Top Democrat on Appropriations Committee Outlines Impacts on R&D from Funding Cuts

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Publication date: 
10 October 2012

Rep.  Norm Dicks (D-WA), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee,  has outlined what he anticipates will be the impacts of dramatic reductions in  departmental and agency budgets that are scheduled to occur on January 2,  2013.  In a 15-page report   that was released  yesterday to his colleagues in the House, Dicks  wrote:

“My  purpose here is to illustrate the consequences of an automatic,  across-the-board, uniform percentage reduction prescribed by the Budget Control  Act (BCA). This letter will examine the impact of sequestration on the whole  range of Federal responsibilities and, I hope, help make the case for Congress  to act responsibly by agreeing to a more sensible approach to deficit  reduction.”

This  letter is the latest report on the impacts these funding cuts could have on  R&D programs.  The Office of  Management and Budget issued a report   in September, followed by two reports  by  the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Information  Technology and Innovation Foundation.   All four reviews concur that the damage to federally-supported research  and development programs would be highly significant.

Excerpts  from the Dicks’ report pertaining to R&D programs follow:

National  Science Foundation:

“Funding  for the National Science Foundation would be cut by approximately $580 million  compared to FY 2012, including a cut of $471 million from research grants and  $68 million from STEM education programs. At this level, NSF would fund 1,600  fewer research and education grants, supporting approximately 19,300 fewer  researchers, students, and technical support personnel than in FY 2012.”

Department  of Energy:

“Sequestration  would cut $423 million from Science and ARPA-E at the Department of Energy.  Federally supported basic research has been a reliable source of new knowledge  and new products. This cut would significantly curtail fundamental research in  areas of science that are a key to our nation’s prosperity and to preserving  America’s place as the world leader in science and technology. Given the long  time horizons necessary to make significant progress in the area of science,  Federal support of fundamental research is necessary and an investment that the  private sector, with its required attention to short term earnings, cannot  support.”


“Funding  cuts would cripple NASA’s efforts to establish U.S. commercial capability to  transport American astronauts to the International Space Station. These cuts  would effectively extend the period of U.S. dependence on Russia and its Soyuz  spacecraft for these flights, now that the space shuttle has been retired.  Thus, the cut would not be a true savings, as the U.S. would need to pay Russia  for additional Soyuz flights, at a cost of at least $63 million per seat.”

National  Institutes of Health:

“The  National Institutes of Health would lose about $2.5 billion from sequestration.  A large portion of NIH’s budget provides research project grants. Under  sequestration, about 2,400 fewer research project grants would be made to  universities and institutes throughout the country for research into the causes  and treatments of diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy.”

Centers  for Disease Control and Prevention:

“Centers  for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would have about $525 million less to  prevent and detect outbreaks of infectious diseases like flu, tuberculosis, and  HIV/AIDS and to improve prevention and screening for chronic diseases such as  diabetes and cancer. For example, sequestration of the budgetary resources for  grants that help support breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income  uninsured and underinsured women would mean that between 35,000 to 45,000 fewer  screenings could be provided through this program.”

National  Weather Service:

“The  8.2 percent funding cuts would significantly impact the National Weather  Service’s forecasting capability. Cuts to NOAA weather satellite development  would result in a 2- to 4-year period in which weather data from NOAA’s  polar-orbiting satellite would be unavailable, putting American communities at  greater risk from tornadoes, hurricanes and other major weather events. In  addition, up to 10 percent of the staffing and other resources for local  weather warnings and forecasts would be eliminated. Together, these budget cuts  would significantly reduce the accuracy of weather forecasts all across the  country.”

Defense  RDT&E:

“Research,  Development, Test and Evaluation accounts would also be cut, reducing funding  for the Joint Strike Fighter by $1 billion, cutting four aircraft, and reducing  advance procurement, putting the production ramp at risk for aircraft planned  in the outyears. Sequestration would reduce funding for the Aerial Refueling  Tanker program by $99.5 million and potentially slow the EMD contract. Even  though Congress accelerated risk reduction activities for the Next Generation  Bomber, sequestration will cut funding by $33.7 million.”

National  Nuclear Security Administration:

“The  National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) would also be subject to the more  substantial defense reduction. Under sequestration, NNSA Weapons activities  would be cut by $861 million. With this reduced budget, NNSA would no longer be  able to support modernization of the weapons complex, including required life  extension programs to ensure the nation’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, reliable  and effective. Further, NNSA would not have the resources to maintain a level  of emergency readiness commensurate with threat conditions and would be unable  to operate and respond in a timely manner, adding significant risk to the first  responders and public’s safety in the event of a radiological or nuclear  incident.

“Defense  nuclear nonproliferation efforts would also be constrained. NNSA would not have  the resources to achieve a four-year lockdown of vulnerable nuclear material,  leaving materials vulnerable to terrorist theft and undermining our national  security.”

In  his report, Dicks wrote:

“To  be clear: If sequestration takes effect, it is only because it failed to  motivate Congressional action as intended. The across-the-board cuts take  effect only because the Joint Select Committee failed, and only if, in the  ensuing year, Congress and the President fail to reach agreement on a more  sensible deficit reduction plan.”

Striking  an agreement – what many are calling “a grand bargain” – has been very difficult,  as it will entail highly controversial changes to the tax code, entitlement  programs, and spending.  Previous efforts  have failed.  In commenting on this,  Dicks states:

“There  are many reasons to prefer a grand bargain on deficit reduction to formulaic,  indiscriminate cuts in discretionary spending. In part, it is important to see  how these cuts will affect Americans in order for sequestration to motivate  Congress to agree on an alternative.”