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Special Budget Edition February 8, 2005

In this issue:



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.


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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.


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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