Earlier this month, the American Association for the Advancement of Science sponsored a seminar on the impacts of last month's election. The speakers at this meeting offered key insights that should be required reading for those interested in science policy. This is the first in a series of FYIs that provide a transcript of selections from these thought-provoking presentations.
The three speakers were:
Former Rep. John Porter (R-IL): Porter chaired the House appropriations subcommittee that provided NIH with significantly higher budgets. He is now a partner in a Washington law firm and the chair-elect of Research!America, which advocates for higher budgets for medical research.
Bob Palmer: Palmer is minority staff director for the House Science Committee. Palmer's tenure on Capitol Hill began in the late 1970s when he was an AAAS Fellow. He will be leaving his post at the end of this month.
Kathleen Frankovic: Frankovic is the director of surveys for CBS News. Her unit designs and implements surveys for CBS News and the CBS News/New York Times polls.
AAAS has a complete webcast of this seminar at http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/election/12012004.shtml
REVIEW OF, AND OUTLOOK ON, SCIENCE BUDGETS:
"The Administration's priority, we have to remind ourselves of this, is not health issues, but education. And the President I think will press very strongly for more funding for primary and secondary education. It is a priority not only of the Administration but of many in Congress, including many Democrats. And health, of course, was not a major issue in the campaign. And therefore I think you are going to see a greater emphasis on education in the next Congress and by this Administration, and perhaps a lesser one on medical research."
"NSF, and others, as you probably are well aware, are caught in the appropriations process...where there are other powerful constituencies. For example, NSF and many of the other physical science agencies, are in with VA/HUD [appropriations committees], and the veterans have very strong political clout, particularly in time of war, particularly in this Administration, and are continuing to drain away any extra available funds. I think funding for research will have very tough sledding."
"Deficit cutting...many ran on the basis of deficits that are out of control, and being sent to Washington to do something about that. And I think that is responsible, but we have to make certain that science doesn't pay any more than its fair share in addressing that national problem."
"Science in national security will continue to fare well."
"Visas will depend, in my mind, on the terrorism situation we have. If we have a terrorist incident in the United States, the clampdown will be stronger. If not, if it's calm, then the chance for some improvement as the Administration realizes that we are losing a lot of people we need, will improve."
"The president's [NASA's space] vision is winning. Probably winning, ultimately as the years pass, at the expense of space science. There are some signs of that already. There's various scientific programs...which have been deferred or delayed already because of the demands on the NASA budget. And they are significant demands; the return to flight of the space shuttle is turning out to be much more expensive than was thought a year ago." "So the science will be impacted in NASA, I believe, more and more as the years go on."
"The Energy Science budget actually did quite well. I think there's a nice confluence of factors on the Hill: Mr. Hobson and Mr. Visclosky in the House run the Energy and Water [Appropriations] Subcommittee. They're both very, very supportive of science programs at DOE. And when the leaders managed to find a little more money for that bill in the end, those programs actually did better than NSF, better than NIH, on a percentage basis. Another thing to watch in that subcommittee is the push that Hobson and Visclosky are giving to competing future energy projects and facilities -- perhaps a lot of universities and others to participate equally in competitions with Department of Energy laboratories. They're quite serious about this. They're quite serious about competing the management and operations contracts."
"I think that some of the [Commerce Department] external programs, particularly the Advanced Technology Program, are going to be in very serious trouble. I think that Senator Hollings has essentially kept that program alive for six or eight years. He is retiring of course . . . ." "ATP, I think, is in for some very tough times. And NOAA, which benefitted also from Senator Hollings' careful attention over the years, I think, may suffer from his leaving, also."
The overall S&T budget outlook: "Grim, in a word....very grim. The budget hawks in the Congress are very focused on the non-defense discretionary budget. It's only 16% of the budget, 16%, and you don't cure a $500 billion deficit with 16% of the budget. But that's where the focus is. We're already hearing some troubling rumors at this point about what's in the [FY] 06 budget which is being worked out now between OMB and the agencies." "I think we are looking at a real zero sum game. I think if John Kerry had been elected, I'm not sure that things would have been much different. The budget's very tough."