During his Monday night State of the Union address, President Bush signaled his continued support for his American Competitiveness Initiative. First announced in his January 2006 State of the Union (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/016.html ), the President proposed doubling in ten years the collective budgets for the DOE Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the research programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The resulting appropriations bills have fallen considerably short of the figures needed to keep the Initiative's budget doubling on track. In its request a year ago, the National Science Foundation asked for an FY 2008 budget of $6,429.0 million; it received $6,065.0 million. The DOE Office of Science request was $4,397.9 million; it received (after subtracting earmarks) $3,894.2 million. The FY 2008 request for the research programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology was $500.5 million; the final bill provided $440.5 million. In all, the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed by Congress and signed by the President provided $927.7 million less than the Administration's request for the three agencies identified in the American Competitiveness Initiative.
Concerns have been raised that the increases needed to keep the budgets on a doubling track might have caused the Administration to reconsider its FY 2009 requests for the three agencies. In his remarks last Monday night, the President signaled that he was holding to his Initiative. He told Congress:
"To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on Earth."
The President's words are of particular note, since the White House announced that "The President's FY 2009 Budget will hold the rate of growth for non-security discretionary spending to less than one percent, well below the rate of inflation."
The senior Majority and Minority Members of the House Science and Technology Committee responded to the President's address. Said Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) (in part):
“The first session of the 110th Congress was one of the most productive and bipartisan in our history. In that time, the Science and Technology Committee helped enact two major pieces of legislation - a bill to keep our country competitive and improve math and science education (HR 2272, the America COMPETES Act) [see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/085.html] and a bill to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy through expanded energy technology development (HR 6, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007).
“I'm glad that in his State of the Union speech tonight the President says we need to make sure our children graduate prepared for the jobs of the 21st Century by strengthening math and science education. However, the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) has never included a specific science education component, and his budget last year proposed cutting funding for K-12 education activities at the National Science Foundation. This year, the President’s FY2009 budget needs to better reflect the priorities of the America COMPETES Act, which he signed into law last year."
"This year, the Committee will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Just as this Committee responded to the challenges presented by the space age back in 1958, this year we will continue working to address the emerging challenges facing our nation. We must embrace the American Spirit of innovation if we are to protect U.S. global competitiveness, invest in math and science education, advance the development of energy technologies, address the threats of climate change, embrace the opportunities presented by nanotechnology, better protect our homeland, and ensure the continued success of all of NASA's missions. Each of these areas will take center stage on our agenda."
"I agree with the President when he said that our actions this Congress will affect the security and prosperity of our nation long after this session has ended. I’m happy to put forth the bipartisan cooperative spirit found on this Committee up as a model for the Congress to get things done in the coming year for the American people.”
Ranking Minority Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) said the following about the American Competitiveness Initiative:
"I also applaud the President’s continued support of his American Competitiveness Initiative. It is important for our country to double the funding for physical science research and development, so we remain competitive in the global marketplace. As Ranking Member of the Science and Technology Committee, I supported the America COMPETES Act that passed Congress and was signed by the President, advancing these goals. I share the President’s disappointment that Congress did not fund this important initiative, and I will continue to work to support full funding for research and development.
“I look forward to working with the President and my colleagues on the Science and Technology Committee to advance the President’s forward-looking proposals.”
President Bush sends his FY 2009 budget request to Congress next Monday, February 4.