If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Supporting Science

President Obama’s second budget keeps basic-science funding growing

by Government & Policy Department
February 15, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 7

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Newscom
Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Newscom

Showing continued support for basic R&D, President Barack Obama delivered to Congress a $3.8 trillion budget request for fiscal 2011. Within this request was $147.7 billion for R&D, up 0.2% from 2010.

The essentially flat R&D budget is consistent with an overall federal spending freeze on discretionary spending. But a closer look shows that nondefense R&D did much better than the overall trend—up 5.9%, or $3.7 billion, for a total 2011 budget of $66.0 billion.

The growth in the nondefense R&D budget provides nearly all federal R&D agencies with increases that are at least greater than inflation. It also supports Administration priorities such as driving innovation, enabling clean energy, and improving math and science education.

To support innovation, the President’s budget request gives sizable gains to three agencies: the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards & Technology. The budget increases for these agencies keeps them on a track to double their budgets in 10 years, which is now expected to be completed in 2017.

The healthy increase in nondefense R&D budgets builds on funding infusions many of these agencies received from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provided more than $18 billion in R&D funds over the two-year period of 2009–10. It’s important to note, however, that any ARRA funds an agency may have received are not reflected in the 2009 or 2010 budgets.

The following review of proposed R&D spending at the federal agencies comes with some caveats. The numbers are given mostly as budget obligations; that is, the money that agencies can contract to spend during the fiscal year. This amount may be more or less than the agencies actually spend, or outlay, during the year.

Also, the federal budget is a complicated document with various ways of adding up programs and totals. As a result, sometimes the agency or department figures and the totals from the White House Office of Management & Budget are not the same and may be published in different places as different amounts. These variations are usually small and reflect alternative methods of allocating funds.

NSF. One of the big winners in the 2011 budget request is NSF. The President proposes an 8.0% increase in the agency’s budget, for a total 2011 level of $7.4 billion. This increase keeps the agency on track to double its budget by 2017.

“The essence of NSF’s 2011 budget request is the reaffirmation of the agency’s roots as the nation’s wellspring of scientific innovation,” NSF Director Arden L. Bement Jr. said at a budget press briefing. The agency’s research and education agenda is multifaceted, well-rounded, and “designed very deliberately to keep the agency’s place at the forefront of science and engineering but also to support the Administration’s plan for making innovation a centerpiece of economic strength and future well-being,” he noted.

Bement, who announced his plans to leave the agency days after rolling out the 2011 budget (see page 12), pointed to several programs that support the Administration’s priorities. For example, in the area of educating the next generation, he cited the agency’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which will get a 16% increase to $158 million for 2011. GRP invests in innovative methods to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and training.

To increase the number of STEM students from underrepresented groups, NSF will launch the integrated program Comprehensive Broadening Participation of Undergraduates in STEM. The activity will coordinate and expand effective approaches used by existing NSF minority programs.

NSF will also invest $766 million in Science, Engineering & Education for Sustainability (SEES). This portfolio of programs from across the agency seeks integrated approaches to maintaining economic growth while increasing U.S. energy independence, enhancing environmental stewardship, and reducing energy use and carbon intensity, or CO2 emissions per unit of gross national product.

Another transagency program is Regaining Our Energy Science & Engineering Edge (RE-ENERGYSE). In this joint program with the Department of Energy, NSF will invest $19 million in 2011 to attract and educate future scientists in clean-energy fields.

To foster innovation , the agency’s budget for research and related activities (R&RA) is slated to grow by 8.2% to $6.0 billion under the President’s proposal. The Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences (MPS) would get $58 million of the R&RA increase, bringing its total 2011 budget to $1.4 billion, up 4.3% from 2010.

Within MPS, the Chemistry Division is again set to see the biggest percentage gain. The 5.9% boost will bring the division’s budget to $248 million. The Materials Research Division will see a similar increase of 5.5%, to $319 million.

