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February 17, 2003
Volume 81, Number 7
CENEAR 81 7 pp. 31-43
ISSN 0009-2347


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R&D BUDGET FACES LEAN YEAR
Bush proposal is strong on defense and security, while basic research is left with minimal gain

DAVID J. HANSON, BETTE HILEMAN, CHERYL HOGUE, JEFF JOHNSON, AND SUSAN R. MORRISSEY, C&EN WASHINGTON

As the U.S. continues in an unsettled economic period, President George W. Bush has proposed a fiscal 2004 budget that strongly supports defense spending and national security. But it gives scant support for increasing spending on science and technology.

Spending for all R&D programs under the President's budget would total $122.7 billion, almost 7% more than was proposed for 2003. This includes a 9% increase for Department of Defense development and testing, a 32% jump for homeland security R&D, and even a 10% increase for research funding at the National Science Foundation.

Other research-funding agencies did not fare so well. At the Energy Department, the Office of Science would receive slightly more than 1% more than this year. Research at the Department of Agriculture would be slightly less than this year, and R&D at the Commerce Department would be down 9% from 2003 figures, much of that from the loss of the Advanced Technology Program. And for the National Institutes of Health, where double-digit increases over the past five years have doubled the budget, the President has proposed a mere 2% increase.

The President has identified five areas he considers multiagency R&D priorities. These areas are considered critical to the nation or are newly recognized needs. They include research to combat terrorism, networking and information technology, education research, global climate change studies, and continuation of the nanotechnology initiative.

Analyzing this year's budget is complicated by the fact that Congress did not pass the fiscal 2003 budget before this budget was proposed. Comparisons of 2004 with 2003, therefore, are somewhat difficult at this time, as Senate and House members struggle to complete the 2003 omnibus spending bill.

The following review of R&D agencies comes with other caveats, too. The numbers given are mostly budget obligations: the money that agencies can contract to spend during the fiscal year. This 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 getting totals. As a result, sometimes agency or department figures and totals from the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) are not the same and can be published in different places as different amounts. These variations are usually small and reflect alternative methods of dividing up funds. 

FEDERAL R&D
Hikes for NSF, NASA rival defense and security-related increases
$ MILLIONS 2002a 2003b 2004c CHANGE
2003–04
BY AGENCY
Defense $49,409 $57,498 $62,753 9.1%
Health & Human Services 23,497 27,466 28,031 2.1
NASA 9,611 10,071 11,009 9.3
Energy 8,056 8,076 8,535 5.7
NSF 3,557 3,692 4,062 10.0
Agriculture 2,112 1,911 1,943 1.7
Commerce 1,376 1,304 1,190 –8.7
Homeland Security 266 761 1,001 31.5
Transportation 774 627 693 10.5
EPA 416 627 556 –11.3
Other 2,955 2,969 2,965 –0.1
BY FUNCTION
Development
Defense $43,775 $51,677 $57,625 11.5%
Civilian 5,849 6,328 6,738 6.5
Basic research
Defense 1,334 1,417 1,309 –7.6
Civilian 22,515 24,428 25,761 5.5
Applied research
Defense 4,081 4,289 3,670 –14.4
Civilian 19,693 22,045 23,114 4.8
R&D facilities & equipment 4,782 4,818 4,521 –6.2
TOTAL $102,029 $115,002 $122,738 6.7%
a Actual. b Requested. c Proposed. SOURCE: Office of Management & Budget

NSF. "In our 21st-century world, knowledge is the currency of everyday life, and at NSF, we're in the knowledge business," NSF Director Rita R. Colwell said as she outlined the agency's 2004 budget. The Administration is requesting a budget of $5.5 billion, a 9% increase over the yet-to-be finalized 2003 budget.

A highlight of the 2004 budget is the 12.7% increase in funding for the Mathematical & Physical Sciences Directorate. The increase will bring the directorate above the $1 billion mark for the first time. This funding signals renewed support by the Administration for physics, chemistry, and materials science.

Congress helped pave the way for the growth in NSF's budget last December by passing an authorization law to double the agency's funding from 2003 to 2007. The increase in funding will provide a significant boost to NSF, which currently accounts for 4% of the total annual spending for R&D and supports more than a third of the basic research in the physical sciences at colleges and universities.

