President’s budget reflects priorities in STEM, renewable energy, climate, and “bio-economy”

This post was contributed by Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs

As is tradition on the first Monday in February, the President yesterday unveiled his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year of 2011.  All over Washington, DC, federal agencies held budget briefings, with more to come over the next several days.

Although President Obama called for some fiscal belt-tightening, Administration officials presenting the budget pointed out that Obama was preserving—and in some cases boosting—key science research and development (R&D) programs.  Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren said during a briefing that the President:

…managed to preserve what needed to be preserved for science while holding the line on spending.

Among other areas that Holdren highlighted, is a 63 percent increase proposed for the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture competitive grants program.  That increase would bring the program to $429 million and a significant part of it would focus on bioenergy research.

Holdren also pointed to the President’s proposed $3.7 billion spread across multiple agencies to foster education in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.  That proposal includes $1 billion to improve science and math achievements of K-12 students.  

Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that her agency’s proposed R&D budget is the largest boost that NOAA has seen in over a decade.  Lubchenco characterized strengthening science at the agency as part of her “personal mission” and said agency priorities include addressing ocean acidification, detection of marine pathogens, and aquaculture.

The Administration’s budget also reflects renewed emphasis on the US Global Change Research Program, proposing a 21 percent increase to $2.6 billion for the multi-agency program.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would get a boost to its Earth science program to improve forecasting of climate change and natural disasters.  The Department of Interior’s lead science agency, the US Geological Survey is proposed to receive an $18 million increase for its USGCRP programs, focused on understanding the impacts of climate change on natural resources.

At the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget briefing, Director Arden Bement’s highlights included the agency’s plans to integrate its existing climate science and engineering research with new education and cyber-based activities through its Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability initiative.  In addition, the agency is interested in fostering the “bio-economy” by drawing on biology to boost agricultural productivity, industrial processes, and environmental sustainability.

NSF’s National Ecological Observatory Network—which promises to open up new horizons for large-scale biology—is slated to receive $15 million to complete design of the network and $20 million to begin actual construction of facilities in 2011.  During yesterday’s NSF’s budget briefing Bement said that:

NEON is expected to inform and enhance all of the environmental and ecological sciences.

Of course, the Administration’s budget proposal marks only the beginning of the appropriations season.  Next, Congress will hold budget hearings and react to what the Administration is proposing.   As the months progress, interested parties ranging from veterans to farmers to scientists will weigh in, trying to improve the odds that the final budget will turn out most favorably for their respective interests.


Author: Nadine Lymn

ESA Director of Public Affairs

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