From the Hill


From the Hill

Nondefense R&D would take a hit in proposed FY 2004 budget

On February 3, President Bush proposed a 4.2 percent increase in federal R&D for fiscal year (FY) 2004. However, most of this increase would be devoted to defense development and homeland security research. Nondefense R&D budgets would receive modest increases, flat funding, or cuts. Indeed, if the modest increase in the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is excluded, total nondefense R&D spending would decline by 0.1 percent. If only basic and applied research are included in the calculation, non-NIH nondefense R&D would decline by 3.4 percent.

Most of the 4.4 percent increase (to $122.5 billion) in total federal R&D would go to the development of weapons systems. Total research (basic and applied) would rise by 1.5 percent to $53.7 billion. Nondefense R&D including NIH would increase by 1.2 percent to $55 billion.

NIH and the National Science Foundation (NSF) may both have to adjust to lower rates of funding increases after years of favored treatment. After five years in which its budget grew by almost 15 percent a year, resulting in a doubling of the budget, the NIH budget would rise by only 2.7 percent in FY 2004 to $27.9 billion. However, NIH research would increase by 7 percent, because money from facilities would be shifted to research. And although President Bush signed an NSF authorization bill in December 2002 that would double its budget over five years, the proposed $5.5-billion NSF budget would fall far short of the $6.4 billion that has been authorized. The proposed 3.2 percent NSF increase and the 10 percent increase approved for FY 2003 obviously differ sharply from the nearly 15 percent increases for both years that were envisioned in the authorization.

The newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would become a major R&D funding source in FY 2004 with a budget of $1 billion.

Congress is getting a late start on the FY 2004 budget because it didn’t complete most of its FY 2003 appropriations work until February 13, nearly four months into the new fiscal year. Eleven unfinished appropriations bills were wrapped into one omnibus bill that was signed into law by President Bush on February 20.

Federal R&D spending fared well in the final FY 2003 tally. In contrast to the cuts proposed for most agencies by the president, all of the major R&D funding agencies will receive at least modest increases. Total FY 2003 federal spending on R&D will increase 13.8 percent, and basic and applied research will rise 9.7 percent. Funding for nondefense, non-NIH spending, however, continues to stagnate.

Here are department and agency breakdowns of the president’s budget proposals for FY 2004:

