February 12, 2005

In This Issue

A SNAPSHOT OF THE BUSH BUDGET PROPOSAL

Cast against a backdrop of a record deficit and continued looming costs of
war and national security priorities, President Bush on February 7, 2005
unveiled his budget proposal for fiscal year 2006. Noting close cooperation
between the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of
Science & Technology Policy, Marcus Peacock , Associate Director, OMB Natural
Resources Programs, and Dr. John Marburger, Presidential Science Advisor, on
February 7 presented a broad overview of the President’s budget proposal. Their
key message: while not all would be happy with some of the choices made in the
proposal, the two maintained that, taken as whole, the President’s budget
blueprint maintains support for the non-defense federal science and technology
programs.

The proposed budget number of $2.57 trillion for fiscal year 2006 would cut
spending for non-defense or security related programs by nearly 1 percent, the
first such cut since the Reagan era. Even when defense and homeland security
spending is included, the federal budget would grow by only 2.1 percent, lower
than the rate of inflation. The President proposes to cut or trim 150 government
programs, although details are still forthcoming.

In a nutshell, many federal research programs would face cuts, while space
exploration and homeland security programs would fare well under the President’s
plan.

AGENCY HIGHLIGHTS

NSF

The National Science Foundation would receive a 2.4 percent increase,
surprisingly good news in this austere budget environment. The Biology
Directorate is slated to a .9 percent increase. $6 million is slated for
continued planning and development of the National Ecological Observatory
Network project execution plan. The Education and Human Resources Directorate
would be cut by 12.4 percent.

USDA-NRI

Described as a way to improve the quality of research, the Administration
proposes to shift funds away from Land Grant University formula grants and move
them to the competitively awarded National Research Initiative program. As
proposed, this would increase funds in NRI by $70 million bringing it to $250
million.

USDA-FS

The Forest & Rangeland Research program of the Forest Service would receive a $9
million increase to fully implement the Forest Inventory & Analysis Program.

NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would receive additional
funding resources for the International Space Station and the moon to mars
missions. However, the agency’s earth science program would suffer steep cuts.

NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would see an overall
decrease of research budgets, including an 11 percent decrease in funding for
Ocean & Atmospheric research, and a 12 percent cut to the National Marine
Fisheries Service.

DOE

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science budget would fall by 4 percent,
with cuts across all disciplinary programs, including biology.

DOI

The Department of Interior’s budget would decrease slightly overall, and would
emphasize federal-state cost-sharing efforts. The budget request includes $2.4
billion in proposed revenue from Arctic National Wildlife Refuge leasing.

The Department of Interior’s science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, is
slated to have funding for its R&D programs drop by 5 percent. Biological
research would increase by 0.7 percent, however this would not be sufficient to
keep pace with inflation.

EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency would sustain a 5.6 percent cut, eliminating
the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, a program aimed at improving
wastewater treatment plants.

DHS

In sharp contrast to the other federal agencies, the Department of Homeland
Security would see its investment in research and development soar by 24 percent
to $1.5 billion, mostly devoted to development.

CONGRESSIONAL REACTION

Republican leaders in the Congress praised the President’s desire to decrease
domestic discretionary spending while acknowledging that some of Bush’s
proposals will not find traction in the Congress.

Meanwhile, criticisms from Democrats ranged from accusations that the
President’s budget does not accurately reflect the long-term costs of social
security privatization, tax and war costs, to concern that the nation’s
competitive edge could be harmed by what they see as inadequate investments in
science and technology.

House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) voiced his desire
to increase funding for the science budget: “As everyone knows, this is a very
tight budget, with an overall cut to non-defense domestic discretionary
spending. Given that context, the science programs fared relatively well.. …That
said, I would certainly like to see more robust increases in the science budget,
particularly for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of
Energy Office of Science. And I am especially troubled by the proposed cuts in
the education programs at NSF…”

As is the annual tradition, Members of Congress must now begin the task of
dealing with the federal budget and aim to complete their work by the start of
the new fiscal year on October 1. Although this year is even tighter fiscally,
it is probable that Congress will restore some of the President’s proposed
funding cuts, as has happened in past years. Said House Appropriations Committee
Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA), “The president has proposed a budget and Congress
will now work its will.”


Sources: Agency websites; Environment & Energy Daily; Greenwire; Science; Washington Post.

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