One of MPS’s priorities in 2011 will be supporting research centers. The 2011 budget includes provisions to expand the Centers for Chemical Innovation and the Materials Research Science & Engineering Centers. CCI will get an additional $4 million, or a 17% increase, bringing its 2011 budget to $28 million. MRSEC will get an 11% increase, giving it a $63 million budget for 2011.

The directorate will also invest $110 million in climate and energy research as part of SEES. The funds will support research on energy storage, solar energy, and climate science.

NIH. The proposed fiscal 2011 budget for the National Institutes of Health provides a $1.0 billion, or 3.2%, increase over the 2010 budget, for a total of $32.2 billion. This marks the first time in eight years that NIH’s budget has kept up with the biomedical inflation rate, which is estimated at 3.2% for 2011.

The 2011 budget provides increases in the 3% range for each of NIH’s institutes and centers. The money will support innovative biomedical research, with an emphasis on genomics and high-throughput technologies, particularly those used in cancer and autism research.

The increased funding will allow completion of the Cancer Genome Atlas, a joint effort between the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute to catalog why normal cells become malignant for 20 different cancers. The goal is to identify at least 10 new drug targets and enable more precise diagnoses based on cancer subtypes. NIH will also sequence the genomes of 300 autism spectrum disorder cases and launch the first epigenomic studies of autism.

Other activities that will see increased support include efforts to develop therapeutics for rare and neglected diseases and stem cell research to understand human development and explore new therapeutics for Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and rare genetic diseases.

NIH will continue to invest in its Common Fund, administered by the Office of the Director. The budget proposal increases the fund by $18 million, or 3.3%, in 2011, for a total of $562 million. The fund will support research that requires participation by more than one NIH institute or center.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), which recommended that NIH receive $37 billion for 2011, is pleased with the President’s proposal. “This is the largest proposed funding increase for NIH we have seen in a President’s budget in eight years,” Mark O. Lively, president of FASEB, said in a statement. “It clearly indicates that research is a high priority, and we are gratified that the value of science has been affirmed.”

Defense. The fiscal 2011 budget request for research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) at the Department of Defense is $76.8 billion. This is equal to 52.0% of the entire R&D budget request, and is 5.1% lower than that requested in 2010. The President is seeking cuts in defense research, some of which would come from basic and applied research programs.

The request for basic research is down 7.6% from $2.2 billion in 2010 to $2.0 billion in 2011. Congress had increased funding for this category in the past couple of years, and a reduction in 2011 would be a setback for those trying to enhance fundamental science at the department. Likewise, applied research would be cut 11.2% to $4.5 billion next year from $5.0 billion in 2010, and advanced technology development, which also includes applied research, would be down 18.1% to $5.4 billion.

Most of the RDT&E funding goes to building and testing major weapons systems for national security, and even these would be reduced slightly for 2011. One program the department is highlighting is development and testing of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft weapons system, which is a big congressional favorite. The department is also investing in improving its long-range strike capacity, in new submarines, and in tanker aircraft.

The ballistic missile defense program is slated for a 5.6% increase from $7.1 billion in 2010 to $7.5 billion for 2011. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has announced that the emphasis of this defense effort will move from ground-based to sea-based technologies. The department’s signature Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for high-risk, high-payoff projects is slated for a small increase of about $100 million from $3.0 billion in 2010 to $3.1 billion for fiscal 2011. In the area of health research, the department says it is budgeting $1.0 billion for research next year to study care and treatments for posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

DHS. The Department of Homeland Security’s primary R&D arm, the Directorate for Science & Technology (S&T), is set to see a 1.2% increase for a total 2011 budget of $1.0 billion. This increase, however, includes the transfer of a $109 million R&D program from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. Without this transfer, the directorate would see about a 10% reduction compared with fiscal 2010 levels.

The directorate’s spending plan for 2011 includes $201 million for its chemical and biological division, down 2.9%, or almost $6 million, from 2010. The division is researching protective countermeasures against potential chemical and biological threats.

The explosives unit, which develops the technical capabilities to detect, interdict, and lessen the impacts of nonnuclear explosives used in terrorist attacks, would receive $121 million, the same amount Congress appropriated in 2010.

