President’s FY 2015 science budget trails inflation, softens STEM ED consolidation proposal

OSTPOn March 4, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) held a briefing outlining the president’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal and its investments in research and development (R&D).

Overall, the president’s budget would dedicate $135.4 billion for federal R&D, a 1.2 percent increase over 2014. This includes nearly $7.3 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a one percent increase over FY 2014. Overall Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education federal investments would increase by 3.7 percent to $2.9 billion compared to FY 2014. The multi-agency US Global Change Research Program would receive $2.5 billion, a 0.5 percent increase over FY 2014.

OSTP Director John Holdren conceded that many investments fall short of meeting inflation, which will increase by 1.7 percent between FY 2014-2015, but noted that the current fiscal environment constrains more idealistic investments in research while still meeting the president’s desire to increase the United State’s commitment to funding scientific research.

When inquired how the administration’s STEM program consolidation proposal in this year’s budget request differed from last year’s, Holdren contended that the proposal is more modest in that it no longer transfers funds across agencies and the consolidations occur within federal agencies. The proposal, which sought to consolidate STEM programs under the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution, was met with bipartisan skeptism among education advocates and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The budget also proposes a separate $1 billion for a new Climate Resilience Fund, which will focus on helping states and localities with adaptation plans to help deal with floods, droughts wildfires and other extreme weather events or natural disasters that could be exacerbated by climate change. The fund would be part of the administration’s $56 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, which seeks to increase federal investment in education, research and infrastructure.

Cora Marrett, Acting Director of NSF, spotlighted the important role the agency plays in furthering basic research at institutions of higher learning.  Marrett noted that 94 percent of NSF funding goes directly toward basic research initiatives and NSF funds 24 percent of academic basic research at the federal level. Further, she noted NSF funds nearly 2,000 institutions across the United States.

Catherine Wotecki, US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education & Economics highlighted her agency’s research priority initiatives for the coming fiscal year: climate science translation, genetic improvement and translational breeding, pollinator health, and the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, which funds research and education grants to address various agricultural issues, including farming, forestry, ranching and renewable energy. (*Incidentally, Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education & Economics Ann Bartuska is a former president of the Ecological Society of America (2002-2003)).

Also speaking at the briefing was OSTP Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs Patricia Falcone and National Institutes of Health Deputy Director for Science, Outreach and Policy Kathy Hudson. All federal agency representatives who spoke at the briefing were Ph.D. scientists.

Additional information on the FY 2015 budget proposal’s research investments is available here.

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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