As promised in his State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush has proposed significant increases in his fiscal 2007 budget for several agencies that fund physical science research. These increases, however, are matched by budget cuts in R&D spending at other agencies.
"In general, the science budgets this year are flat except for increases in selected high-priority agencies," said John H. Marburger III, science adviser to the President and director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy, at a briefing. The increases are part of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative.
Among the selected agencies getting increases are NSF, most National Institute for Standards & Technology programs, and the Department of Energy. NSF would receive an 8% boost to $6.0 billion, its largest increase in many years, including a 6% rise in mathematics and physical science research spending to $1.2 billion.
NIST's laboratory programs are slated for a 19% increase to $460 million, but the overall R&D funding at NIST would fall 23% to $581 million because of the proposed elimination of the Advanced Technology Program, which received $79 million in 2006, and a more than 50% cut in the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to just $46 million.
The Office of Science at DOE is also a big winner. Funding there would rise 14% under the President's budget, to $44.1 billion, including significant increases in spending on basic energy research and on scientific computing. There are proposed cuts, however, in funding for DOE research in nuclear proliferation, fossil energy, and environmental cleanup.
Disappointing numbers are proposed for NIH, which would receive exactly the same funding as in fiscal 2006: $28.5 billion. Almost all the individual research institutes would get small reductions in their budgets, but that of the NIH Office of the Director would increase 27% to $688 million to boost funding for the agency's Roadmap for Biomedical Research.
In dollar amounts, the greatest increase goes to research, development, testing, and evaluation at the Department of Defense. With a proposed 3% rise of $2.3 billion to $74.2 billion, the additional funds would all go to testing and production of new weapons systems. Basic and applied research at DOD would be cut for fiscal 2007, down more than $117 million to $5.9 billion.
Most other research agencies have little or no increases proposed for 2007. Marburger stressed that one reason for the low numbers is that the Administration eliminated all congressional earmarks that had been added to the 2006 budget. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the USDA R&D budget. It falls 17% next year to $2.0 billion, mostly because of earmark reduction.
House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), whose committee will hold the first hearings on the R&D budget this week, is pleased with the increases but concerned about some agencies. "Overall, I am elated by the President's proposals for spending on science research and education in fiscal 2007," Boehlert said. But he is less pleased with reductions in funding at NASA, where steep cuts were proposed in the Earth and space science programs and in aeronautics research. He also thinks NSF's science education programs would be underfunded and thus would contradict the President's pledge to improve science in schools.