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Volume 87 Issue 19 | p. 5 | News of The Week
Issue Date: May 11, 2009

Budget Boosts R&D Support

President's fiscal 2010 budget provides gains across science agencies
Department: Government & Policy

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA is proposing to spend $147.6 billion in fiscal 2010 to support federal R&D. The 2010 budget, released on May 7, represents a 0.4%, or $555 million, increase over the 2009 R&D budget.

The detailed 2010 budget request expands on the budget outline released by the Administration in February (C&EN, March 9, page 4). Consistent with that outline, neither the fiscal 2009 nor fiscal 2010 budget includes funds allocated under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, which provides more than $18.3 billion for R&D over the two-year period.

"We in the science and technology community have done better than just about any other constituency" in the 2010 budget proposal, said John P. Holdren, director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy, at a press briefing. The reason, Holdren continued, is that "we have in the White House a President that gets it."

The emphasis on basic and applied research in the budget underscores the President's belief that science is important to the country's future. The proposed budget tags some $59.0 billion—a 0.6%, or $376 million, increase from 2009—for this area.

Research investments along with money for development—which represents $84.1 billion of the R&D budget for 2010—will be used to invest in four key priorities: basic research, clean-energy research, national security research, and biomedical and health research.

The proposed 2010 budget would keep three key physical science agencies on track to double their budgets by 2016. For 2010, NSF is slated to grow by 8.5% to $7.0 billion, with the allocation for R&D set to rise by 9.4% to $5.3 billion. The Department of Energy Office of Science's budget for 2010 would jump 3.5% to $4.9 billion, while that of NIST would grow by 1.2% to $652 million.

Details of Obama's first budget rolled out.
Credit: Ryan Kelly/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom

Federal interagency science and technology programs would see a mixed bag of growth under the President's proposed budget. For example, the Climate-Change Science Program, in which about a dozen R&D agencies participate, would grow by 2.3% to $2.0 billion in 2010, but the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which includes 11 R&D agencies, would fall by 1.0% to $1.6 billion in 2010.

Carrying through with his promise to tackle wasteful federal spending, Obama's proposal includes a list of 121 activities to be terminated, reduced, or revised to yield savings. According to the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB), nearly $17 billion can be saved in 2010 by taking action on the identified programs, which were selected after a line-by-line review of the budget.

Developing the list is an effort to "reorient government activities to things that work," said OMB Director Peter R. Orszag during a teleconference. Among the programs on the list for termination are DOE's Yucca Mountain Repository Program and DOE's Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, which aims to develop commercial-scale hydrogen production technologies that use heat and/or electricity from next-generation nuclear energy systems.

Holdren noted that there appeared to be little on that list from the R&D domain. However, he added, "it's always possible to do better," and everyone is taking a hard look at their agency budgets to cut inefficiencies.

"As we all know, we are in a very bad spell economically for our country and the world," Holdren said. The President clearly understands that "investments in science and technology are just that—investments that are going to pay off in countless ways in the short term, the medium term, and the long term," he added.

 
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