Science Committee Praises and Criticizes FY 2005 S&T Request

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Publication date: 
8 March 2004

On March 4, the House Science Committee released a 14-page review of President Bush's FY 2005 request for key science and technology programs. These "Views and Estimates"are intended to guide the House Budget Committee, and Congress more generally, in making funding decisions for the fiscal year that starts on October1.

About half of the committee members signed this document. As expected, the percentage was higher for Republican members (70%) than Democratic members (30%). The committee's new Ranking Minority Member, Bart Gordon (Tennessee) signed these Views and Estimates, as did six other Democrats.

This is a highly-readable report providing a general review of proposed science and technology spending as well as commentary on specific agencies. It can be accessed at Selections from this document follow; paragraphs have been combined in the interest of space:

BACKGROUND: "As the House and Senate begin consideration of the President's Fiscal Year 2005 budget request, there is no question that a great deal of debate will revolve around the budget deficit and its impact on the long-term economic health of the Nation. As these discussions move forward, the Science Committee urges Congress to recognize the importance and contributions of science and technology to productivity and economic growth - and consequently - fiscal security. Indeed, nothing benefits federal revenues over the long-term as much as accelerated economic growth, and nothing fuels long-term growth more than science and technology. Further, the strength of the U.S. scientific enterprise has long been a crucial component of America's national security."

OVERALL R&D FUNDING: "The Committee believes the proposed funding for basic research is insufficient. Funding short-term development at the expense of longer-term basic and applied research is not advisable, and neglects those portions of R&D where government support is most crucial. The Committee also believes that the budget must fully consider appropriate balances between defense and non- defense R&D spending and between biomedical and nonbiomedical spending. At $69 and $29 billion, respectively, the R&D budgets of DOD and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) comprise 75 percent of the total R&D budget, including 93 percent of the FY05 increases. While fully acknowledging the important contributions of these agencies, the Committee urges that similar attention be given to other important R&D agencies, such as NSF, DOE, and NIST."

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: "Most of the requested R&D funding for DHS ($1.04 billion) is for the S&T Directorate, which receives a 14 percent increase. A significant part of the increase is directed toward operational expansion of the BioWatch system, which is designed to monitor major cities for biological agents. Funding for more basic research programs does not fare as well. The funding for University Programs decreases dramatically, from $69 million in FY04 to $30 million in FY05. The Committee is concerned that if DHS does not make and maintain investments in basic research, including research at universities and national laboratories, the next generation of homeland security technologies will not be available against the next generation of threats.

DOE OFFICE OF SCIENCE: "The Committee believes that the Administration's FY05 request for DOE's Office of Science, which funds 40 percent of the Nation's physical science research, is inadequate. The budget proposes funding the Office at $3.4 billion, a reduction of 2 percent. This is significantly less than the $4.2 billion included in the House-passed conference report for H.R.6, The Energy Policy Act of 2003. The proposal also falls far short of the goal of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which recommended in a 2002 report that the FY04 budget request should begin bringing funding for the physical sciences into parity with that of the life sciences. DOE's Office of Science is the largest federal supporter of the civilian physical sciences, a critical component of the federal research portfolio that has been dwarfed by support for biomedical research in recent years. The Committee is particularly concerned about the future of user facilities and academic research funded by the Office of Science."

DOE ENERGY SUPPLY R&D: "The Committee supports the President's initiative calling for America to lead the world in developing hydrogen-powered automobiles and the necessary fueling infrastructure to support them, although many details have not yet been determined. The Committee is pleased that the Administration has requested $228 million for hydrogen technology programs, a 28 percent increase over FY04 enacted levels. The Committee is concerned, however, that the proposed increases in hydrogen programs come at the expense of much of the rest of the R&D funded by DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account. For example, biomass R&D, which is crucial to increasing our energy independence while helping American farmers, receives a significant cut."

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, NIST: "The budget request includes $422 million for the core NIST laboratory functions (the Scientific and Technical Research and Services account, or STRS) in FY05 - an increase of about $84 million (according to updated NIST figures), or almost 25 percent. The Committee strongly supports this request, which is especially needed to restore steep funding cuts NIST's base programs sustained in FY04. The full increase is necessary to restore the cuts."

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE: MEP and ATP: "The Committee is concerned that the $39 million request for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership fails to restore the devastating 65 percent cut in FY04. MEP provides smaller manufacturers with technical assistance to become more competitive, and it has a proven track record; numerous studies bear out its contributions to the economy. The FY04 level of funding will result in a downsizing process (currently underway) that will close many MEP centers and potentially cripple the program. The proposed budget for FY05 would only reinforce this trend. The Committee believes that it will reduce the effectiveness of MEP at a time when it is most needed. The Committee continues to support ATP and is disappointed that the Administration has included no funds for ATP in the FY05 request. The Committee supports funding the program at the FY04 enacted level ($169 million)."

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION: "The FY05 budget request for NSF is $5.75 billion, an increase of 3 percent, or $167million over the FY04 level. This insufficient request is $1.6 billion below the funding level in the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-368). The budget requests the largest percentage increases for personnel and administrative initiatives and for construction of major research facilities. The Research and Related Activities account, which contains the funds for most NSF research grants programs, receives a 4.7 percent increase. However, actual spending on research programs would increase by only 2.8 percent because the Administration transfers into the research account funds that would be used to close out the Math and Science Partnerships program (an education and human resources program). While recognizing that budget realities may not allow Congress to fund NSF at the guidance level provided in the current authorization, the Committee still believes that significant increases for NSF's overall budget are warranted. Congress should provide as much funding as possible to strengthen support for core science and education programs, and priority areas such as information technology and nanoscale science and engineering research." "The Committee strongly opposes the proposed cuts for programs in NSF's Education and Human Resources (EHR) account. The Committee is especially troubled by the proposal to eliminate the NSF's Math and Science Partnership Program. This program was specifically authorized as part of the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002."

NASA: "The Committee has just begun holding hearings on the President's [Moon/Mars] initiative and does not yet have a position on it. Moreover, the Committee's evaluation of the proposed initiative has already highlighted many unanswered questions about its costs. As a result, the Committee cannot yet evaluate whether NASA's overall FY 05 budget request is appropriate, or too high or too low." "The Committee is also unable to evaluate the proposed $1.1 billion FY05 budget for Biological and Physical Research, most of which would be spent on the Space Station." "While the budget for Space Science appears to be adequate, the Committee is still reviewing the projects that will be deferred or eliminated to carry out the President's proposal. Of particular interest is the Joint Dark Energy Mission, which was to have been funded by NASA and DOE. The Committee is also concerned with NASA's decision to cancel future Hubble servicing missions. Any decision to reinstate Hubble servicing missions would likely require additional funding in the FY05 budget. NASA's proposed FY05 budget for Earth Science is $1.4 billion, a decrease of nearly 3 percent from FY04 levels. The Committee believes that the budget request for these programs is inadequate to meet the pressing needs for better satellite data. The cuts, which are designed to help fund the exploration initiative, seem ill-timed when the Administration has announced a significant new global change research plan."