R&D is directed more toward life, environmental and social sciences would grow only 1.9 percent in those areas. Yet even this gross distinction masks the fact that overall basic-research increases would occur within only a few agencies: 20.5 percent at the NSF, 11.8 percent at NASA, 6.8 percent at the Department of Energy (DOE), 1.6 percent at the Department of Defense (DOD) and 2.9 percent at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Basic-research programs at the departments of Interior, Commerce and Agriculture, at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and at the Veterans Administration would all stagnate or shrink.

NSF, with the largest basic-research budget, is slated for the biggest R&D increase. "For the last three years there has been no real growth of the research activities of NSF, explains NSF Director Erich Bloch. In the current budget plan, dramatically expanded emphasis would be given to NSF funding of science and engineering education -- especially at the primary, secondary and undergraduate levels -- and to research in areas such as superconductivity, materials science, parallel computing, biological communications and manufacturing systems.

Defense: While DOD as a whole is not slated for big R&D increases, its lead research program is. The President has asked for a 28 percent increase -- to $4.5 billion -- for DOD's Strategic Defense Initiative program. DOE's share of SDI funding would climb 13.6 percent, to $402 million in FY '89. DOD's research into new tactical systems would increase $500 million, roughly 4 percent, and support for the joint NASA-DOD aerospace plane would rise to $350 million, a 37.8 percent increase.

Physical sciences: Although DOE's R&D spending would not keep pace with inflation under the President's budget, several of its physics programs would do quite well. The agency's "general science" budget, for example, is slated for a 49 percent increase, although most of that increase would go primarily to one project, the Superconducting Super Collider. That project's funding would increase almost 15-fold -- to $363 million -- as construction on the $5.32 billion project began. Funding for another general-science project, the 6-to-7-geV Synchrotron Light Source, would double -- to $12.1 million -- allowing construction of the $456 million facility to begin at Argonne (Ill.) National Laboratory.

DOE's superconductivity funding would climb 41.8 percent in FY '89, with almost 43 percent of that $28 million increase going for work on the new high-temperature superconductors. NBS's high-temperature superconductivity research would climb even more dramatically -- 270 percent, to $10.o million, ultimately aimed at the measurement and electronic applications of superconductivity.

Overall, NBS's research budget would grow more than 9 percent to fund increases in such areas as methods for ensuring the security of sensitive information stored in computers and characterization of high-performance composite materials. Although NBS was asked, beginning in FY '88, to develop new centers for the transfer of innovative manufacturing technology to industry, the $5-million-a-year program would be put on hold and its staff eliminated -- at least for the year -- under the President's new budget plan.

Safety research within the Nuclear Regulatory Comnmission would increase 22.8 percent, partially in response to a call for more and better research by the National Academy of Sciences last year (SN: 1/17/87, p.38).

Biomedicine: Most striking of the line items in the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget is funding to combat AIDS. For the first time, all HHS funds related to the "research, control and prevention" of AIDS will be placed in a separate account for distribution to HHS agencies by the Assistant Secretary for Health. About $1.3 billion has been requested for FY '89, a 37 percent increase. Of this, roughly one-third is earmarked for AIDS education, the rest for basic research and drug development. This split in priorities, says HHS Secretary Otis R. Bowen, was based on input from agency and outside experts.

Previously, AIDS-related funding was appropriated to individual HHS agencies, such as NIH and the Centers for Disease Control. Because it was pulled out into a separate category this year, NIH's overall '89 budget request appears to drop (see graph). But when one accounts for NIH's projected share of the AIDS funding, R&D spending for the combined institutes would actually increase about 5 percent over FY '88. Also included in the NIH funding request is $25 million for construction of a new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lab for AIDS research, to be built on the NIH campus.

The budget for the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, another HHS agency, would increase about 5 percent, providing more than $1.3 billion for research, grants to states and prevention programs. Other items in the HHS budget request are a 1.4 percent increase (to $523 million) for the Centers for Disease Control and a 3.3 percent increase (to $468 million) for the FDA. HHS funding for research grants given to scientists outside the agency would increase nearly 9 percent.

Among new federal funding priorities is the human genome project, an effort to identify all the genes in human cells (SN: 8/15/87, p.101). According to White House Science Adviser William R. Graham, the FY '89 request of $46 million for the project -- spread among a range of agencies, including $19 million at DOE--would increase funding for this project by 64 percent.

Space sciences: Two big items account for most of the whopping increase being sought for NASA. Nearly $1 billion would go to begin full-scale hardware development for the planned U.S. space station; that's almost 2-1/2 times its present funding level. The space shuttle program would receive more than $4.84 billion -- a 27 percent boost and 42 cents of every proposed NASA dollar. NASA's request also includes about $195 million to buy a few of the unmanned nonshuttles known these days as expendable launch vehicles (ELVs), though responsibility for most ELV launchings is to be left to private industry. While paltry compared with shuttle funding this amount represents a seven-fold rise, and is a direct result of the Challenger disaster and of widespread reaction from various oversight groups, Congress and belatedly, NASA itself.

The only new scientific satellite proposed for NASA's budget is the Advanced X-Ray Astrophysics Facility, to be placed in earth-orbit by the shuttle by 1996. A small but significant increase of $16 million -- to $84 million -- would boost studies of planetary-science data already in hand (in hopes of slowing a perceived mini-brain-drain of scientists and graduate students in the field before several upcoming or envisioned projects such as the Galileo Jupiter mission reach their goals). Absent is any money for a mission called the Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby, whose major goal would be to spend years following a comet as it approaches and recedes from the sun.

In line with the President's recent national space policy directive (SN: 2/20/88, p.118) is $100 million for a "Pathfinder Program" to develop advanced technologies for major space endeavors such as an inhabited moon base and human exploration of Mars.

Geosciences: Two-thirds of what the administration proposes cutting from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget would come from slashing $102 million from its (formerly $282 million) R&D budget. To make those R&D cuts, NOAA would terminate or reduce scores of projects, including the National Undersea Research Program, which provides funding for the Alvin submersible and the Aquarius underwater habitat (SN:12/19&26/87, p.391). As with NOAA's Sea Grant Program, most of these programs have been scheduled for termination before. Among the few new initiatives budgeted for NOAA is the $15 million Global Geosciences Program to study and improve prediction of Climate change.

Funding for the U.S. Geological Survey would drop $23 million -- with more than half that to come from its R&D programs. These cuts would terminate research in coastal erosion processes and reduce funding in earthquake monitoring, geologic mapping and energy resources.

Environment: EPA's air pollution research would increase 10 percent, or $6.7 million, in FY '89. However, that entire increase and more would go to boost one air program: the study of stratosphericozone depletion. To help finance a $7.3 million increase in ozone studies, some $1 million would be cut from programs to develop monitoring methods for such hazardous air pollutants as benzene and carbon tetrachloride, and another $250,000 would be excised from programs on health effects of pollutants controlled under the Clean Air Act, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

DOE's research into the sources and biological effects of radon gas would climb 27.3 percent, to $14 million. Similarly, EPA's research into technologies for reducing indoor radon levels would increase 36 percent in FY '89 -- some $1.1 million.
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Title Annotation:analysis of how proposed budget would affect research-oriented agencies
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 27, 1988
Previous Article:Identity crises in AIDS virus studies?
Next Article:FY '88: who got what for research and development.

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