Of DHS’s overall 2011 budget request of $56.3 billion, $43.6 billion goes to discretionary spending, a 2.6% increase over the 2010 budget of $42.5 billion. The sprawling department’s mission includes everything from aviation and border security to safeguarding the nation’s chemical facilities.

“Our proposed budget is designed to ensure we have the resources we need to secure America,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “We are committed to strong fiscal discipline, eliminating redundancy and investing our resources in what works while enhancing security across the board.”

The President’s budget includes $866 million to protect the nation’s physical infrastructure and to strengthen information security. The money supports regulatory initiatives such as the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, which aims to protect high-risk chemical facilities from attack.

A provision in the proposal would extend DHS’s authority to regulate chemical security under CFATS for another year to October 2011. The measure is intended to give Congress more time to renew and likely modify the existing CFATS program, which is due to expire on Oct. 4, 2010 (C&EN, Dec. 7, 2009, page 34).

The proposed budget also includes $379 million to support the development of capabilities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to incidents that could degrade or overwhelm the nation’s critical information technology infrastructure and key cyber networks. And it is allocating nearly $90 million for the procurement and nationwide deployment of next-generation BioWatch sensors, which will detect a biological attack “at the earliest possible instant,” according to DHS.

Energy. DOE scientists and researchers may prove to be big winners in fiscal 2011. The Administration has proposed that the DOE science community receive $10.2 billion next year, a 9.4% increase from 2010. The increase for science-based programs is particularly pronounced for nuclear energy, nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, and renewable energy (wind and solar), as well as the basic energy sciences program in the Office of Science.

The Obama Administration is proposing an overall 6.8% increase for DOE, taking it to $28.4 billion, a big jump at a time when the Administration is seeking a freeze in nonsecurity spending. As Energy Secretary Steven Chu underscored when releasing the department’s budget, the total reflects the President’s commitment to energy development, which Obama made clear in his State of the Union address: “The nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy.”


The Office of Science is proposed for a 4.4% jump to $5.1 billion in 2011, and the largest Science Office program—basic energy sciences—is proposed for a 12% increase to $1.8 billion. The additional funds for BES include $34 million to initiate a new Energy Innovation Hub to develop advanced batteries and energy storage, Chu said at a budget briefing. BES is also proposed to get some $24 million to support another hub that was created last year to address research to create liquid fuels from sunlight.

These hubs are important to the energy secretary, and with the new battery hub, DOE will have four research hubs. Chu defines these as “integrated research centers,” modeled on the Manhattan Project and Bell Laboratories. The hubs would ideally be under one roof, Chu said, to encourage scientific interaction and centralized scientific management. The other two hubs focus on modeling and simulation for nuclear reactors and on designs of energy-efficient buildings.

The hubs are part of Chu’s R&D plan to solve energy problems in an unstructured, fast-moving environment. Other parts of the R&D plan are Energy Frontier Research Centers, which work on basic energy science problems, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which funds entrepreneurs attempting to develop and commercialize advanced energy technologies.

Funding for some 46 frontier research centers would rise by $40 million to a total of $140 million under the 2011 budget. ARPA-E is slated to get $300 million next year to fund innovators who are developing advanced energy technologies but lack adequate support and development funding needed to begin manufacturing. Through the stimulus package, DOE provided some $400 million for ARPA-E, and DOE intends to allocate those funds to projects by the end of fiscal 2010, according to Chu.

Chu also plans to boost solar R&D in 2011 by 22% to $302 million, wind R&D by 53% to $122 million, and geothermal by 25% to $55 million. The total dollar amounts in the 2011 budget do not fully reflect the funds that would be available to these R&D areas and may be somewhat misleading because they do not reflect ARRA funds from 2009 that are still being spent in 2010 and may possibly stretch into 2011. For instance, geothermal technologies received nearly $400 million in stimulus money on top of its budget appropriation. If all of that ARRA money is not used by the end of 2010, the remainder will augment the $55 million allocation in 2011. Similarly, wind energy research will receive $100 million and solar will get $116 million in ARRA funds that will be obligated by the end of fiscal 2010. DOE’s goal is to have all stimulus funds allocated by the end of fiscal 2010, but department officials say that only 40% of it will be spent by then.

