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R&D funding faces budget cuts.

In the wake of Republican gains in the 2010 midterm elections, funding cuts to rein in soaring federal budget deficits have jumped to the top of the congressional agenda. All domestic discretionary spending faces cuts, including R&D. Meanwhile, as of mid-December 2010, Congress still had not approved any appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2011, which began October 1.

Although President Obama has directed non-national security agencies to reduce their budget requests for FY 2012, he has indicated that he might exempt R&D spending from cutbacks. "I don't think we should be cutting back on research and development," he said at a November 3 news conference.

However, the 2010 Republican agenda, called A Pledge to America, calls for severe cuts in government spending, including R&D. Republicans want to cut the level of discretionary spending to FY 2008 levels, which would result in multibillion-dollar cuts in the federal R&D investment. (The incoming Republican leadership recently clarified that the FY 2008 target would be adjusted for inflation.)

The hardest hit agencies would be the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. All were authorized at higher spending levels under the 2007 America COMPETES Act and have since received major funding increases. The NSF cuts would mean more than 1,400 fewer new awards than in FY 2010.

Other agencies that the Republicans are targeting for sharp cuts include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Departments of Education, Transportation, and Interior.

In addition, budget rollbacks would make it difficult for agencies to sustain their current level of commitment to multiagency initiatives such as the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Republicans have also proposed a hard cap on future growth of the discretionary budget, which would make it more difficult for Congress to implement R&D growth initiatives such as the President's Plan for Science and Innovation and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, currently under consideration in Congress.

Although A Pledge to America does not address R&D investment, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the next chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, said in a November 3 statement that his priorities would be checking runaway spending, strong oversight, and the use of science policy to drive innovation.

The Obama administration has continued to push R&D initiatives. In a November speech, the president announced his proposal for "a more generous, permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all the research and innovation they do." The proposal would raise the base amount of credit from 14 to 17% for companies choosing to calculate their credit using the "simpler" formula.

Obama's proposal comes in the wake of the release of the 2010 edition of the EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, which reported that top U.S. companies cut R&D spending by 5.1% in 2009. Top European Union companies cut spending by 2.6%. Worldwide, the drop in R&D spending was only 1.9%, because of flat or growing investment by Asian countries.

"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; research & development
Publication:Issues in Science and Technology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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