From the Hill – Winter 2005

Federal R&D spending to rise by 4.8 percent; defense dominates

The federal R&D budget for fiscal year (FY) 2005 will rise to $132.2 billion, a $6 billion or 4.8 percent increase over the previous year. Eighty percent of the increase, however, will be devoted to defense R&D programs, primarily for weapons development. The total nondefense R&D investment will rise by $1.2 billion or 2.1 percent to $57.1 billion, betterthan the 1 percent increase overall for domestic programs but far short of previous increases.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was a cut in the budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF). This comes just two years after Congress approved a plan to double the agency’s budget over five years.

Most R&D funding agencies will see modest increases in their budgets. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget will increase by 2 percent. Although the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) budget will increase by 4.5 percent to $16.1 billion, the bulk of the increase will go to returning the space shuttle to flight, leaving NASA R&D up just 2 percent.

There are some clear winners in the nondefense R&D portfolio. U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) R&D received a 7.8 percent boost to $2.4 billion because of new laboratory investments and R&D earmarks. R&D in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will climb 10.7 percent to $684 million because of support for the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy’s recommendation to boost ocean R&D. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) support of its intramural laboratory R&D will increase 16.2 percent to $328 million.NIST’s Advanced Technology Program won another reprieve from administration plans to eliminate it.

R&D earmarks total $2.1 billion in FY 2005, up 9 percent from last year, according to an American Association for the Advancement of Science analysis of congressionally designated, performer-specific R&D projects in the FY 2005 appropriations bills. Although these projects amount to only 1.6 percent of total R&D, they are concentrated in a few key agencies and programs. Four agencies (USDA, $239 million; NASA, $217 million; Department of Energy, $274 million; and Department of Defense, $1 billion) will receive 85 percent of the total R&D earmarks, whereas NIH, NSF, and the new Department of Homeland Security remain earmark-free. In some programs, earmarks make up one out of every five program dollars.

FY 2005 R&D earmarks are up more than a third from 2002 and 2003 after a dramatic jump last year. The total number of earmarks is increasing faster than dollar growth, suggesting that the size of the average earmark is shrinking in an era of tight budgets but increasing constituent demand.

Federal S&T appointees must be impartial and independent, report says

A report by the National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP) released in November 2004 urges policymakers to ensure that the presidential appointment process for senior science and technology (S&T) posts and the process for appointing experts to federal S&T advisory committees operate more quickly and transparently.

The report’s release comes on the heels of criticism by scientists and others that the Bush administration has selected candidates for advisory committees more on the basis of their political and policy preferences than of their scientific knowledge and credibility. In addition, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report warned that the perception that committees are biased may be disastrous to the advisory system. GAO has also found, in response to a request from Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), that several statutes prohibit the use of political affiliation as a factor in determining members of advisory committees. Baird has called for a Justice Department investigation of instances in which advisory candidates have been asked about their political preferences by agency employees.

At a press conference accompanying the release of the report, John E. Porter, a former member of Congress and chair of the committee that wrote the report, cited the need for scientific advisory committees to be free from politicization and to “be and be seen as impartial and independent.” Although COSEPUP representatives said that they had not examined the recent specific allegations and that their guidelines make no reference to actions of the current administration, the report recommends that any committee requiring technical expertise should nominate persons on the basis of their knowledge, credentials, and professional and personal integrity, noting that it is inappropriate to ask nominees to provide “non-relevant information, such as voting record, political party affiliation, or position on particular policies.”

Total R&D by Agency
Final Congressional Action on R&D in the FY 2005 Budget
(budget authority in millions of dollars)