  • DOD would see its R&D budget grow to $62.8 billion, up $4.2 billion or 7.1 percent, with all of the increase going to the development of weapons systems. The new increases would come in the wake of record increases of $8.8 billion and $6.7 billion the previous two years. The big winner would be missile defense, a high Bush administration priority. Missile defense development would jump 22 percent to $8.3 billion. Funding for other big development projects would also climb, including a $4.4-billion request for the Joint Strike Fighter (up 28 percent). By contrast, basic research would fall 7.7 percent to $1.3 billion and applied research would decline 14.4 percent to $3.7 billion. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) would see its R&D funding increase to $3 billion, up 9.8 percent.
  • Most ($801 million) of the DHS R&D budget would be overseen by the new Directorate of Science and Technology, which includes the new Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency. Some of the directorate’s funding has been transferred from other agencies or departments. The rest of DHS’s R&D portfolio consists of programs in the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, which were transferred from the Department of Transportation.
  • The big winner within NIH would once again be the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which would receive a boost of 17 percent to $4.3 billion as NIH’s lead institute for its $1.6-billion bioterrorism R&D portfolio. Most NIH institutes would receive increases between 3 and 5 percent. Buildings and facilities funding would fall to $80 million from $629 million in FY 2003, when one-time funding was approved for construction that included biodefense research laboratories.
  • Excluding its non-R&D education activities, NSF R&D would total $4 billion, a 2.8 percent boost. Some of its research directorates would see declining or flat funding. The biological sciences directorate would see its budget fall 1.6 percent to $562 million, while the geosciences budget would inch up 0.5 percent to $688 million. The physical sciences would be emphasized, with the directorate of mathematical and physical sciences receiving a 2.6 percent boost to $1.1 billion. The major research equipment and facilities construction account would increase from $149 million to $202 million, the major beneficiaries of which would be the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and EarthScope.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) proposed $15.5-billion budget was finalized before the Columbia shuttle disaster It may now be revamped. NASA’s R&D (two-thirds of the agency’s budget) would grow just 0.2 percent to $11 billion, because non-R&D programs, of which the largest is the Space Shuttle, would have a higher priority. Space science R&D would rise 12.7 percent to $4 billion, including a 27 percent boost for solar system exploration. These funds would be used for developing new nuclear propulsion systems and missions to Mercury, the asteroids, a comet, Pluto, and the Kuiper Belt. Biological sciences research would increase from $312 million to $359 million. The International Space Station would receive $1.7 billion, down from $1.8 billion, but the construction schedule of the station is now in doubt. All shuttle flights in 2003 except for that of Columbia were planned for station construction.
  • Department of Energy (DOE) R&D funding would increase 4 percent to $8.5 billion, but the entire increase would go to DOE’s defense activities. On the nondefense side, funding for the Office of Science would remain essentially flat at $3.3 billion for the fourth year in a row, affecting programs in high-energy physics, nuclear physics, fusion research, and advanced computing. There would be a large boost in nanoscale science, offset by a planned drop in the construction costs of the Spallation Neutron Source. Overall energy R&D funding would remain flat, but there would be significant shifts based on administration priorities. The recently announced FreedomCAR and Freedom Fuel programs to develop next-generation efficient automobiles would receive $1.5 billion over five years, including $272 million in FY 2004, of which $68 million would be new funding. As a result, hydrogen R&D and work on fuel cells and vehicle technologies would increase. Coal R&D (including new spending on carbon sequestration research) and nuclear energy R&D would also increase, balanced by cuts in noncoal fossil fuels R&D and energy conservation R&D. DOE’s defense R&D programs would jump 8.6 percent to $4.2 billion, including substantial increases in inertial confinement fusion and advanced scientific computing as well as DOE’s core stockpile stewardship program.
  • R&D in the Department of Agriculture would fall by 10.3 percent to $1.9 billion. The FY 2003 total was a higher $2.1 billion, because it included hundreds of congressionally designated projects that would be eliminated. The National Research Initiative of competitively awarded grants would receive $200 million, up from $166 million. The mostly earmarked Special Research Grants would be held to $23 million, down from $112 million. Intramural research would decline 5.6 percent to $1 billion because of the deletion of earmarks.
  • The proposed budget again proposes to eliminate two programs in the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), funded at $179 million in FY 2003, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, funded at $106 million in FY 2003. Intramural R&D in NIST laboratories would increase 7.3 percent to $330 million. Overall, the NIST R&D budget would fall 22.1 percent to $410 million. R&D in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would decline 1.4 percent to $675 million.
  • R&D in the Department of the Interior would rise 1 percent to $633 million, but there would be a 4.2 percent cut to $545 million for its lead science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) R&D budget would fall 5.7 percent to $607 million. (The FY 2003 total is inflated with one-time building decontamination research funding in response to the anthrax attacks of fall 2001.) There would be flat funding or small cuts for most R&D programs for the second year in a row. The total EPA budget would decline to $7.6 billion, down from $8.1 billion in FY 2003.
  • Department of Transportation R&D funding would fall 1.2 percent to $693 million. But DOT is somewhat cushioned from tight budgetary times because most of its programs are funded from transportation trust funds.

