Issue Date: November 29, 2004
Congress completed action on the fiscal 2005 federal budget last week, passing a $388 billion omnibus spend- ing bill that combines nine appropriations bills. Total discretionary spending was held to the same levels as last year, but many science and technology agencies received modest increases in support.
The major exception is the National Science Foundation, which will get $5.5 billion this year, down about $107 million from 2004 and $277 million less than President George W. Bush requested. NSF research directorates will see decreases of 2%, and the agency's education programs will fall about 10% compared with last year. This is only the third time in more than 20 years that the NSF budget has decreased.
NIH will receive less than a 2% increase for fiscal 2005, to about $28.5 billion, although that is subject to some final adjustments. This increase is about the same as the agency received last year but is a major drop from the 15% increases it received every year between 1998 and 2003.
Spending at NASA will increase $522 million from last year, to $16 billion. The unexpected increase, pushed by the President and by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who represents workers from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, allows the agency to get the space shuttle back into space next year. Some cuts are expected in NASA's R&D programs.
Laboratory programs at the National Institute of Standards & Technology would also be increased, by about 10% to $379 million. NIST's much-maligned Advanced Technology Program for industrial cost-sharing grants will receive $136 million for 2005, a 24% cut, but that's better than elimination, as the Administration and House had proposed.
Overall, the Department of Energy will receive nearly $23 billion for fiscal 2005, some $300 million less than the President's request but almost $1 billion more than last year's appropriation. The Office of Science will get $3.6 billion, roughly $200 million more than requested and $100 million above last year's amount. All Science Office programs received an increase.
Areas of heated debate include DOE's appropriation for Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, which wound up matching last year's $557 million. Although the Administration had sought $880 million, the appropriation is an Administration victory of sorts because the House had threatened to provide only $131 million in light of disputes over the use of a consumer-paid waste trust fund.
Congress also blocked Administration efforts to explore a new generation of nuclear weapons by rejecting requests for $27.6 million for a "bunker buster" nuclear bomb, $9 million for research in advanced nuclear weapons, and $30 million to speed preparation for a possible resumption of nuclear weapons testing.
The EPA budget of $8.0 billion amounts to a $300 million cut from last year's spending level but a $250 million increase over the Administration's request. It marks the agency's first reduction in recent years. Most of the cuts ($250 million) came from a $1.35 billion federal program to aid state and local sewage treatment facilities.
The President has until Dec. 3 to sign the 2005 omnibus bill into law. Government agencies covered by the bill have been operating since Oct. 1 under continuing resolutions that provide funding at fiscal 2004 levels.
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