The DOE proposal includes a 39% increase for nuclear energy R&D, taking the research total to $495 million for 2011. Some $200 million would be directed to fuel-cycle R&D addressing waste-storage and -disposal options. Nearly $200 million more would be funneled to R&D on advanced reactor concepts, such as the development of small modular reactors in the 200- to 300-MW range, which could provide energy to large manufacturers, such as refineries and chemical companies.

The funding is part of a general ramp-up in federal money to support nuclear energy, Chu said. At his budget briefing, Chu stressed that nuclear energy must be considered part of the clean-energy mix, and with Obama’s decision to cancel the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository, the department will get more involved in developing waste solutions. To that end, in January, Chu announced the appointment of a commission to craft a road map over the next two years that will guide how nuclear waste should be handled in the future (C&EN Online Latest News, Jan. 29).

To support developing sites of new nuclear power plants, Chu also announced a $36.0 billion increase in loan guarantees for construction. With the new funding, some $56 billion in federal loan guarantees would become available in 2011 for companies wishing to build nuclear power plants. That level could support construction of some seven nuclear reactors, Chu estimates.

Among areas cut in DOE’s 2011 budget is fossil fuels R&D. Programs that will suffer from the 12.8% hit include several on clean-coal technology and carbon capture and sequestration. However, this budget information is misleading because coal R&D programs received some $3.4 billion in recovery act funds that have yet to be used, and the programs are still proposed to get some $400 million in funding in the 2011 budget.

In other big-ticket areas, nuclear weapons and nonproliferation activities, which draw some 40% of the total DOE budget, received a significant boost both for the general program and for science R&D. The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the weapons programs, is proposed to receive a 13.4% increase, bringing total funding to $11.2 billion. R&D would receive a 10% boost for both nuclear weapons and nonproliferation science.

Obama has committed to cutting the U.S.’s nuclear weapons stockpile and to increasing U.S. focus on weapons nonproliferation, noted NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino in a briefing with reporters. The total budget reflects an overall increase of 10% in weapons work to about $7 billion and of 25% in weapons nonproliferation to $2.7 billion.

Looking just at R&D, nonproliferation spending is proposed for $352 million, a 10.8% increase, to support technologies and research to reach the Administration’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years, D’Agostino said.

The R&D spending related to the nuclear weapons stockpile, he said, is likely to grow despite Obama’s interest in reducing the number of U.S. nuclear weapons.

D’Agostino recognized the seeming contradiction in greater spending for fewer weapons, and he blamed a combination of the age of U.S. weapons, which averages some 27 years, and the decision to end underground testing.

“Until the last warhead goes away, we have a commitment to do something that is incredibly difficult, which is to maintain a nuclear deterrent without underground testing,” D’Agostino explained. “You can’t do that on the cheap and say, ‘We will let them age gracefully.’ These are unique devices.

“Going from one number of warheads to half that number won’t save the government much money,” he continued. “But we can save resources by having fewer types of warheads to maintain.”

Today, D’Agostino said, NNSA maintains eight to 10 different warhead types. For each one, the agency must build different parts to keep the weapons operating, and each part must be carefully tested to ensure that it doesn’t introduce problems or uncertainty. As a result, he doesn’t see much of a decline in maintenance costs until the number of weapon types is reduced. And that is the direction NNSA is headed, he said.

NASA. The President’s 2011 budget request provides an additional $6.0 billion over the next five years for the National Aeronautics & Space Administration. The boost brings the agency’s total 2011 budget to $19.0 billion, a 1.5%, or $276 million, increase over its 2010 budget.

The President’s plan also refocuses the agency’s human space exploration program. Out goes the Constellation Program—which planned to return astronauts to the moon before targeting deeper space missions—and in comes a program aimed at developing innovative technologies and commercial partners.

