Yesterday the White House announced that the Administration will send its FY 2012 budget request to Congress on Monday, February 14. The submission is a week later than usual because the confirmation of the new director of the Office of Management and Budget was delayed.
The development of the budget request was undoubtedly made more difficult because Congress has not passed any of the FY 2011 appropriations bills. Making it even more complicated is the effort being made by House Republicans to reduce FY 2011 spending to FY 2008 levels.
President Obama recommended in his State of the Union that non-security spending be frozen for five years except for defense, homeland security, and veterans’ programs. Importantly, he advocated that government spending increase for science and education.
Following the speech, the White House released a document providing additional detail about the FY 2012 budget request, selections of which follow:
“In his State of the Union, President Obama spoke of the need to maintain America’s leadership in a rapidly changing world so that our economy is competitive – growing and working for all Americans. To do so, he is putting forward a plan to help the United States win the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our global competition. At the same time, the President understands the need to reform the way our government does business and take responsibility for our deficit – by investing in what makes America stronger and cutting what doesn’t. “Innovate: The President is calling for new investments in American innovation. The President’s Budget will help increase the nation’s R&D investments, as a share of GDP, to its highest levels since President Kennedy.”
“Educate: The President understands that to win the future, we have to win the race to educate our children. Building on the success of Race to the Top, he is calling on Congress to re-define and right-size the federal role in education, by replacing No Child Left Behind with a new law that raises expectations, challenges failure, rewards success, and provides greater flexibility for schools to innovate and improve results for their students. The President is also pledging to prepare an additional 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and math teachers by the end of the decade.”
The document describes these initiatives as follows:
“A new commitment to supporting clean energy technology, paid for by ending taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuels: The President’s Budget will propose increasing clean energy technology funding by a third compared to 2010, including an expansion of the successful ARPA-E research program and a doubling of the number of Energy Innovation Hubs operating around the country. These Hubs will allow America’s scientists and engineers to gather the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy. The President’s Budget will also focus on high-value research on clean energy deployment, including more than doubling investments in energy efficiency and a more than 85 percent increase in renewable energy investment. These investments will support the ‘$1 a Watt’ initiative to make solar energy cost competitive; increased funding for 24-hour geothermal renewable energy; and industrial efficiency to keep U.S. manufacturing competitive. To ensure that we make these investments without adding to the deficit, the President called for ending the approximately $4 billion per year in tax subsidies to oil, gas and other fossil fuel producers.”
“Putting 1 million advanced technology vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015: In 2008, the President set an ambitious goal of putting 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015 -- which would put us on a path to reducing oil consumption by 785 million barrels by 2030. . . . President Obama will propose in his Budget a new effort to support electric vehicle manufacturing and adoption in the U.S. through improved consumer rebates, investments in R&D, and competitive programs to encourage communities that invest in electric vehicle infrastructure.”
“Preparing 100,000 new STEM teachers: President Obama has proposed efforts to prepare 100,000 new teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math -- key skills for the best jobs in America. The President’s plan will expand promising and effective teacher preparation models and prepare more of the nation’s top STEM graduates for a teaching career.”
The day after the State of the Union, Energy Secretary Steven Chu appeared in a fifty minute on-line town hall to discuss the President’s clean energy and innovation agenda. Chu reiterated Obama’s call for Americans to respond to a new “Sputnik moment,” saying that “we are no longer the technology leaders in all sectors.” Chu said the Administration will seek funding for three new Energy Innovation Hubs.
In other comments, Chu described R&D on new batteries at Argonne National Laboratory, other research at ARPA-E, and efforts underway at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to make nuclear power plants more efficient. In responding to questions on nuclear energy he said “the waste issue is a solvable issue,” and said the Blue Ribbon Commission looking at this problem would report its findings this summer. “I’m a big fan of small modular reactors,” he later added.
The Department of Energy will hold similar town hall meetings with other officials in coming months.