Press Release

Science, Competitiveness Shortchanged In Administration Budget

By SpaceRef Editor
February 16, 2006
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  (Washington, DC)  A House Committee on Science hearing today with federal agency Administrators to review the Administration’s FY2007 budget led Committee Democrats to conclude that there’s more to be done to keep America competitive in the global marketplace.

“The good news in this budget request is the proposed increase in federal research and development,” stated Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN).  “The bad news is that that increase is less than the projected rate of inflation.  Once again, we are investing less than the rate of inflation at a time when many of our international competitors are increasing their investment in science and technology research faster than ever before.”  

In Science Democrats’ recent analysis of the Administration’s budget, they found that science funding outside of the President’s announced “American Competitiveness Initiative” (ACI) is cut in order to offset the ACI increases.  Essentially, the Administration’s budget cuts science to fund science.

“Other countries are graduating record numbers of science and engineering majors; and they are turning research in their countries into products here on U.S. store shelves.  We cannot afford to cut the very programs that enable us to do the same,” continued Rep. Gordon.  “Cutting funding for K-12 education as well as some of the very programs – like MEP and ATP – that create jobs and aid small businesses is senseless. If innovation is the goal line, this budget fumbles.”

More alarming is the fact that the Administration’s science and technology investment is actually decreasing.  The federal Science & Technology budget is acknowledged as the best method to evaluate federal research funding.  The Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. John Marburger has stated that indeed, federal R&D is an imperfect measure for evaluating science and technology funding.  Most agree S&T funding is the better measure. 

“Knowing that fact and being aware of Dr. Marburger’s statements in recent budget briefings, in the spirit of the Olympics, I’d like to nominate Dr. Marburger for a gold medal in the category of statistical gymnastics for making a 1% decrease in S&T funding look like a 3.7% increase despite the fact that it’s almost $600 million less than FY06 funding and $1 billion less than what the Administration requested last year according to their own budget documents,” added Rep. Gordon.

“Funding science programs is more than just assistance for people in lab coats looking though microscopes.  Science funding equates to jobs,” stated Rep. Gordon.  “The increased commitment to agencies such as NSF and the DOE Office of Science are welcome, but in my opinion even in these tight budget times our priorities are not in the right place.”

“I’m concerned that President’s newfound interest in DOE science, solar, and biomass means that other important areas such as energy efficiency, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric are experiencing budget cuts,” added Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). “Instead of focusing on conservation, which can deliver the most immediate return in reducing our energy consumption, the President is instead shifting resources to very expensive long term programs such as nuclear reprocessing that even the nuclear power industry testified to our subcommittee is not the prudent course of action at this time.”

Research Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR) further stated, “We must renew our commitment to America’s technological leadership in order to create the next generation of discovery and economic growth.  Cutting edge math, science and engineering will rule the 21st Century and we cannot maintain our leadership role without making a generous investment now.”

“I appreciate the President’s initiative to increase funding for greater competitiveness and innovation, but this budget is not consistent with those goals.  This Administration’s requests fall short of what we need to truly impact innovation in this country – we need more than just words and rhetoric. Research and development funding should be increased overall and not just for the favored few at the expense of the whole,” remarked ETS Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. David Wu (D-OR).

Gordon has introduced the only House legislative package aimed at fully implementing a U.S. competitiveness plan.  The Gordon package – based on the widely acknowledged National Academy Report – includes H.R. 4434, 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act; H.R. 4435, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) Act; and H.R. 4596, Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act.  Detailed summaries of each bill are available at http://sciencedems.house.gov.

Science Democrats’ detailed assessment of the Administration’s FY2007 budget can be found here or by visiting http://sciencedems.house.gov.  Also access Rep. Gordon’s full opening statement before the Committee today.

SpaceRef staff editor.