OSTP Highlights FY 2004 Physical Sciences Request; Final PCAST Letter

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Publication date: 
19 February 2003

The Office of Science and Technology Policy issued seven budget documents with the release of the FY 2004 budget request. One of these documents was entitled, "The Physical Sciences: Research and Development Funding in the President's FY 2004 Budget." This one- page brief highlights the budget requests for NSF, DOE, and NASA, and is as follows:

"Research in the physical sciences supports health science research; leads to a better understanding of the universe; and spurs progress in a host of other areas, including information technologies, defense technologies, energy, agriculture, and the environment.

"The 2004 Budget strengthens the nation's investment in the physical sciences by making significant investments in a number of priority areas:

"National Science Foundation (NSF). The President's Budget increases the overall NSF budget by $453 million, or about nine percent. Of Note:

"NSF physical science investments alone would increase by $100 million, or 13 percent, in programs. This represents an increase of 35 percent, or $219 million, over investments of just five years ago.

"Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction (MREFC) would receive a 60 percent, $202 million, increase which would greatly help fund MREFC Projects approved by the National Science Board.

"The MREFC investments also include $60 million in funding for 'Ice Cube', a unique neutrino observatory at the South Pole.

"Department of Energy (DOE). The President's Budget provides $5.2 billion for federal science and technology at the Department of Energy, a three percent increase from the 2003 request. Of Note:

"The FreedomFUEL initiative will provide a total of $3.2 billion, including $720 million in new funding over the next five years to develop the technologies and infrastructure needed to produce, store, and distribute hydrogen fuel for use in fuel cell vehicles and electricity generation.

"The DOE Office of Science would receive $3.3 billion, an increase of about two percent. However, since construction funding for the Spallation Neutron Source will be reallocated, the available funds for Office of Science core research programs actually increases by $117 million or 4.2 percent, with priority given to operating the Office's existing suite of large national scientific user facilities.

"The Office of Science at the Department of Energy almost triples its investment in unique nanoscale science research centers, with a proposed increase of $63 million to begin construction, design, or equipment procurement for four new centers, bringing the total number of funded nano-centers to five.

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The NASA budget provides nearly $9.2 billion for federal science and technology programs at NASA, a 5-percent increase, with $4 billion for space science. Of Note:

"A new $31 million investment in optical communications technology would increase the scientific and educational outcomes of future planetary missions.

"Two new missions to undertake research at the intersection of physics and astronomy, LISA and CON-X, would commence with $59 million. LISA is the laser interferometer space antenna (space-based gravity wave detector) and CON-X is a next-generation x-ray telescope for, among other things, imaging x-ray emission from black holes.

"A Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter Mission, to search for life on Jupiter's moons and demonstrate breakthrough power propulsion technologies, would receive $93 million."


At about the same time, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released the final version of the letter first drafted on August 28, 2002 (see FYI #101 in 2002.) There was a reworked version of this letter dated October 10 (see FYI #7 in 2003.) During the August conference call that reviewed this draft letter there was considerable discussion about federal funding for the physical sciences. The PCAST web site states that four reports were drafted and approved by PCAST in 2002, and provides the following link, www.ostp.gov/PCAST/FINAL%20R&D%20REPORT%20WITH%20LETTERS.pdf to the report on "Assessing U.S. R&D Investment." In an October 16 cover letter found on this site to President Bush, PCAST co-chairs John H. Marburger and E. Floyd Kvamme state:

"In brief, the report explores issues surrounding the historical patterns of federal investments in science and technology, and provides several recommendations on how to address these issues. The PCAST understood that the doubling of the National Institutes of Health's budget has been completed and the current budget situation is constrained. Accordingly, the report suggests targeting the physical sciences and certain engineering fields (that cross-cut several agencies) for budgetary reallocation given their importance to our nation's economic well-being and competitiveness in order to better balance the available budget dollars."

An accompanying letter from G. Wayne Clough, Chair of the panel writing the report, to Marburger and Kvamme, outlines the panel's first recommendation:

"All evidence points to a need to improve funding levels for physical sciences and engineering. Continuation of present patterns will lead to an inability to sustain our nation's technical and scientific leadership. We recommend that beginning with the FY04 budget and carrying through the next four fiscal years, funding for physical sciences and engineering across the relevant agencies be adjusted upward to bring them collectively to parity with the life sciences."