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R&D BUDGET SIGNALS NEW PRIORITIES
Emphasis on national security, biomedical research leaves other agencies flat
DAVID J. HANSON, BETTE HILEMAN, CHERYL HOGUE, JEFFREY JOHNSON, AND WILLIAM J. SCHULZ, C&EN WASHINGTON
President George W. Bush has proposed a budget for fiscal 2003 that includes some major increases for research and development spending but at the same time holds many agencies to small increases or overall reductions. And ominously, this budget carries the promise of future evaluations of R&D programs to rate their effectiveness and the warning that changes will be made if the programs do not measure up.
Federal R&D spending would be $111.8 billion under the proposed budget sent to Congress on Feb. 4. That is a record level of spending, up 8% from fiscal 2002. The largest piece of that would go to the Department of Defense, at $54.5 billion, up 11% from this year. The other agency with a large proposed increase is the National Institutes of Health, up 16% to more than $27.4 billion, doubling the agency's funding compared with fiscal 1998.
Other research-funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, hold their own in the proposed budget but get increased funding mostly in those areas the Administration considers a priority.
These priorities include antiterrorism, networking and information technology, nanotechnology, and global climate change.
The Administration, however, is in the process of developing a set of R&D investment criteria that it will use to evaluate the effectiveness of programs in the future. The Office of Management & Budget (OMB) says the government must improve its basis for deciding among R&D investments, including applying specific criteria that projects must meet and clear milestones for measuring performance.
The implications of this are obvious. Already a pilot project at DOE has resulted in some program cuts. And NSF, which has been held up as a model for good R&D management, has been given responsibility for two programs from other agencies.
The response of Congress to this budget in an election year is predictable. Most of the programs will be funded at requested levels, and many will get additional funding. And congressional earmarks, which have been denounced and removed by the Administration, will be added in great numbers again.
The following review of R&D agencies comes with some caveats. 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 to add up programs and get totals. As a result, sometimes agency or department figures and totals from OMB are not the same and can be published in different places as different amounts. These variations are usually small and reflect alternate methods of dividing up funds.
Defense gets lion's share of increase again
|Health & Human Services
|R&D facilities & equipment
|a Actual. b Estimate. c Proposed. SOURCE: Office of Management & Budget
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