“The truth is that we were not on a path to get back to the moon’s surface,” NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. said at the agency’s budget rollout. “And we focused so much of our effort and funding on just getting to the moon, we were neglecting investments in the key technologies that would be required to go beyond,” he explained.

The new strategic plan emphasizes technology development in three program areas. First is a program to develop and demonstrate technologies that reduce cost and expand future exploration capabilities. It will be funded at $7.8 billion over five years, with $652 million tagged for 2011. Next is heavy-lift and propulsion R&D, which NASA will fund at $3.1 billion over five years, with $559 million allocated in 2011. And third is robotic precursor missions for future human missions, to be funded at $3.0 billion over five years, with $125 million slated for 2011.

The President’s call to cancel Constellation may be a tough sell to Congress, which has given the program bipartisan support. The Administration’s new plan is a “radical departure from the bipartisan consensus achieved by Congress,” noted House Science & Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) in a statement. Congress will need to hear more from the Administration before rendering a judgment on the proposal, he added.

The 2011 budget request does extend the lifetime of the International Space Station (ISS) to at least 2020. It includes a $463 million increase to $3.0 billion for the space station to enhance its ground support and onboard systems capabilities, as well as to support its national laboratory activities.


The 2011 budget also addresses transportation to ISS. Although the space shuttles are expected to discontinue operation after they complete their remaining missions this year, the budget includes flexibility to allow them to support missions in 2011 if needed, provided space shuttle flights can be done safely.

Missions to study Earth, the planets, and the sun, as well as grants for space science research will continue to be supported. The Earth and climate science program is tagged for an overall budget of $1.8 billion, up $382 million from 2010. This money will support the initiation of a reflight of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, designed to make the first space-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide; the operation of 15 Earth-observing spacecraft; and the launch of three new spacecraft.

NASA will also continue its deep-space missions. With a requested 2011 budget of $1.5 billion, the planetary science program will, among other things, complete launch preparations for the next rover mission, the Mars Science Laboratory; support the operation and launch of 13 planetary missions; and restart production of plutonium-238 spacecraft fuel with DOE.

Education programs will also get a boost in 2011. With a requested budget of $146 million, NASA will fund several new initiatives. For example, the agency has already rolled out its Summer of Innovation program, a three-year pilot program that will start this year and will engage middle school teachers and students—particularly low-income, minority students—in math- and science-based education programs.

Commerce. Over the past decade, the Department of Commerce has seen its investment in its R&D grow steadily. The work is done predominantly by two agencies: the National Institute of Standards & Technology and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. Each agency is proposed to get R&D increases for fiscal 2011.

NIST’s research has been a beneficiary of the America Competes Act and its pledge to double R&D funding by 2017. The President proposed a 7.6% increase to the agency’s budget to $919 million from $854 million in 2010. But NIST laboratories will see an even bigger 15.6% increase, for a total 2011 budget of $575 million.

Among the laboratory programs slated for a sizable increase next year is the chemical science and technology lab. It would get an 18.8% increase from $60 million to $72 million, almost identical to the increase from the year before. Other NIST laboratory programs with proposed double-digit budget increases include information technology, materials science, electronics, and nanotechnology.

The increase in research support will go toward answering interdisciplinary problems that impact various national issues. For example, NIST plans to spend $10 million on standards to support the manufacture and regulation of new biologic drugs. NIST states that this research will develop methods and data for protein characterization, improve measurement instruments, and ensure the accuracy of drug comparability methods.

NIST also plans to spend $35 million toward research on competitive manufacturing and construction for a clean-energy economy. This would include a $10 million program in energy-saving construction practices, including development of sustainable materials and best-practice construction methods. Improvements in measurements and assessment tools are also in the works. And research on nanostructures, materials, and devices and on smarter and more flexible robotic construction techniques are also part of the plan.

To improve the nation’s pipeline of scientists and engineers, the President’s budget request increases the funding of NIST’s postdoctoral fellowships program from $11 million in 2010 to $15 million in 2011. The 34.5% jump will enable the agency to hire 23 new postdocs in addition to the 30 fellowships the agency now supports. NIST also has research programs to train science teachers and a summer undergraduate fellowship research program.

