Marburger, Bodman, Gutierrez on President Bush's S&T Initiative

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Publication date: 
3 February 2006

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Yesterday afternoon, the Department of Energy released a statement on the FY 2007 budget request. Next Monday, President Bush will ask Congress for a 14.1% or $505 million increase over current year funding for the Office of Science and its programs. The statement explained: "This budget put's DOE's Office of Science on the path to doubling its budget by 2016."

There has been considerable activity at the White House since the State of the Union Address regarding President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative. In advance of next Monday's budget presentations, four cabinet secretaries and OSTP Director John Marburger participated in a briefing on February 1. The following are selections from the White House transcript of this briefing that are of particular interest to the physics community, including projections of new researchers that could be hired under this initiative, physical sciences funding, foreign workers, the future scientific workforce, earmarking, and foreign competition.


"The first thing the President called for was increasing our research and development. And as it refers to what we have in the Commerce Department, which is the National Institute of Standards and Technology, we'll be adding 600 new scientists. And I should tell you that in the National Institute of Standards and Technology, we have had three Nobel prize winners. So this is truly a gem within the federal government."


"On the high-skilled immigration, the President has mentioned that we bring the best and the brightest to our country, we give them the best education that money can buy, and then we send them home so they can compete with another company. And what we're saying now is once they get the degree and once they get the best education in the world, let's find a way of keeping them here."


"Our people who deal in this area - and they are the professional scientists and administrators of scientists - truly believe that this is a historic opportunity for them and for our department. It is, in effect, a renaissance for United States science and global competitiveness. Our department's . . . Office of Science is the major supporter of research and development in the physical sciences - mathematics, physics and chemistry - in the federal government; in fact, in the country. And we have had a growth under the President's leadership in overall research, but a large part of that has been in the life sciences. And if you look at the physical sciences and support for research in the physical sciences, it has been much closer to flat that increasing."


"So I'm particularly pleased to take note that the competitiveness initiative that the President announced last night will allow us to support about 2,600 more researchers in fiscal year ‘07 than it will in ‘06. So it will translate itself into a material change in our ability to provide resources for supporting the scientific endeavor of our country."

Secretary Bodman later said these DOE researchers will be laboratory employees and university students and faculty.


"I might mention here that we are very mindful of the question of congressionally mandated projects and support. Our department is challenged by that. And I would hope that our Congress would take to heart the President's request that we focus on those areas that we believe, after a lot of thought and a lot of attention, really will lead us in this direction, and that we not be hampered by individual projects and programs that have become all too great a part of our budgets."


"So what has been presented to you and has been presented to the country last night by the President is an initiative that seeks to pick the best from a number of alternatives. There are some things that, frankly, we would like to do - looking at it from a parochial standpoint - but tradeoffs have to be made. These have been very tough times, as you know, from a budgetary standpoint. And I can just tell you that speaking for the Energy Department, but I also know for the National Science Foundation, and I think I can speak for Secretary Gutierrez on this, that we're thrilled with this emphasis on the physical sciences and on research in the physical sciences. And then we will work on this over time and see what additional components might be brought and made available."


"I want to emphasize that this vision that the President portrayed last night in his speech integrates to an unusual, and I think, unprecedented extent the concept of an adequately prepared workforce with the role of leadership in science and technology that we have to have to maintain the vitality of our economy.

"The vitality of our economy in the 21st century really demands that we manage as a federal government the investment in workforce and an adequately prepared workforce, and the tools that that workforce needs to maintain American preeminence in science and technology.

"And we are preeminent. This year the President will request a record $137 billion for the R&D budget, which is substantially greater than any other nation. With 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. employs about a third of all the scientists and engineers in the world. With 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. funds in public and private sector together, about a third of all the research and development that is performed in the world. So we're ahead, but we know that we have to work to keep up, and to keep up our leadership."


"So the President made a strong commitment last night to double within 10 years the budgets of the agencies that have the greatest impact on physical science, which is the infrastructure for all the sciences. The cost of this program over 10 years is $50 billion for the R&D part, but that's augmented by another program to make it possible for more companies to participate in the R&D tax credit. The President has called for years to make this tax credit permanent, and we hope that Congress will see fit to recognize the value of doing that and also improving it so that it's more accessible to more countries.

"The major cost of this program for the first year will be in the cost of the tax credits, $4.6 billion. The cost of the doubling of the physical science research agencies, priority agencies is $910 million in the first year, and extending out over 10 years, that amounts to $50 billion over 10 years - a major investment in the research infrastructure of our nation."


"I do want to say a word about these priority agencies. You've already heard about the Department of Energy and the NIST research program. The National Science Foundation is a major player in this program, the American Competitiveness Initiative. The National Science Foundation is the lead agency for two of the major physical science research programs in the nation, the National Nanotechnology Initiative, and the Networking and Information Technology R&D Initiative, both of which are interagency programs that are vital to the economic competitiveness of the future."

In response to a question, Marburger added:

"I do want to emphasize this is a prioritization exercise. This initiative takes the recommendations and actual consensus on the actual need to support physical science in these times as a foundation for future economic competitiveness, identifies these three agencies and makes a commitment to increase their budgets. It does not make that commitment for all of science. Some areas of science are quite healthy. Some areas of science are in special situations - National Institutes of Health has received healthy increases and funding is maintained at a very healthy level in that area. NASA and other big science agencies have their own programs, and you'll hear more about those next week."


"And I do want to support the call for the responsible management not only of these new funds, but of all funds that are identified for research and development for science and for those areas where we really know to make our investments in the wisest possible way. We understand the process of identifying priority programs - peer review, merit-based reviews and assessments of proposals that come in from investigators across the nation with responsible panels and well-planned programs. That's the way to do it. The United States excels in the productivity of its research because it has excellent mechanisms for identifying the priority areas.

"When Congress designates programs, sometimes those programs fit within those parameters, and sometimes they don't. The only way that we can assure the best possible application of these funds is by sticking to the peer review process and making sure that congressionally designated programs satisfy the requirements that we have for best practices. So the President made a strong call last night for Congress to avoid earmarking this program, and I think it's essential that we support him on this."


"We're not responding to a threat; we're maintaining a leadership role. I believe the strength of this nation is such that all other countries are trying do it the way we do it, and the only way that we can maintain our leadership role is to do it better. So these initiatives that the President outlined last night are initiatives to strengthen the foundations that we understand, that are in place, and that can be more productive with additional resources.

"Getting them to work together, making a long-term commitment that's based on a vision for a productive and leading role for the United States among these world economies is what it's going to take -- to galvanize the American people to pay attention to these things, study math, get parents to understand the importance of taking action at home to make these things work is what it's going to take.

"So this isn't a specific response to a specific threat. We think that it's important for the people of China and India to have improved standards of living. We want them to be able to make products for their own society to consume, and we want to be part of that market, too. So this is not about going up against China and India. This is about leading the world with models and productivity that keep our society strong."

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