R&D in the FY 2004 Budget by Agency
(budget authority in millions of dollars)

  FY 2002
FY 2003
FY 2004
Change FY 03-04
Amount Percent
Total R&D (Conduct and Facilities)
Defense (military) 49,877 58,646 62,821 4,175 7.10%
  S&T (6.1-6.3 + medical) 10,337 11,232 10,297 -935 -8.30%
  All Other DOD R&D 39,539 47,415 52,524 5,109 10.80%
Health and Human Services 24,016 27,550 28,203 653 2.40%
  Nat’l Institutes of Health 22,714 26,245 26,946 700 2.70%
NASA 10,224 10,999 11,025 26 0.20%
Energy 8,078 8,205 8,535 330 4.00%
  NNSA and other defense 3,761 3,849 4,180 330 8.60%
  Office of Science 3,074 3,075 3,066 -9 -0.30%
  Energy programs 1,244 1,281 1,289 8 0.60%
Nat’l Science Foundation 3,525 3,927 4,035 109 2.80%
Agriculture 2,112 2,166 1,943 -223 -10.30%
Commerce 1,227 1,248 1,100 -148 -11.90%
  NOAA 677 684 675 -9 -1.40%
  NIST 503 527 410 -117 -22.10%
Interior 623 627 633 6 1.00%
Transportation 778 702 693 -9 -1.20%
Environ. Protection Agency 592 643 607 -37 -5.70%
Veterans Affairs 756 800 822 22 2.80%
Education 265 315 275 -40 -12.80%
Homeland Security * 266 669 1,001 332 49.60%
All Other 760 798 792 -6 -0.70%

Total R&D 103,100 117,297 122,485 5,189 4.40%
Defense R&D 53,731 62,986 67,515 4,530 7.20%
Nondefense R&D 49,368 54,311 54,970 659 1.20%
  Nondefense R&D excluding NIH 26,654 28,066 28,024 -42 -0.10%
Basic Research 23,848 26,048 26,861 813 3.10%
Applied Research 24,407 26,878 26,870 -8 0.00%
Development 49,412 58,599 64,284 5,684 9.70%
R&D Facilities and Equipment 5,432 5,772 4,471 -1,301 -22.50%

Source: AAAS, based on OMB data for R&D for FY 2004, agency budget justifications, and information from agency budget offices.

DHS figures for all years adjusted to include programs to be transferred to DHS from other agencies.

1FY 2003 figures revised to reflect AAAS estimates of final FY 2003 appropriations.

Congress debates president’s hydrogen initiative

President Bush’s proposal to fund R&D to advance the development of hydrogen fuel cells was met with a mixture of excitement and skepticism at a recent hearing of the House Science Committee. The president made the proposal during his state of the union address on January 28.

The proposal is designed to complement last year’s FreedomCAR initiative by supporting the development of infrastructure needed to produce, store, and distribute hydrogen for use as a possible replacement for gasoline engines in cars and trucks. The president has requested $1.5 billion over five years for the new initiative and for FreedomCar, including $272 million in R&D funding for fiscal 2004, $68 million of which represents new money.

“In this century,” the president said, “the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations, but through technology and innovation.”

Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen gases in such a way that water is the only waste product. A hydrogen-powered car would thus be very clean and produce no smog-causing pollutants or greenhouse gases. The use of hydrogen could help reduce the nation’s oil consumption and dependence on foreign oil.

A shift to a so-called hydrogen economy would not, however, automatically reduce total U.S. energy use or greenhouse emissions, because the production of hydrogen fuel would most likely require the use of fossil fuels such as natural gas. However, because hydrogen can be produced from many different sources, fuel cell vehicles could rely at least to some extent on environmentally friendly technologies such as wind or solar power and carbon sequestration.

Currently, hydrogen is widely used in the chemical and oil industries, where it is produced primarily from natural gas. Demonstration vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells have also been built. General Motors has announced that it will put several fuel cell vehicles in use in the Washington, D.C., area in May 2003, and by October 2003, Shell has said it will equip one of its Washington-area gas stations with a hydrogen pump to support these vehicles. GM has said that it expects to sell a hydrogen-powered car by 2010.

