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Research funds increase in federal budget.

Bruised by last year's government shutdown, Congress approved the 1997 budget on Sept. 30, hours ahead of the new fiscal year. Legislators granted science a respite, increasing funding slightly while backing away from earlier threats to cut research.

The 3,000-page spending bill provides $74 billion for research and development (R&D) in FY 1997, a $3 billion boost over last year, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. (SN: 10/12/96, p. 235). However, the AAAS contends that the increases fail to make up for cuts during the last 3 years.

"Had Congress followed the budget resolution that called for extensive cuts...

the news would have been much worse," said Al Teich, AAAS director for science policy. "Science dodged a bullet this year." Teich says that only the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation have received enough support in recent years to beat inflation. NIH, which funds biomedical studies, won a 6.9 percent hike, raising its research budget to more than $12 billion in FY 1997. Basic research, spread over all federal agencies, includ- ing NIH, received a 2.7 percent raise, reaching nearly $15 billion in FY 1997.

Among major research agencies, only the National Aeronautics and Space Administration suffered cuts. Its research budget, declining for most of the decade, fell 1.6 percent, to a little over $9 billion in FY 1997.

Some analysts suggest that Congress passed the 1997 budget quickly so members could resume campaigning for reelection. Eager to avoid an unpopular budget showdown like last year's, legislators decided to fund projects in amounts about halfway between their earlier proposals and agency requests.

"The budget agreement reflects political priorities more than scientific priorities," says Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C.

"We didn't do that bad and we didn't do that great," said Robert L. Park of the American Physical Society's Washington, D.C., office. He adds that budget reductions now being planned for FY 1998 offer a bleak outlook for science, regardless of the results of November's elections. "We haven't hit the cliff yet on the budget projections." Despite a reversal of past budget cutting, some habits proved hard to change.

Park notes that three retiring senators slipped $30 million of science earmarks, projects not subject to peer review, into this year's budget. "It's nothing new. Get the budget up against a deadline and they slip anything they want in there."
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Title Annotation:1997 research and development budget includes $3 billion more than 1996 budget
Author:Vergano, Dan
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 19, 1996
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