As in the past, NSF's budget request was structured around its three strategic goals: people, ideas, and tools. The 2004 request includes investment of $1.2 billion in people, who are the "key to developing the nation's full talent and increasing the productivity of our workforce"; $2.7 billion in ideas, which "build the intellectual capital that drives technology innovation and spurs economic growth"; and $1.3 billion in tools, which "boost the overall productivity of the research and education enterprise."

One of the highlights of the 2004 budget is the third installment of $200 million for the Math & Science Partnership program--part of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Initiative. The five-year, $1 billion program links local schools with colleges and universities to improve K–12 math and science education, train teachers, and create innovative ways to reach out to students and schools.

A proposed 22% increase in graduate fellowship and traineeship programs was also highlighted by NSF. In fiscal 2004, graduate fellowship stipends will increase to $30,000, up $5,000 from fiscal 2003. Nearly 350 more students will be supported thanks to the increase in funding, bringing the total number of supported students to 5,000.

Also noted were several priority areas for research and education. One is nanoscience and engineering. NSF heads the National Nanotechnology Initiative and has requested $249 million to expand basic research on new materials, biological systems on the nanoscale, and quantum computing. "The ability to manipulate and control matter at the nanoscale will open new possibilities in materials and manufacturing, medicine, environment, energy, and national security," Colwell noted.

The budget also includes $100 million for the agency's biocomplexity in the environment initiative. This funding will continue support for microbial genome sequencing and the ecology of infectious diseases--two key areas in U.S. antiterrorism efforts.

To encourage greater participation in science and engineering among minorities and women, several programs are seeking funding increases. These include the Historically Black Colleges & Universities Undergraduate Program, which is asking for a 43% increase over fiscal 2003 for a total of $20 million; the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program, which is requesting a 23% increase to a total of $32.7 million; and the ADVANCE program for women, which is seeking a 23% increase to a total of $21.2 million.

 
NSF
Mathematical and physical sciences gets a 12.7% increase ...
$ MILLIONS 2002a 2003b 2004c CHANGE
2003–04
Research & related activities $3,616.0 $3,783.1 $4,106.3 8.5%
Mathematical & physical sciences 920.4 941.6 1,061.3 12.7
Geosciences 609.6 691.1 687.9 –0.5
Computer & information science & engineering 515.0 526.9 584.3 10.9
Biological sciences 509.6 525.6 562.2 7.0
Engineering 470.8 487.9 536.5 10.0
Chemical & transport systems 57.2 58.9 66.2 12.4
Bioengineering & environmental systems 41.3 43.9 47.9 9.1
Polar programs 300.8 303.8 329.9 8.6
Social, behavioral & economic sciences 184.0 195.6 211.7 8.2
Integrative activities 105.8 110.6 132.5 19.8
Education & human resources 866.1 908.1 938.0 3.3
Major research equipment 115.4 126.3 202.3 60.2
Other 176.6 210.7 234.5 11.3
TOTAL $4,774.1 $5,028.2 $5,481.1 9.0%
... and chemistry gets a 13% boost ...
$ MILLIONS 2002a 2003b 2004c CHANGE
2003–04
Ocean sciences $281.1 $319.0 $313.7 –1.7%
Materials research 219.4 219.3 246.1 12.2
Atmospheric sciences 202.1 218.9 229.9 5.0
Physics 195.9 193.3 217.5 12.5
Mathematical sciences 151.5 181.9 201.9 11.0
Astronomical sciences 166.0 161.3 183.1 13.5
Chemistry 162.8 160.8 181.7 13.0
Earth sciences 126.2 153.4 144.3 –5.9
Molecular & cellular biosciences 112.2 111.6 116.9 4.7
Environmental biology 101.1 99.8 104.8 5.0
Integrative biology & neurosciences 100.9 98.7 103.4 4.8
Plant genome research 75.0 75.0 75.0 0.0
Multidisciplinary activities 24.8 25.0 31.0 24.0
TOTAL $1,919.0 $2,018.0 $2,149.3 6.5%
... as total number of grants grows by 4.4%

2002a 2003b 2004c CHANGE
2003–04
Competitive awards
Number 10,630 10,460 10,950 4.7%
Funding rate 30% 31% 30% na
Median annualized sized $84,290 $87,470 $91,060 4.1
Average annualized sized $115,710 $125,000 $128,000 2.4
Average duration, yearsd 3.0 3.0 3.0 0.0
Total number of awards 21,670 21,900 22,870 4.4%
a Actual. b Requested. c Proposed. d Research grants only. na = not available. SOURCE: National Science Foundation

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