Technology is also available for the storage of hydrogen either as a compressed gas or as a very cold (-253(infinity) Celsius) liquid, and high-pressure hydrogen pipelines are in use as well. However, the challenges of implementing these infrastructure technologies on the scale necessary for wide use in automobiles are daunting, as some members of the Science Committee pointed out at the March 5 hearing.

“The magic of the marketplace alone is not going to create a hydrogen economy, at least not anytime soon,” said Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y,), the Science Committee chairman. “In addition to the huge technical hurdles, switching to hydrogen may entail enormous costs….Hydrogen will be a cost-competitive fuel in the coming decades only if one takes into account the social costs of current fuels, such as the pollution they generate and the dependence on foreign oil they promote.”

Moreover, committee members questioned the administration’s decision to request cuts in other energy R&D programs. “Much of next year’s proposed [hydrogen initiative] funding comes from cutting other renewable energy R&D programs,” Boehlert said. “That’s not acceptable.”

But David K. Garman, the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, disputed this charge, describing the department’s other programs as “reasonably flat.”

Larry Burns, General Motors’ vice president for R&D and planning, said that focusing on hydrogen would not sacrifice other efforts, such as higher-efficiency hybrid and gasoline-powered vehicles. He said that GM is sponsoring near-term fuel-efficiency initiatives, as well as its long-term hydrogen initiative. Hybrids, he said, are an important “intermediate” technology.

Although many environmentalists welcome the advent of fuel cell technology and the potential to produce hydrogen using renewable energy sources, others see the Bush proposal as an attempt to reduce pressure on the automotive industry to embrace the use of hybrid electric technology. Hybrid cars are already on the market and offer substantial fuel-efficiency improvements. Although the administration anticipates that automakers will produce cost-competitive hydrogen-powered cars by 2010, critics argue that it will take much longer.

The Science Committee plans to address these issues as part of a comprehensive energy reform package that the House will likely take up in April.

NASA programs face intense scrutiny after Columbia loss

The loss of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, has once again raised many questions about the operations and programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). As investigations into what caused the shuttle disaster continue, Congress is examining anew the role of manned and unmanned space flight, the costs and benefits of continuing the shuttle program, the future of the International Space Station, and the effectiveness of NASA management.

At a joint February 12 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Science Committees, NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe testified that by 10:30 a.m. the day of the accident–just one and a half hours after the loss of communication with the shuttle–NASA had already taken steps to activate the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, which will be headed by retired U.S. Navy Admiral Hal Gehman.

Although congressional leaders have commended NASA for the speed and openness with which the agency has shared information with Congress, the media, and the public, concern has been raised about the board’s independence. In a February 6 letter to President Bush, Democratic members of the House Science Committee requested that the charter be changed to require that the board report directly to the White House and to Congress, rather than to the NASA administrator. At the hearing, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), the ranking member of the House Science Committee’s Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, sharply rebuked O’Keefe, stating that the so-called independence of the board “did not pass the smell test.” Other members of the two committees said that the investigative board would be greatly enhanced with the addition of more scientists and engineers to the existing mix of military and civilian government employees.

In response to the criticism, O’Keefe subsequently added Sheila Widnall, an MIT engineering professor and former Air Force secretary, and Roger Tetrault, retired chief executive officer of McDermott International, Inc., an energy services firm.

Because the addition of these new members still did not suffice to stop criticism, three additional appointments have been made: Sally Ride, a former astronaut and physics professor at the University of California at San Diego, John Logsdon, a space policy professor at George Washington University, and Douglas Osheroff, a 1966 Noble Prize winner in physics and Stanford University professor. The appointments, especially of Osheroff, responded to criticism that the investigative team lacked the scientific caliber of Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist whose presence proved to be so valuable in the investigation of the Challenger disaster.

“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.

Cite this Article

"From the Hill." Issues in Science and Technology 19, no. 3 (Spring 2003).