Two NIST grant programs that help industry would get increases under the President’s proposed budget. The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership would receive a 17.9%, or nearly $20 million, increase to $130 million in fiscal 2011. MEP funds smaller manufacturers to help them adopt technological innovations and processes so they can improve their competitiveness.

The second is the Technology Innovation Program, which was just started two years ago. TIP provides cost-sharing awards to companies for performing high-risk R&D to develop advanced and innovative technologies. This program is scheduled for a 22.9% increase, going from $65 million in 2010 to $80 million in 2011.

Also set to see growth in 2011 is NOAA’s research, which focuses on protecting and preserving ocean resources and providing critical climate and ecosystem forecasts to support national safety and commerce. The President has proposed a 27.1% increase for R&D at NOAA, up from $608 million in 2010 to $773 million in 2011.

Much of NOAA’s research goes through the Office of Ocean & Atmospheric Research, which would get a 3.2% increase from $442 million to $455 million. Some of the proposed research spending there includes expanding monitoring systems to assess the impact of ocean acidification and to track emerging chemical contaminants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, in the oceans and coastal zones.

NOAA is also a partner, along with DOD and NASA, in the major restructuring planned for the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System. The system fulfills a major national priority to provide global weather forecasting information and climate data with much improved capabilities over the current system. Originally expected to cost $6.5 billion in 2002, the cost has jumped to approximately $13.9 billion through 2024.

The Obama Administration is refiguring the roles of the three partners to get costs and procurement problems under control. NOAA would now have responsibility for preparing and launching the system’s first test satellite, which is now set for 2011. The first major monitoring platform is scheduled to be launched in 2014.

Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture’s R&D 2011 budget will fall by 1.2% to $3.0 billion. Most of this reduction, however, comes in the form of onetime cuts to earmarked projects. Other cuts are directed at buildings and facilities; research and information activities, however, are poised for funding increases.

The four USDA agencies with responsibility over research are the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA, formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education & Extension Service), the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and the Economic Research Service (ERS).

ARS, which conducts in-house research in natural and biological sciences, will see its 2011 budget decrease by $51 million, or 4.0%, to $1.2 billion. About $42 million in congressional earmarks will be discontinued, with the money redirected to high-priority areas such as renewable energy and climate-change research.

ARS will receive $10 million to establish regional biofuel feedstock research and demonstration centers, $5 million to conduct food-safety research including development of technologies to detect pathogens and chemical residues, and $2 million to sequence the genomes of food animals.

NIFA, which funds extramural research, will see a 0.5% increase to $1.5 billion in 2011. NIFA has responsibility over USDA’s primary competitive research grants program, the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative. In 2011, AFRI will get $429 million, the highest level ever and a 63.7% increase compared with 2010. The money will fund research on feedstocks for biofuel production, adapting agriculture to climate change, animal diseases that threaten public health, disease-causing microorganisms in food, and other priority areas, such as obesity prevention.

Agricultural statistics will get a slight boost of 1.9%, for a total of $165 million in 2011. The NASS budget includes $6 million in new initiatives that are offset by $5 million in terminations of duplicate and low-priority programs. The budget provides an increase of nearly $1 million for remote sensing to monitor agricultural production in the face of climate change, and of $500,000 for collecting production, handling, and distribution data about the organic agriculture sector.

The 2011 budget also includes a 6.1% increase for ERS, the agency that provides economic and other social science information on agriculture, food, and the environment. ERS will receive $87 million, which represents an increase of $8 million in program initiatives that is partly offset by $3 million in terminated programs.

EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency’s science and technology budget would remain virtually flat at $847 million for 2011. The President’s budget, however, would reshuffle funding priorities in the agency’s research and science programs.

One of the biggest changes would be to increase funding for EPA’s Science To Achieve Results (STAR) research grant and fellowship program. The agency supports the federal STEM education effort through STAR fellowships. STAR is the only federal program that exclusively funds graduate students in environmental sciences.

