From the Hill – Spring 2006
Constraints continue in proposed R&D budget
President Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2007, released on February 6, calls for substantial increases in key physical sciences and engineering programs as well as big boosts for alternative energy R&D and the development of new space vehicles. But these increases come at the expense of funding cuts in other parts of the federal research portfolio.
Spending for priority programs would enable nondefense R&D to rise by 1.7%, compared to the president’s proposed 0.5% cut in all nondefense discretionary domestic programs. Although the overall federal investment in research would rise by 1.9%, or $2.6 billion, to $137 billion, the increase would be less than that needed to keep pace with expected inflation. This would mean the first decline in real terms of the total federal R&D portfolio since 1996. In addition, basic and applied research alone (excluding development and facilities) would decline by 3.4% to $54.7 billion. It would be the third year in a row that research funding has declined, after peaking in 2004.
Development is the clear winner in the proposed budget; a $4.2 billion increase for weapons development in the Department of Defense (DOD) budget and an $851 million increase for space vehicles in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) budget exceed the $2.6 billion increase in overall R&D spending, leaving all other R&D programs collectively with less money to spend.
As part of a new “American Competitiveness Initiative” (ACI) designed to address a growing wave of concern about the state of U.S. innovation, three agencies—the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories in the Department of Commerce—would receive substantial budget increases after years of flat or declining funding. DOE would also benefit from the president’s “American Energy Initiative,” with large increases in its R&D portfolio for alternative energy technologies.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, after declining slightly in FY 2006 for the first time in 36 years, would be flat at $28.6 billion. All but two NIH institutes and centers would see budget cuts for the second year in a row.
R&D portfolios in other agencies face steep cuts: the Environment Protection Agency, 7.2%; the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 6.3%; the Department of Agriculture, 16.5%; and the U.S. Geological Survey, 4.3%. Even the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) R&D activities would suffer a 5.6% decline to $1.3 billion, even though the overall DHS budget would increase.
In addition, agencies with increased budgets in some areas would take hits in others. Spending for NASA’s aeronautics programs would fall 18%, and what remains of its life sciences program would be cut 56% after a 30% cut in FY 2006. Although R&D at NIST laboratories would increase, the budget once again proposes to eliminate NIST’s Advanced Technology Program and to cut the budget of its Manufacturing Extension Partnership in half.
R&D in the FY 2007 Budget by Agency (budget authority in millions of dollars)
|Change FY 06-07|
|Total R&D (Conduct and Facilities)|
|S&T (6.1-6.3 + medical)||13,564||13,778||11,214||-2,565||-18.6%|
|All Other DOD R&D||56,705||58,706||62,862||4,155||7.1%|
|Health and Human Services||29,125||29,074||29,020||-54||-0.2%|
|Nat’l Institutes of Health||27,838||27,768||27,768||0||0.0%|
|All Other HHS R&D||1,287||1,306||1,252||-54||-4.1%|
|Atomic Energy Defense R&D||4,134||3,983||4,006||23||0.6%|
|Office of Science||3,345||3,309||3,774||465||14.1%|
|Nat’l Science Foundation||4,102||4,175||4,523||348||8.3%|
|U.S. Geological Survey||547||561||537||-24||-4.3%|
|Environ. Protection Agency||640||600||557||-43||-7.2%|
|Nondefense R&D excluding NASA||45,502||46,136||46,289||153||0.3%|
|R&D Facilities and Equipment||4,773||4,259||4,181||-78||-1.8|
Source: AAAS, based on OMB data for R&D for FY 2007, agency budget justifications, and information from agency budget offices. Note: The projected inflation rate between FY 2006 and FY 2007 is 2.2 percent.
President, Congress unveil innovation initiatives
With his proposed ACI, President Bush has added to an intensifying debate on innovation policy now taking place on Capitol Hill. A variety of bills have been released, the most prominent of which is a package of three bills introduced by a bipartisan group of four senators. The bills are based on the recommendations in the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm report.
Though the myriad of innovation initiatives vary in how they will advance U.S. competitiveness, they share the common themes of increasing investment in research and strengthening education. Because of the growing concern about U.S. dependence on foreign oil and the emphasis on energy security in the president’s State of the Union speech, the topic of new energy resources has become closely linked to the competitiveness arena.
As detailed in a white paper released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, ACI advocates doubling research funding at NSF, NIST, and DOE’s Office of Science over a period of 10 years and increasing basic and applied research funding in DOD. ACI would make the R&D tax credit permanent and create Career Advancement Accounts of up to $3,000 for workers who are beginning, changing, or advancing in a career.