House-Senate Conference
FY 2004 FY 2005 FY 2005  Chg. from Request  Chg. from FY 2004
Estimate  Request  Approved  Amount  Percent  Amount  Percent
Defense (military) 65,656 68,759 70,285 1,526 2.2% 4,630 7.1%
(“S&T” 6.1,6.2,6.3 + Medical) 12,558 10,623 13,550 2,928 27.6% 993 7.9%
(All Other DOD R&D) 53,098 58,136 56,735 -1,402 -2.4% 3,637 6.8%
National Aeronautics & Space Admin. 10,909 11,334 11,132 -201 -1.8% 224 2.0%
Energy 8,804 8,880 8,956 76 0.9% 152 1.7%
(Office of Science) 3,186 3,172 3,324 152 4.8% 138 4.3%
(Energy R&D) 1,374 1,375 1,339 -37 -2.7% -36 -2.6%
(Atomic Energy Defense R&D) 4,244 4,333 4,293 -40 -0.9% 49 1.2%
Health and Human Services 28,469 29,361 29,108 -253 -0.9% 639 2.2%
(National Institutes of Health) 27,220 27,923 27,771 -152 -0.5% 551 2.0%
National Science Foundation 4,077 4,226 4,063 -162 -3.8% -14 -0.3%
Agriculture 2,240 2,163 2,414 252 11.6% 174 7.8%
Homeland Security 1,037 1,141 1,243 102 9.0% 206 19.9%
Interior 675 648 672 24 3.6% -3 -0.5%
(U.S.Geological Survey) 547 525 545 20 3.8% -2 -0.3%
Transportation 707 755 718 -37 -4.9% 10 1.5%
Environmental Protection Agency 616 572 598 26 4.6% -17 -2.8%
Commerce 1,131 1,075 1,183 108 10.1% 52 4.6%
(NOAA) 617 610 684 73 12.0% 66 10.7%
(NIST) 471 426 468 42 9.9% -3 -0.5%
Education 290 304 258 -46 -15.2% -32 -11.1%
Agency for Int’l Development 238 223 243 20 9.0% 5 2.1%
Department of Veterans Affairs 820 770 813 43 5.6% -7 -0.8%
Nuclear Regulatory Commission 60 61 61 0 -0.8% 1 0.9%
Smithsonian 136 144 141 -3 -1.9% 5 3.8%
All Other 311 302 311 9 2.8% 0 -0.2%
Total R&D 126,176 130,717 132,200 1,484 1.1% 6,024 4.8%
Defense R&D 70,187 73,499 74,976 1,477 2.0% 4,790 6.8%
Nondefense R&D 55,989 57,218 57,224 6 0.0% 1,234 2.2%
Nondefense R&D minus DHS 55,239 56,484 56,378 -105 -0.2% 1,139 2.1%
Nondefense R&D minus NIH 28,770 29,295 29,453 158 0.5% 683 2.4%
Basic Research 26,552 26,770 26,954 184 0.7% 402 1.5%
Applied Research 29,025 28,841 30,016 1,175 4.1% 991 3.4%
Total Research 55,578 55,611 56,970 1,359 2.4% 1,392 2.5%
Development 66,192 70,287 70,480 193 0.3% 4,289 6.5%
R&D Facilities and Capital Equipment 4,407 4,818 4,750 -68 -1.4% 343 7.8%
“FS&T” 60,613 60,380 61,804 1,424 2.4% 1,191 2.0%

AAAS estimates of R&D in FY 2005 appropriations bills. Includes conduct of R&D and R&D facilities. All figures are rounded to the nearest million. Changes calculated from unrounded figures.

FY 2005 Approved figures adjusted to reflect across-the-board reductions in the FY 2005 omnibus bill. November 24, 2004 – AAAS estimates of final FY 2005 appropriations bills.

The report also recommends the expeditious identification and appointment of a confidential “assistant to the president for science and technology” soon after the presidential election, to provide immediate science advice and to serve until a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy is confirmed by the Senate, which often takes many months. Part of the advisor’s duties would be to seek input from a diverse set of “accomplished and recognized S&T leaders” when seeking nominees for advisory committees.

To reduce the often arduous nature of the appointment process for nominees, as well as to make the positions more attractive, the report recommends that the president and Senate “streamline and accelerate the appointment process for S&T personnel,” including a simplification of the appointment procedures. This could be done through more efficient background checks, a standardization of pre-and post-employment requirements, simplified financial disclosure reporting, and a continuation of health benefits.

To increase the visibility and transparency of the process, the report recommends that searches for appointees should be widely announced in order to obtain recommendations from all interested parties. Conflict-of-interest policies for committee members should be clarified and made public. In addition, agency employees who manage committee operations should be properly trained and held “accountable for its implementation.”

It does not currently appear that the administration will implement the committee’s recommendations. In a recent Science article, an administration spokesperson was quoted as praising the report but saying that there was no he saw no need to change how scientific advisory candidates are vetted.

House, Senate examine ways of creating stable vaccine supply

In the wake of an October 5, 2004, decision by British officials to shut down a Chiron plant in England that produces half of the U.S. flu vaccine supply, committees in both the House and Senate met to examine how future vaccine shortages could be prevented.

At a House Government Reform Committee hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) charged that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could have averted the crisis, claiming that a contamination problem found at the plant as early as June 2003 was never rectified. Acting FDA chief Lester Crawford and Chiron CEO Howard Pien disputed Waxman’s assertion, stating that all problems with the facility had been fixed and that the more recent problems were unrelated to the contamination that occurred in 2003, when the plant was owned by another company. They pointed out that Chiron had produced viable vaccines after the initial incident.

Waxman also charged that the FDA had become too passive in its oversight. As evidence, he cited fewer FDA warnings to pharmaceutical companies and the lack of enforcement of laws governing TV drug ads and food labeling. Crawford maintained that FDA policy was properly followed and that the real problem is an economic and legal climate that prompts companies to make their products overseas.

Pien urged Congress to take steps to encourage more vaccine manufacturing in the United States. To accomplish that goal, he recommended increasing the price the government pays for vaccine doses, offering financial incentives, and reforming liability laws. However, he said that the most effective way of generating enough vaccines for a broad spectrum of flu viruses would be to guarantee government buyout of any surplus vaccines. This would create a constant demand and stabilize production decisions for manufacturers that today must gamble on which of the countless existing viruses will emerge in any given year, he said.

