"Our prosperity is no accident. The U.S. economy owes its strength in large measure to its willingness to build innovation capacity through the creation and growth of a world-class science and technology research enterprise and a high-quality scientific and technical education infrastructure."- Office of Management and Budget
Supporters of physical sciences research will find much to their liking in the FY 2007 budget request that President Bush sent to Congress yesterday. Under this request, funding would increase substantially for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The Administration has responded to long-standing concerns about the historical stagnation in federal support for physical sciences research. Under the president's American Competitiveness Initiative, overall funding would increase by 9.3% or $910 million for NSF, the DOE Office of Science, and NIST. The Initiative envisions funding for these agencies doubling within ten years for a total investment of $50 billion in new money.
These increases become even more striking when viewed against other budget requests in the submission. Total federal non security discretionary spending would decline 0.5% under this request. Two-thirds of all federal agencies would have less money in FY 2007 than they have in their current budgets.
The FY 2007 R&D request was discussed yesterday at a White House briefing by OSTP Director John Marburger and four senior administration officials. Marburger opened the briefing by declaring this to be "a very interesting time for science and technology." DOE Office of Science Director Ray Orbach seconded that sentiment by calling yesterday's budget release "a historic moment." Orbach, whose office would receive a 14.1% increase, said the Administration's Initiative would enable the United States to maintain its scientific preeminence. Orbach said he was "extremely grateful" for the support which the Administration had given in this request, and, looking ahead, for the "sustained momentum" that a doubling of his budget would have in coming years.
Marburger returned to the podium after Orbach departed for another budget briefing. The OSTP director discussed at some length the Administration's opposition to the rapid increase in earmarked R&D funds. Describing the validity of merit-based peer review, he said of congressional earmarking, "that is not the best use of taxpayer funds." As examples, he cited $137 million in earmarked funds in the current facility construction budget for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, $1 billion in earmarked basic research and applied research defense projects, and the 25% of the hydrogen initiative funds that were earmarked. The Administration did not request funding for earmarked projects in its budget request, Marburger said, resulting in sometimes misleading calculated percentage changes when comparing the request with current spending. An OSTP document released at yesterday's briefing stated, "To maximize the effectiveness of federally-funded research, the President calls upon Congress and the academic community to withhold securing research and facilities funding through earmarks, particularly in the ‘American Competitiveness Initiative' agencies [DOE Office of Science, NSF, and NIST]."
Also speaking at yesterday's briefing were NSF Director Arden Bement and NIST Director William Jeffrey. Bement's budget would increase 7.9% or $439 million to $6.02 billion. Said Bement, "This is a great day for NSF, and that means it's a great day for the nation." If this budget is approved by Congress, 500 more research grants would be approved in 2007, providing opportunities for an additional 6,400 scientists, students, post-doctoral fellows, and technicians. A clearly enthusiastic Jeffrey described his agency's request. After allowing for earmarks, NIST's core budget would increase 24% or $104 million above the current year.
An OMB document, "Analytical Perspectives, FY 2007" (see http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2007/) identifies several Multi-Agency R&D Priorities: Combating Terrorism R&D, Network and Information Technology R&D, Nanotechnology R&D, Climate Change R&D, and Hydrogen R&D. This document also provides the following statistics about the budget request as compared to current year spending (note that these numbers do not subtract out earmarked funds):
Federal R&D - Basic Research: Up 1%
Federal R&D - Applied Research: Down 7%
Federal R&D - Development: Up 7%
Federal R&D - Facilities and Equipment: No change
Federal Science and Technology Budget ( a category that "emphasizes research; does not count funding for defense development, testing, and evaluation; and totals less than half of Federal R&D spending"): Down 1%
Various federal agency and department budgets tracked by FYI fared differently in the FY 2007 budget request. Forthcoming issues of FYI will provide information on these requests.