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President's budget proposal increases mostly defense, homeland security

by David J. Hanson
February 9, 2004 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 82, ISSUE 6

Federal spending for R&D in fiscal 2005 would rise 5% under the budget proposed by President George W. Bush last week. But most of the increase goes to developmental research at the Departments of Defense and of Homeland Security, leaving virtually no increases for basic and applied research at most other agencies.

Overall, proposed R&D spending totals $132 billion, a 5% increase above levels estimated for 2004 and the highest amount ever sought for science and technology programs. Of this, $69 billion is designated to DOD, a 7% rise. The only other agency looking at significantly higher R&D spending is Homeland Security. At $1.2 billion, DHS would receive a 15% increase in total R&D from 2004.

At a briefing on the Administration's R&D budget, John H. Marburger III, science adviser to the President and director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy, defended the small increase in science spending by noting that the total is in line with historic trends--that is, about 10% of discretionary domestic spending.

"This is an Administration that has been very favorable to R&D," Marburger said. Analyzing federal R&D spending using a method recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, he said the Administration is proposing to spend about $60 billion on science and technology programs next year. However, that is about the same as the spending for fiscal 2004.

At specific agencies, NIH is set for a 3% increase for next year, evenly divided among the various institutes, to $26.5 billion. This slim rise, following a similar increase for 2004, has NIH supporters worried about maintaining the programs the agency began during the five-year doubling process that ended in fiscal 2003.

The National Science Foundation is also slated for a 3% rise, to $5.7 billion. Much of the increase will support interdisciplinary activities and social and behavioral science programs. Mathematics and physical science research would get only a 2% increase, to $1.1 billion.

Some agencies' budgets will be cut under the President's proposal. Among these are science and technology programs at the Department of Energy, down about 2% to $5.4 billion; a 9% cut for R&D at USDA to $1.9 billion; a 12% cut for research at EPA to $725 million; and a decrease of 14% in Department of Commerce R&D to just $832 million.

Immediate congressional reaction to the budget proposal was rather negative. For example, Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Science Committee, was disappointed. "We just have to find a way to do better," Boehlert said in a statement. He added, "While we are still reviewing the specific budgets of individual agencies, some glaringly bad decisions already stand out."

A detailed report on the Administration's 2005 R&D budget proposal will appear in the Feb. 16 issue of C&EN.



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