Volume 88 Issue 6 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: February 8, 2010

Science Wins In 2011 Budget

Federal Spending: Nondefense R&D jumps 6% in president’s request even as overall R&D remains flat
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Economy
Keywords: Budget, 2011, Federal Spending
The President shows continued support for R&D in his 2011 budget request.
Credit: Mike Theiler/Newscom
The President shows continued support for R&D in his 2011 budget request.
Credit: Mike Theiler/Newscom

President Barack Obama delivered to Congress a $3.8 trillion budget request that includes $147.7 billion for federal R&D.

In keeping with the President’s proposed spending freeze, the R&D component, including defense R&D, is up only 0.2% over the fiscal 2010 enacted level. For nondefense R&D, however, the President is seeking $66.0 billion, a 5.9% or $3.7 billion increase over the 2010 level. The additional funds are spread across nondefense R&D agencies and will support the Administration’s priorities such as education and cleaner energy.

“We are fortunate to have in President Obama a leader who gets” how important science is to meeting our national needs, John H. Holdren, assistant to the President for science and technology and director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy, said during a press conference. The President’s spending freeze, he added, is not a “mindless” freeze, but rather a thoughtful process to make better investments.

The 2011 request keeps the total budgets of NSF, the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE OS), and NIST on track to double in 10 years. NSF is slated to get an 8.0% increase to $7.4 billion; DOE OS, a 4.4% increase to $5.1 billion; and NIST, a 7.6% increase to $919 million.

In addition, NIH will see a budget increase of $1.0 billion to $32.2 billion dollars. This 3.2% boost keeps the agency’s 2011 funding ahead of inflation.

NASA is set to get a boost of $1.3 billion, for a total 2011 budget of $19.0 billion. The President’s budget request, however, cuts funding for the Constellation Program, aimed at developing the next-generation space vehicles to return humans to the moon and take them deeper into space. Instead the President’s request directs the funds toward a robust Earth science research program and a refocused human exploration program. The budget does include plans to extend the life of the International Space Station to at least 2020.

Although USDA is set to take a hit in the 2011 request, its competitive grant program, the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative, is slated for a 63.7% increase in 2011 to $429 million. The program will support research into feedstock development for biofuel production, adapting agriculture to climate change, and food safety.

Other areas set to see gains include climate-change and clean-energy research. The request provides $2.6 billion, a 21.0% increase from 2010, for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a multiagency initiative to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and move toward a clean-energy economy. Additional funds will also go to DOE’s Energy Frontier Research Centers, the Energy Innovation Hubs, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The President also proposes a sizable increase for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The 2011 budget invests $3.7 billion in programs at various federal agencies, some $1 billion of which will be targeted at K–12 STEM education.

“Given the President’s announcement last week that domestic discretionary funding would be frozen at FY10 levels, we are very heartened by the increased science and education funding levels provided for in the President’s FY11 budget,” says Glenn S. Ruskin, director of public affairs at the American Chemical Society. “We hope that the House and Senate support” the President’s science and education funding levels, he says.

In addition to setting agency budget levels, the 2011 budget request also proposes to make the Research & Experimentation Tax Credit—a multi-billion-dollar tax credit used by companies with big R&D budgets—permanent.

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