Views & Estimates :: March 6, 2006
"Special attention should go to the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and information sciences and to Department of Defense (DOD) basic-research funding. This special attention does not mean that there should be a disinvestment in such important fields as the life sciences. or the social sciences. A balanced research portfolio in all fields of science and engineering research is critical to U.S. prosperity."
From the Executive Summary of Rising Above the Gathering Storm, National Academies report (emphasis added).
While there have been numerous reports on American competitiveness in recent years, Gathering Storm has had a rare impact on policymakers and the public. A consensus seems to have emerged on two points. First, that we have to invest in our most important resource - our people - by improving the quality of science and math education offered in our schools. Second, we have to create an economy that fully embraces innovation.
The National Academies panel, chaired by Norm Augustine, chose twenty recommendations it believed would lay the groundwork for building an economy that holds the promise of good, high-paying employment for Americans. These policy initiatives are about creating jobs and a brighter future for Americans and that is why we have embraced the findings of the Augustine Report.
The Bush Administration seems to have joined the bandwagon in support of the Augustine Committee, at least rhetorically. The Research and Development (R&D) budget request presented to Congress this year has as its centerpiece the "American Competitiveness Initiative." This effort would promote increases in physical sciences R&D at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to put them on a path to double the relevant funding in ten years. The Administration also has proposals to increase science education support through the Department of Education and enhance energy independence through investments in the Department of Energy (primarily in the fields of renewable energy sources).
Unfortunately, these initiatives are funded through cuts in other areas. For the American Competitiveness Initiative, the proposed $900 million increase at NSF, DOE, and NIST comes at the expense of other programs at those agencies and at the other Federal science agencies. In fact, despite the hoopla surrounding the President's FY2007 budget initiatives, the Federal Science and Technology request for FY2007 is $1 billion less than the Administration requested for FY2006. Comparing this year's request to last year's enacted levels, the overall Federal science and technology budget across the government would drop by one percent.
So while the Administration says the right words about helping America invest in those areas that will help America grow, the reality is that the request contradicts the recommendation of the National Academies panel - both because it boosts some science at the expense of other science, and because the net consequence of this budget is that we would be disinvesting rather than investing in science and technology.
We find it impossible to see how less science and technology research investment would help to increase - or even sustain - America's rapidly dwindling competitive edge. This budget request would invest less than the rate of inflation at a time when many of our international competitors are increasing their investment in science and technology at faster rates than ever before.
According to the newly-released UNESCO Science Report 2005, Asia is now close to spending one-third of all the money the world is devoting to R&D. In 2002, Asia accounted for 31.5%, up from 27.9% in 1997. The Asian spurt was led by China, whose gross expenditure on research and development went from 3.9% in 1997 to 8.7% of the world total in 2002. The proportion of China's GDP devoted to R&D more than doubled in less than a decade.
Although the United States currently remains the leader in research investment, our competitors are rapidly catching up. Quite simply, the United States cannot rest on its laurels. Nor can it just move around the chairs on the Titanic. We find the priorities in the budget request amount to little more than sleight of hand - taking from one pocket and putting into another and calling that shift an increase. This country has to do more than what this budget requests if we are indeed to remain competitive.
The Committee on Science Majority's Views and Estimates question some Administration cuts and correctly note areas of particular bipartisan concern, such as the continued erosion in funding for the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) and the Administration's request to again terminate the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) and cut the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program by 56%. However, the Majority's uncritical support for the President's Competitiveness proposal, with all the loss that lies behind the selected program increases, makes it impossible to support the Republican Views and Estimates. Thus we file these dissenting views.
We find the budget request to be a complete contradiction to the recommendations of the nonpartisan expert recommendations of the Augustine Committee. We can support some of the President's initiatives, but not at the expense of deeper cuts in other important areas for innovation. The future of the nation's economy is riding on making smart decisions today. The President's budget is an inadequate guide to the task. We would encourage the Budget Committee to make room in the appropriate functional categories for funding sufficient to embrace the full scope of the Augustine Commission's recommendations.
We will close with a few specific observations regarding proposals at particular agencies.
While we were pleased to see the Administration putting forth a plan to follow through on their commitment to double NSF funding, the Administration is four years behind on that commitment and $3.8 billion, or 39%, short of the goal. In 2002, the Congress passed, and the President signed into law, an authorization bill doubling NSF funding over five years. However, the President's requests for NSF since the NSF doubling signing ceremony had been anemic until this, the FY2007 budget request.
As a result, even with the FY2007 proposed increase, the NSF budget is still below the 15% annual rate of increase needed to meet the five-year doubling profile called for in the NSF authorization statute. In fact, the President's plan for NSF does not guarantee a doubling even in ten years. All that the American Competitiveness Initiative promises is that we will see the combination of NSF, DOE basic research and NIST cumulatively double in ten years, without committing to the distribution among those agencies. NSF - really all three agencies - deserve guidance clearer than this as they plan for future investments.
We were very disappointed to see a continued de-emphasis of K-12 science education at NSF. Even as the NSF budget grows overall, the Administration proposes a seven percent cut to K-12 programs. NSF has been a leader in improving science and math education for over 50 years. We do not understand how ignoring NSF's expertise in the education component of the President's initiative helps competitiveness.
Relative to the FY2004 funded level, the NSF FY2007 science education request would represent a 37% decline. One of this nation's highest priorities should be to increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics education. Cutting funding to NSF K-12 programs undercuts this important goal.
From our point of view, competitiveness is about keeping good jobs and creating even more and better jobs in this country. Yet, the Administration proposed to cut Manufacturing Extension Partnership funding by 56%. MEP is the only Federal program designed specifically to assist small manufacturers. MEP is the only program with a proven track record in creating and retaining manufacturing jobs right now. We have lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs since 2001. This last year alone, we lost another 55,000 manufacturing jobs.
Knowing these facts, we just don't see how cutting MEP 56%, and NIST overall by 23%, increases American competitiveness. The bipartisan National Association of Governors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers - and many others - wholeheartedly endorse MEP. Yet, this Administration again chooses to ignore this consensus support.
The Majority Views endorse the President's proposed reduction in NOAA's budget of over $200 million dollars - a six percent reduction from the FY 2006 enacted level. The primary science accounts at NOAA also would be reduced by eight percent as compared to this year's budget. We do not believe NOAA can meet the demands for its operational and research services with this budget.
We have serious concerns about the present and future budget implications of the National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) acquisition program. NPOESS is substantially over-budget and behind schedule. Final decisions about moving this program forward are now being decided through the Department of Defense's Nunn-McCurdy process. The request offered by the Administration offers no room to maneuver as regards reasonable and prudent steps managers might otherwise take to limit the likely gaps in weather and climate data coverage implicit in this badly-managed program.
The constrained budget offered for NOAA for FY 2007 affords little opportunity for NOAA to meet the needs and expectations of the communities it serves through its weather forecasting, coastal zone management, fisheries, and research activities. This matters to citizens whose livelihoods and safety are tied to the swift, sure performance of those duties we entrust to NOAA.