In This Issue
Nine months after President Bush unveiled his budget proposal for fiscal year 2006, Congress has wrapped up work on nearly all of the twelve Research and Development (R&D) funding agencies before adjourning for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Now nearly two months into fiscal year 2006, the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency have their final budgets. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the Departments of Commerce, Transportation, and Veterans’ Affairs are likely to be signed into law this week. That means that the two largest R&D funding agencies, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health remain on the docket for December. What remains certain, however, is that all agency budgets, including those already signed into law, will be hit with an across the board cut of up to two percent. This cut reflects the unanticipated billion dollar price-tag of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Note that the agency numbers reported below do not reflect the upcoming cut.
In a push to increase competitively awarded grants at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Bush Administration proposed slashing formula funds and shifting more dollars to a competitive grants program. Congress rejected that proposal by preserving a balance between formula funds, competitive funds, and earmarked projects. The agency’s National Research Initiative (NRI) gets a slight boost to $183 million (the Administration request was for $250 million) while earmarked special grants grow by $8 million to $128 million.
The Forest Service (FS) R&D budget is $329 million, a 4 percent increase from last year. The focus remains on forestry and ecosystem research, mostly in intramural laboratories. An extramural fire science grants program is slated for $23 million for fiscal year 2006.
R&D at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) rises by 7.3 percent to $11.5 billion, but this increase does not translate to good news for biological and earth sciences research at the agency. The budget of the Earth-Sun System Program (formerly the Earth Science Program) drops by 7.3 percent to $2.1 billion. This Program, a vital part of the interagency Climate Change Science Program, is responsible for earth observations.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) budget grows by 2.7 percent to $668 million, reversing proposals for steep cuts, but the increase is slated for an earmarked Alaskan fisheries R&D program, leaving other NOAA R&D high and dry. The National Marine Fisheries Service grows by $41 million because of the specially marked funds for fisheries and marine mammals research in Alaska. All other NMFS R&D programs see cuts and the agency’s largest unit, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research also falls by 3.8 percent to an R&D portfolio of $325 million. The agency’s Sea Grant Program is cut by $7 million compared to last year.
The final Department of Energy (DOE) budget reflects a slight increase of 0.9 percent to $8.7 billion. The agency’s Office of Science sees a 0.6 percent increase, most of it designated for earmarks. Funding for core Biological and Environmental Research within the agency decreases even as congressional earmarks within that account rise by $130 million.
Congress once again reversed the Administration’s proposed cuts to the Department of Interior’s (DOI) science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey. Instead, the agency is slated to see a budget increase of $13 million to a R&D total of $555 million, a 2.5 percent increase. (The Administration had proposed a 4.8 percent cut). The agency’s Water Resources Program gets a small increase to $128 million, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program stays at $14.6 million, and the National Water Quality Assessment Program returns to last year’s funding level of $63 million. Biological Research Programs increase by $5 million to a total of $177 million due to congressionally earmarked projects.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) R&D budget gets a small increase of 1.2 percent to a budget of $579 million. Far fewer earmarks than in recent years is good news for the agency’s core R&D programs. Clean air research is up by $4 million, clean water research grows by $3 million, and human health and ecosystem research climbs by $9 million to $244 million. However, sustainability research drops to $29 million from last year’s budget of $40 million.
ESA encourages its members to write a quick thank you to House and Senate Chairs and Ranking Members of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee (jurisdiction over USGS & EPA) and Commerce, Science, Justice Appropriations Subcommittee (jurisdiction over NSF). Leaders of these appropriations committees worked hard to restore proposed cuts to these agencies. House Interior and Environment Chair is Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC), FAX: 202.226.6422; Ranking Member is Norman Dicks (D-WA), FAX: 202.226.1176; Senate Chair is Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), FAX: 202.224.8594; Ranking Member is Sen. Bryon Dorgan (D-ND), FAX: 202.224.1193; firstname.lastname@example.org. Commerce, Science, Justice House Chair is Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), FAX: 202.225.5136; House Ranking Member is Alan Mollohan (D-WVA), FAX: 202.225.4172. Senate Chair is Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), FAX: 202.224.3416; email@example.com; Ranking Member is Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), FAX: 202.224.4654.
Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science R&D website; Senate and House Appropriations websites.