It is expected that the Obama Administration will send Congress its much-anticipated FY 2010 budget request by early next month. The Administration has been successful in keeping a tight lid on this request: except for the budget overview issued in February (http://www.aip.org/fyi/2009/025.html), and an April 6 statement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, no further information has been released.
The preparation of a budget request usually takes many months. As an example, President Bush’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Management and Budget distributed a memo to department and agency heads outlining that Administration’s FY 2008 R&D budget priorities 224 days before the request was sent to Congress. It has been only 85 days since the inauguration, and John Holdren was confirmed as the new Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy less than a month ago.
Congress has started its work on the FY 2010 budget. On April 2, the House and Senate approved separate versions of a budget blueprint that will guide the appropriations process; differences will be resolved when Congress reconvenes next week. This blueprint has various categories of spending, one of which is Function 250 for “General Science” that includes funding for the National Science Foundation, the DOE Office of Science, and NASA (except for aviation.) The House and Senate Function 250 numbers are identical. The report issued by the House Budget Committee states:
“The budget resolution total for this function equals the level requested by the President for FY 2010, and for all five years in the budget window. . . . This funding will support the science and technology goals of the House Leadership’s Innovation Agenda and the America COMPETES Act: to put NSF funding on a path toward doubling, to train more qualified science and math teachers, and to invest in basic research on energy technologies.”
The House Budget Resolution also contained the following statement:
SEC. 603. SENSE OF THE HOUSE ON PROMOTING AMERICAN INNOVATION AND ECONOMIC COMPETITIVENESS.
It is the sense of the House that--
(1) the House should provide sufficient investments to enable our Nation to continue to be the world leader in education, innovation, and economic growth as envisioned in the goals of the America COMPETES Act;
(2) this resolution builds on significant funding provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for scientific research and education in Function 250 (General Science, Space and Technology), Function 270 (Energy), Function 300 (Natural Resources and Environment), Function 500 (Education, Training, Employment, and Social Services), and Function 550 (Health);
(3) the House also should pursue policies designed to ensure that American students, teachers, businesses, and workers are prepared to continue leading the world in innovation, research, and technology well into the future; and
(4) this resolution recognizes the importance of the extension of investments and tax policies that promote research and development and encourage innovation and future technologies that will ensure American economic competitiveness.
House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) released a statement on the House budget resolution:
“The funding outlined in the budget resolution will give Congress the ability to keep the promises that it made in the America COMPETES Act, as well as provide NASA the support it needs to fulfill the missions the nation has asked of it. I look forward to working with [Budget Committee] Chairman Spratt and the Administration to ensure we end up with a fiscally responsible budget that will put our nation back on track, especially creating - and keeping - jobs. Investments in science, technology, and education can help us restore our economic competitiveness by meeting our growing need for energy we produce at home, understanding and mitigating climate change, and ensuring that we have a both a workforce prepared for the jobs of the future and the good jobs for them to take.”
After the House and Senate agree on a final budget resolution, the appropriations subcommittees will be told how much money they each have to “spend” in writing their FY 2010 bills. This figure is very important – if it is too low the subcommittee will be under considerable pressure to pare funding for departments and agencies under its jurisdiction. During the last two presidential transitions, it has taken four to eight weeks after a final budget resolution is adopted for the appropriations subcommittees to issue their first bills. Expect the House Appropriations Committee to move first.
The appropriations subcommittees will also be holding hearings on different parts of the Administration’s FY 2010 request. There is speculation that these hearings may be in an abbreviated format this year because of time constraints.
In another development, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation sent an April 6 letter to President Obama praising “the extraordinary leadership you have shown in advancing the nation’s investment in basic research, particularly research in the physical sciences and engineering.” Later, the letter states: “While we await the details of your FY10 budget, we are pleased that the outline you announced last month signals a strong continuing investment in NSF and in DOE basic science. We anticipate that you will also propose in your complete budget to continue to strengthen the nation’s investment in NIST as well as basic research at the Department of Defense.”
This letter was signed by more than two hundred organizations, including the American Institute of Physics and several of its Member Societies: the Acoustical Society of America, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical Society, the American Physical Society, AVS- Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces and Processing, and the Optical Society of America. For a complete list see “Task Force Correspondence” at this site; the letter follows:
“Dear Mr. President:
“On behalf of the nation’s business, scientific, and higher education communities, we wish to commend you and your Administration for the extraordinary leadership you have shown in advancing the nation’s investment in basic research, particularly research in the physical sciences and engineering. Working with a Congress that shares this priority, you have taken critical steps that will build long-term economic growth, address the nation’s most significant challenges, and maintain our nation’s global edge in technology and innovation.
“We are especially pleased with the attention to research, as well as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, in the two appropriations measures you have already signed into law – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Omnibus Appropriations Act for FY09. The Recovery Act makes significant one-time investments in the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as other vital research agencies, that will create jobs over the next two years, assist our efforts to address our energy and climate challenges, and lay the foundation for our nation’s long-term innovation, global competitiveness, and economic growth. The FY09 bill also includes significant resources for these and other agencies, an important step toward our mutual goal of significant, sustainable, and predictable annual increases for basic research funding.
“While we await the details of your FY10 budget, we are pleased that the outline you announced last month signals a strong continuing investment in NSF and in DOE basic science. We anticipate that you will also propose in your complete budget to continue to strengthen the nation’s investment in NIST as well as basic research at the Department of Defense.
“Mr. President, we recognize the challenges our nation faces are more serious than those faced by any new President in recent history. We are confident that investments in science will result in new discoveries and innovations that can address many of these challenges. And we stand ready to work with you and the Congress to keep our nation on this path.”