To illustrate the need for a diverse portfolio of vaccine manufacturers, some panelists outlined a worst-case scenario: a devastating pandemic that leads the United Kingdom to appropriate all British-manufactured vaccines intended for the United States. Pien urged Congress to take the current shortage as a warning and to begin discussing the pandemic scenario with the British government before it happens.

Many of these concerns were also echoed during a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Peter Paradiso of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals said his company withdrew its FluShield product from the market because of what it perceived to be a harsh regulatory environment. He suggested that the committee consider the entire vaccine industry, which he claims is hampered by low government prices, high risk, and cumbersome liability laws. Paradiso cited the growing number of lawsuits claiming links between autism and vaccinations as an example of the need for immediate reform before vaccine shortages for other childhood diseases create an even bigger crisis for the country.

Support for private-sector incentives has fallen along party lines. In the House, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) argued that tort reform was the highest priority. Waxman vociferously disagreed, arguing that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program had effectively solved most flu vaccine liability issues.

Though both hearings focused primarily on private-sector strategies, the importance of basic research was addressed during the House Government Reform Committee hearing. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said that federal funding for influenza research alone has risen from $21 million to $66 million in the past few years. The top priorities have been advances in recombinant DNA technology, the genetic sequencing of several thousand flu viruses, and the development of vaccines derived from cell cultures. Another critical research goal is to establish a more robust development pipeline for new antiviral drugs in case human resistance to current drugs develops, which, Fauci warned, is inevitable.

Regardless of whether U.S. policymakers seek new scientific or private-sector solutions to the current vaccine shortage, U.S. reliance on overseas manufacturers will need to be addressed. The British government recently extended the suspension of Chiron’s license to produce vaccines, greatly reducing the likelihood that the company will be able to manufacture doses in time for next year’s flu season.

McCain continues push for climate change legislation

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) used his last hearing as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to continue to push for legislation dealing with the causes of climate change. McCain called the hearing to review the sobering conclusions of a new study on climate change in the Arctic. McCain called the study, which encapsulates the work of 300 scientists from around the world over four years, the canary in the coal mine of climate change. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) agreed, calling the report’s conclusions “chilling.”

In testimony before the committee, Robert Corell, chair of the group that produced the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report and a senior fellow at the American Meteorological Society, listed some of the expected effects of global warming on the Arctic region and on Earth as a whole. He said that between 1990 and 2090, it is estimated that the global surface air temperature will increase by 15° to 18°F. Consequently, glaciers will melt at an accelerated pace, leading to a one-meter rise in sea level and a decrease in oceanic salinity.

Such a dramatic change in snow cover would mean a reduction in the reflectivity of the Arctic region, Corell said. He explained that about 80 percent of the Sun’s rays are reflected away from Earth’s surface by snow cover. A decrease in the total surface area of glaciers and other snow-covered regions would result in more landmass being exposed and more of the Sun’s rays being absorbed by Earth, thus speeding the melting process.

Furthermore, a decrease in salinity could hamper the ocean’s circulation system, leading to cooling trends in Europe. Corell emphasized that even if action is taken now, it might take a few hundred or a thousand years to put the breaks on the relentless “supertanker” of global warming.

The hearing also provided an opportunity to glimpse the leadership style of the incoming Commerce chairman, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who has been fixated on the impact of climate change in his state. Corell stated that parts of Alaska are warming 8° to 10°F more than the average global rate, leading to a recession of the ice sheets that used to protect the shoreline of coastal towns. Once exposed, the villages will no longer have a buffer against the usually severe summer storms. Also, rising temperatures have started to melt permafrost, destabilizing foundations and in some cases causing entire buildings to collapse. Stevens acknowledged witnessing the devastation that many of these coastal villages have experienced and vowed to hold future hearings on the subject in the upcoming session of Congress.

Susan Hassol, an independent science writer and lead author of the report, described the negative effects of warming in more human terms. For example, she stated that the 10,000-year-old Inuit language has no word for robin, yet the bird is now thriving in the warmer Arctic climates. Furthermore, in just the past 30 years, the average amount of Arctic sea ice lost would equal the size of Arizona and New York combined.

The report is available at: or

The second part of the hearing focused on the federal government’s climate monitoring programs in Antarctica. Ghassem Asrar, deputy associate director for science missions at NASA, stated that advancements in remote sensing technology have helped to improve the accuracy of the measurements of the changes that have occurred in glaciers and sea ice. He noted that although the South Pole has recently grown cooler as a result of ozone depletion, the trend is expected to reverse in the next few decades.

“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 – Winter 2005.” Issues in Science and Technology 21, no. 2 (Winter 2005).

Vol. XXI, No. 2, Winter 2005