President George W. Bush’s Administration repeatedly tried to eliminate funding for the STAR fellowship program, points out David E. Blockstein, director of education and senior scientist for the advocacy group National Council for Science & the Environment. Nonetheless, Congress has continued to fund the fellowships.


STAR grants and fellowships are funded for $61 million this year, and Obama is proposing to boost that by 42.0% to $87 million in fiscal 2011. Of this increase, funding for fellowships would rise by more than 55.9%, from $11 million in 2010 to $17 million. The rest of the STAR budget increase would go to grants funding external research focused on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, air quality, environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing, or green infrastructure.

Under the President’s proposal, some areas of EPA’s in-house research would get more funding, too. For example, funding of studies related to water pollution would rise from $111 million in 2010 to $121 million in 2011.

EPA’s air quality and toxics research program would get an increase as well. The budget proposes nearly $125 million for this work in 2011, $3 million more than in 2010. This gain would support an improved air pollution monitoring network that would “build the scientific backbone necessary to plug gaps in our regulatory system,” according to EPA.

The agency’s computational toxicology program would also grow, rising from a current value of $20 million to nearly $22 million in fiscal 2011. Computational toxicology combines the high-throughput screening techniques used by the pharmaceutical industry with mathematical models. Through this research effort, EPA is developing new tools to speed and facilitate the screening of chemicals suspected of disrupting the endocrine system.

These increases in the agency’s science and technology programs would be offset by a decline in EPA’s funding for homeland security research. This includes work on decontamination, laboratory preparedness, and systems to detect deliberate tainting of drinking water systems. The President is asking for $51 million to continue the work in 2011, $14 million less than its funding in 2010.

Interagency Intiatives. In the budget request, Obama included several interagency R&D programs, such as the R&D programs of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), U.S. Global Change Research Program, and STEM education.

Money for nanotechnology research in the proposed 2011 budget is essentially flat. NNI, established in 2001 to coordinate nanotech R&D among 25 federal agencies, will get a 0.1% increase compared with 2010, for a total of $1.7 billion.

DOE, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and EPA will each increase their contributions to NNI by double-digit percentages in 2011; DOD and the Department of Transportation will each reduce their contributions by double-digit percentages. The Food & Drug Administration (under HHS) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission will each contribute to NNI research for the first time in 2011.

In the proposed budget, DOE will invest $406 million in nanotechnology, an increase of $63 million or 18.4% compared with 2010. The additional funds will pay for projects such as improving solar cells with nanotechnology.

NIH (under HHS) will provide $359 million to NNI, an increase of $30 million or 9.1% compared with 2010. The increase will go toward research on the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) aspects of nanotechnology, including nanomaterial characterization and data dissemination.

Altogether, participating agencies will provide $119 million for nanotech EHS research in the 2011 budget, about a 22% increase compared with the 2010 level. The 2011 budget also provides $87 million for nanotech manufacturing.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, the government’s cross-agency effort to study global warming, would also get a significant boost. Obama proposed $2.6 billion in 2011 for this work to understand, predict, project, mitigate, and adapt to climate change. This 2011 budget proposal represents an increase of 20.7% or $439 million over 2010 dollars.

Under the program, for example, NASA will up its investment by 20.0%, for a total of $1.3 billion to support a range of Earth-observing satellites. NSF will increase its contribution by 16.0% to $370 million mainly to support academic research. And NOAA will invest an additional $77 million over 2011 levels, for a total of $437 million to enhance its climate science capabilities.

Obama also provided increased support for the interagency area of STEM education. The Administration is requesting a total of $3.7 billion, up nearly 1% from 2010. Of this investment, $1.0 billion will go toward K–12 math and science education.

The Budget Process. The fiscal 2011 budget now goes to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, where it is divided into several appropriations bills. Various committees will hold hearings on each appropriations bill, and legislation will emerge that sets the levels of spending for all federal departments and agencies. The numbers approved by Congress may be different from those originally proposed by the Administration, but historically, R&D has not been radically changed. The whole process is supposed to be completed and the bills signed by the President by Sept. 30, the last day of fiscal 2010.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.