Although the emphasis on basic research was welcome news to the research community, it was the president’s science and mathematics education initiative that garnered the initial interest on the Hill. A few days after the release of the administration’s budget request, senators questioned Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings about the academic components of ACI at a February 9 hearing held by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
According to Spellings, the White House plan includes training 70,000 existing teachers over the next five years to teach Advanced Placement/ International Baccalaureate (AP/IB) classes in math, science, and foreign languages. An Adjunct Teacher Corps also would be created to train 30,000 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals over 10 years to serve as part-time science and math teachers. In addition, the department plans to establish a National Math Panel, modeled on the National Reading Panel, to identify best teaching practices, and a Math Now program to provide primary school teachers with specialized mathematics training. The program would also offer middle-school teachers remedial math education tools that can be targeted at struggling students.
When asked why ACI places more emphasis on math than on science education, Spellings said that the Department of Education’s philosophy is “math now, science next.” She said that conducting research on how children learn math is currently the single most important step toward improving math and science education. However, the Bush proposal recommends that science testing be included in the evaluation for the “adequate yearly progress” that schools must meet under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act when it is reauthorized next year. Spellings added that emphasis on science would increase in the future.
Five days before the president unveiled ACI, the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Acts, based on the National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, were introduced by Sens. Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Barbara Mikulski (DMD). PACE is a package of three bills, each aligned with the jurisdiction of a committee with oversight of a specific theme: energy, education, and finance. Each bill already has more than 55 cosponsors.
The bills (S. 2197, S. 2198, and S. 2199) reflect many of the same initiatives outlined in the president’s proposal. For example, PACE would nearly double the NSF and DOE’s Office of Science R&D budgets, increase defense basic research funding, and train teachers to teach AP/IB science and math classes. In addition, the legislation provides scholarships to students majoring in STEM fields or who are preparing to teach these subjects at the K-12 level; awards grants to encourage university STEM departments to partner with departments of education to train future teachers; establishes summer programs and part-time master’s degree programs for existing teachers; and creates a clearinghouse for effective curriculum materials. The bills double and make permanent the current R&D tax credit and create new visas for students and workers in STEM fields.
The PACE-Energy bill also proposes creating an Advanced Research Projects Authority-Energy (ARPA-E), which is modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to support groundbreaking energy research. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) introduced a standalone bill, the Advanced Research Projects Energy Act (S. 2196) at the end of January.
The PACE bills complement the National Innovation Act (S. 2109) introduced in December 2005 by Sens. John Ensign (R-NV) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) to implement a series of recommendations included on the National Innovation Initiative report published by the Council on Competitiveness.
Whereas Senate innovation legislation has involved bipartisan support, House innovation agendas are split along party lines. The House Democratic leadership’s legislation was introduced in December 2005 by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). Gordon’s three-bill package (H.R. 4434, 4435, and 4596) includes scholarships for math and science teachers, curriculum development, and professional development programs for teachers. The legislation increases federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering by 10% per year; provides more fellowships for graduate students and grants for early-career researchers; increases funding for federal and university laboratories; and creates an ARPA-E.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced legislation identical to the bill supported by Sens. Ensign and Lieberman; however, the bill currently does not have cosponsors.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (RIL) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announced on March 1 a Republican innovation legislative package, entitled the Innovation and Competitiveness Act. Although programmatic and funding specifics were not detailed at the event, the goals of the bill are to promote R&D, increase the U.S. scientific talent pool, reduce bureaucratic red tape, reform the legal system, and enhance the health care system through innovative technologies.
Senators unveil discussion paper on climate policy
In a marked change from the usual partisan congressional debate about climate change, Sens. Pete Domenici (RNM) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released a joint paper that aims for consensus on key issues about the structure of a mandatory market-based greenhouse gas regulatory program. The senators are seeking comments on the document, which will be used to frame the discussion at an April 4 climate change conference, which is being sponsored by the committee and moderated by Domenici. The paper can be found on the committee Web site (energy.senate.gov/ public).
The paper raises the overarching question of who is to be regulated in a mandatory system and where regulations would be imposed in the greenhouse gas life cycle. The paper explores differences in costs and effectiveness in regulating “upstream” (closer to energy producers and suppliers) versus “downstream” (the point of emissions). The paper also examines whether some allowances should be allocated for free to mitigate costs or if they should be all be sold by auction.
The paper also highlights the importance of R&D investments in low-carbon energy technologies and adaptation assistance, exploring the use of permit revenue to fund such activities.
Finally, the paper raises questions about the U.S. role relative to actions taken elsewhere in the world. It asks if a system should be compliant with cap-and-trade systems being implemented in Europe and elsewhere. It also notes that “climate change is a global environmental problem that requires action by all major emitting countries.” The paper asks whether the United States should take some action and then make further steps contingent on the actions of other countries.
“From the Hill” is prepared by the Center for Science, Technology, and Congress at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (www.aaas.org/spp) in Washington, D.C., and is based on articles from the center’s bulletin Science & Technology in Congress.