Science Public Policy News

Modest Research Funding Increases in Current Fiscal Year

President's budget proposal for research funding agencies called "disappointing" for Fiscal Year 2005

By Patricia Kobor and Sara Robinson

On January 23, 2004, Congress finally approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 omnibus appropriations bill containing funds for the Department of Health and Human Services, National Science Foundation (NSF), and other federal agencies. In this bill, Congress has provided a record-setting $127 billion for federal research and development. However, 93 percent of the 2004 increase goes to just three agencies: the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and National Institutes of Health (NIH), with DOD accounting for 80 percent of the increase.

The omnibus bill includes an across-the-board cut of 0.59 percent for all agencies, even those whose budgets were signed into law in 2003. The one exception is DoD, whose appropriation, enacted in the fall, includes an 18.1 percent increase for its Science and Technology (S&T) budget, for a total of $12.1 billion. The DHS budget gets a 56 percent boost to $1.04 billion.

Other research agencies do not fare as well. The omnibus bill adds $847 million to NIH for a total of $27.1 billion, a modest 3 percent increase after five years of 15 percent increases. Congress provides a five percent increase for NSF, with a total budget of $5.6 billion, $4.1 billion of which is allocated for research and related activities. The Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) receives a 2.5 percent increase, bringing its research budget to $820 million. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) spending will hold steady at $15.4 billion, while R&D funding within NASA actually declines 0.4 percent to $11.0 billion. The omnibus spending bill provides a $2.9 billion increase for the Department of Education, up four percent from FY03.

Just as we began to absorb those numbers, the Bush Administration released its Fiscal Year 2005 (FY05) budget proposal on February 2, 2004. Highlights of the research agency budget requests appear below.

National Science Foundation: The NSF's FY 2005 budget request is $5.75 billion, a three percent increase, or approximately $167 million over this year's newly-enacted appropriation for NSF.

Funding is included for five top "priority areas" including the behavioral research priority area, "Human and Social Dynamics." In addition, the budget includes a new $5 million Innovation Fund to enable NSF to respond quickly to rapidly emerging activities at the frontiers of learning and discovery, and continued funding for the Science of Learning centers.

Department of Defense: The DoD budget includes a request for the Science and Technology account (basic and applied research) of $10.55 billion. This is 12.7 percent less than the Fiscal Year 2004 funding level, but an increase over the President's request of last year. The budget request for specific behavioral science programs was not available at press time.

National Institutes of Health: The administration's budget requests a disappointingly modest 2.6 percent increase for NIH, bringing its funding to $28.8 billion. NIH would fund 258 added research project grants with its increase, but growth in numbers would mean cuts in funding for all research projects. NIH would cut back on the annual "cost-of-living" increases on non-competing continuation grants and limit cost increases on new and successfully re-competed projects to one percent, thereby creating more grants funded at lower levels.

The NIH Roadmap for Biomedical Research would receive $237 million if the President's proposal is enacted, an increase of $109 million over FY 2004. Within that amount, the Office of the Director would receive $60 million, an increase of $25 million, to disburse through the NIH Director's Discretionary Fund. The remaining $177 million would come from NIH institutes and centers, each of which would contribute 0.63 percent of its budget request.

Research training would receive an increase of $15 million, or two percent, for a total of $764 million. The proposal includes funding for 17,791 research trainees, up 225 from FY 2004.

APA is advocating a ten percent increase in NIH funding, to $30.6 billion.

Bioterrorism: Government-wide, funding for terrorism countermeasures is an area of budget increase, but not in all cases. Two bioterrorism preparedness programs are cut: the Health Resources and Services Administration's hospital preparedness program loses $39 million, a cut of 7.5 percent; and the Center for Disease Control's State and Local preparedness program loses $105 million, or 11 percent. The latter amount is redirected into a new biosurveillance initiative that stresses new technologies at the expense of trained personnel who are needed to provide the response when early warnings of disease or attack occur.

Department of Homeland Security: DHS receives a 10.5 percent increase in the President's budget. The 2005 Budget requests just over one billion dollars for research and development. Within DHS, the Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) serves as a centralized R&D arm that consolidates piecemeal R&D efforts into one agency. Its focus is to harness revolutionary technology, which can be used by law enforcement and emergency response personnel in carrying out their mission to protect the Nation. S&T works to solicit proposals and seeks to engage the established U.S. R&D community in the fight against terrorism.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: The 2005 NASA budget provides $9.4 billion for federal science and technology programs, a 1.3 percent increase over the 2004 level. The 2005 Budget supports the President's new initiative of sustained solar system exploration involving both humans and robots. This initiative encompasses programs of lunar exploration; further robotic exploration of the solar system; focused exploration of Mars to accelerate the search for water and life and to prepare for future human exploration; and robotic space exploration; and refocused Space Station research on activities that support space-exploration goals.

Institute of Education Sciences (IES): The 2005 Budget provides a total of $449.6 million for the broad activities of the institute, including $91.4 million for statistics, and $94.8 million for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The President's budget includes a $20 million increase in funding for research, development, and dissemination ($185 million in 2005), which supports research programs on cognition and student learning and other research to advance understanding of how students learn and identify effective approaches and interventions to improve education. The Administration has also provided $78 million for research and innovation in special education research in 2005, which was previously funded through the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Department of Veterans Affairs: The VA's research account would take a 6.1 percent cut in the President's budget request for 2005, from $820 million in 2004 to $770 million.

Release of the President's budget is only the first step in the yearly process through which federal programs are funded. First, a budget must be approved by the U.S. House and Senate. Next, each of 14 appropriations, or spending, bills, encompassing different combinations of federal agency spending requests, must be approved by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President. Watch PSA and the Science Policy Insider News (SPIN), our electronic newsletter about science policy issues, for the latest news on science funding and regulation from the APA Science Policy staff.