House Staff Analysis Finds Uneven Support for Federal Research & Development Programs in President's Budget
The House Science Committee Democratic staff today released its analysis of the President's FY2002 budget request for R&D programs, which highlights substantial departures from the Clinton Administration's overall policies for R&D. Four major themes emerge from the analysis:
- The trend toward parity between defense and non-defense R&D, nearly achieved in FY 2001, has ended;
- The existing imbalance between biomedical R&D and R&D in the physical sciences has become much more pronounced;
- The budget request stops in its tracks a growing consensus that the NSF budget should grow by at least at the same rate as the NIH budget; and
- Cooperative Federal-industry R&D programs fare poorly in the budget submission.
"These budget cuts are an outrage," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, the Ranking Democratic Member of the Energy Subcommittee, in commenting on the budget's treatment of renewable energy programs. "President Bush said in his State of the Union that he was committed to renewable energy. By slashing renewable energy programs by more than a third, however, the only commitment the President's budget shows is to providing a tax break for billionaires at all costs."
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the Ranking Democratic Member of the Research Subcommittee, said, "We cannot allow inadequate funding to cripple NSF's efforts in education and research. Today we continue to have manpower shortages in many high technology fields. The ideal way to alleviate the shortages is by ensuring that children of all races and both genders receive the basic grounding in science and mathematics that will prepare them to pursue careers as scientists, engineers and technologists. Industry will under-invest in basic research because individual companies cannot capture the full benefits of advances in fundamental knowledge that come from funding basic research."
The request reverses a steady 15-year march toward parity between defense and non-defense programs over successive administrations. Only substantial increases in the NIH budget request keeps the defense and non-defense requests even comparable.
The imbalance in R&D funding between biomedical and physical sciences has been noted by a variety of university groups, industry organizations, Newt Gingrich, D. Allan Bromley (Science Advisor in the elder Bush administration) and former NIH director Harold Varmus. They are concerned that economic growth, as well as biomedical medical research itself, will suffer if better balance is not maintained in the R&D portfolio.
The National Science Foundation, started on a five-year doubling track in the 2001 appropriations process, is derailed by the Administration's request. H.R. 1472, which would double NSF's budget over five years, has been introduced by 16 members of the House.
The Council on Competitiveness, the Progressive Policy Institute, and others have found that one of the great and unique strengths of the U.S. economy is the ability of its academic, governmental, and industrial sectors to form collaborative partnerships in cutting-edge R&D.