Science Committee Democrat Questions Administration Budget Priorities
A senior Member of the House Science Committee expressed concern today at the release of the Bush Administration's preliminary budget. Lynn Rivers (D-MI) said, "This budget request remains sketchy, but what we do know suggests that our science programs will not receive adequate support from the Bush Administration."
Rivers continued, "The President is to be congratulated for understanding how important health research is at NIH - keeping that agency on track to double its budget. However, I hope that the administration will reconsider its requests for NSF and NASA. Neither of those critical agencies are scheduled to receive increases that would even keep pace with inflation and that just isn't wise. If we are going to keep developing a new, information-based economy, we have to invest in the research initiatives that drive that growth. This budget looks like it will fall short on that account."
Committee staff analysis of the request shows the following:
- NASA would receive a 2% increase compared to FY2001 to $14.5 billion. No major new initiatives are requested and there are specific cuts to the Space Science program (cancellation of the Pluto-Kuiper Express and the Solar Probe Mission).
- NSF receives a $56 million increase over FY2001 to $4.5 billion. Cuts to some education programs are made to make room for the President's Math and Science Partnership Initiative ($200 million to support K-12 partnerships with universities). It appears that research grants will be frozen at $3.5 billion.
- Department of Energy civilian science is not clearly broken out in this preliminary budget. DOE as a whole is requesting $19 billion, a drop of $700 million from the FY2001 level. Press reports indicate a 7 percent cut in renewable energy and conservation research.
- The Department of Commerce request does not allow for a clear analysis of what happens to NOAA and NIST. However, the budget does indicate that the administration wants to suspend funding for the Advanced Technology Program. This program has provided critical support of cooperative research efforts between companies and between companies and research universities.
- The National Institutes of Health is the only civilian science agency scheduled to receive an increase in funding with a request of $23.1 billion, a 14% increase over FY2001. This keeps NIH on schedule for a doubling in funding in 5 years.
- The request for the Department of the Interior also has few details on research programs, but press reports indicate cuts of up to 22 percent in the budget of the United States Geological Survey.
- Finally, there is an error in the budget authority tables with regard to general science. Table S-10 (p. 195) shows what seems to be a $1.3 billion increase in the request for FY2002 for general science (NSF, NASA and DOE science; function 250). However, the prose describes a cumulative increase across those agencies of only $300 million. Staff believe that the aeronautics portion of NASA's budget did not get moved to the transportation line (function 400) thereby greatly over-estimating the actual request for science programs in function 250.