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Proposed big increases for R&D in FY 2003 may be in jeopardy. (From the Hill).

Hefty increases in research and development (R&D) spending proposed by the House and Senate for fiscal year (FY) 2003 may be in jeopardy because of President Bush's determination to hold overall discretionary spending in line. The president's position was undoubtedly strengthened by the November election, which gave Republicans control of both the Senate and the House.

When Congress adjourned in November, it had approved only two of the 13 appropriations bills for FY 2003, which began on October 1. Both covered defense spending and have been signed into law. Until final decisions are made on the other bills, all other programs will have to operate at FY 2002 funding levels.

Department of Defense (DOD) R&D spending in FY 2003 will increase by $9.1 billion or 18.4 percent. DOD weapons systems will receive much of the increase, but basic research will increase by $1.5 billion or 6.8 percent, and applied research by $4.5 billion or 10.8 percent. DOD science and technology activities, encompassing research plus advanced technology development, will rise to $11.7 billion, up 13.5 percent. This amounts to 3.2 percent of the total DOD budget, compared with 2.6 percent that had been proposed by the president.

In the eleven nondefense bills drafted by the Senate, total FY 2003 federal R&D funding would hit $117 billion, a 14 percent increase. Although most of this increase would go to defense R&D and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nondefense R&D, excluding NIH, would rise 4.4 percent. This total includes an 11.9 percent increase, to $3.9 billion, for R&D at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The Senate would complete NIH's five-year doubling plan, providing a 16.4 percent increase in R&D funding for a total of $26.4 billion. Most other R&D funding agencies would also get increases over FY 2002; exceptions are the Transportation and Agriculture Departments, whose FY 2002 budgets were inflated with one-time emergency appropriations to respond to the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The nine nondefense bills drafted by the House would also provide generous increases for many R&D programs, including a 14.5 percent or $510 million boost for NSF R&D, a 6.9 percent or $697 million increase for R&D at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and an 8.3 percent or $48 million increase in Environmental Protection Agency R&D. R&D at the Department of Energy's Office of Science would fall by 0.3 percent or $10 million. The House has not drafted two of the largest appropriations bills, which include the Departments of Health and Human Services, Commerce, and Education.

The president's original budget request proposed a ceiling of $750 billion for all discretionary spending, and he has repeatedly insisted that he will veto any appropriations bills that could cause the total to exceed that amount. The House set a $755 billion total, but found it impossible to write 13 appropriations bills capable of winning a majority vote while staying within the total. The Senate discretionary spending total was set at $771 billion. This higher total made it possible to draft all 13 appropriations bills, but the full Senate approved only one nondefense bill because the floor schedule was consumed with debates on homeland security legislation, authorization for military action against Iraq, drought, and other disaster relief, and other nonbudget issues.

The new Republican-controlled Senate may be amenable to bringing its discretionary totals in line with President Bush's original request, which called for an overall cut in nondefense R&D spending. Although the large increase for NIH approved by the Senate will probably remain because it was included in the president's budget, the R&D budgets for the other agencies are now uncertain.
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Publication:Issues in Science and Technology
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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