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Bush Administration's Proposed Budget May Well Leave Some Scientists Behind

The Bush Administration released its budget for Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07), which called for level funding or budget cuts for most agencies responsible for funding scientific research.

By Karen Studwell

On February 6th, the Bush Administration released its budget for Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07), which called for level funding or budget cuts for most agencies responsible for funding scientific research. Reflecting the President's priorities for the coming year, including boosting the nation's investment in basic science, the budget also includes some modest increases for a few science agencies in FY07.

Following on the heels of the first budget cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in nearly 35 years, the President's President provides for no increase for NIH in FY07 and its budget would remain flat at $28.6 billion. When inflation is factored in, as measured by the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI), the result is close to a 3.5 percent cut for FY 2007. Every institute except the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which received additional resources to fund avian flu and bioterrorism research, would receive slight budget cuts, including $9 million from National Institute of Mental Health, $5 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, $7 million from the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, and $40 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Another casualty in the President's budget is the proposed National Children's Study (NCS), which has been in the planning stages for five years. NICHD is the lead agency for the study, but language accompanying its budget indicated that there were no funds in the FY07 budget to continue to pursue implementation of the full study. While planning will continue throughout FY06, an additional $57 million is needed for the study to begin implementation in FY07.

Striking a positive note for basic science, the National Science Foundation (NSF), which received a small increase in its FY06 funding level, fared uncommonly well in the President's FY07 proposed budget (a 7.9% increase for a total of $6.02 billion). This is in part because of its physical sciences portfolio, an area of science singled out for increased support by the Administration this year. The increase would be spread across the NSF directorates in terms of percentage increases, resulting in a 6.9% increase (to $213.7 million) for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, the primary source of NSF funding for psychological research.

Within the Department of Defense (DoD), the President proposed $11.08 billion in total support for basic and applied research within the FY07 science and technology account, approximately $2 million (v CHECKING FIGURES) and 16.3% less than the amount appropriated in FY06. At this point, it is unclear how much support psychological research is slated to receive within this overall account.

After years of basically flat budgets, the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA's) FY06 medical and prosthetic research account finally got an increase to $412 million. Congress went further and dictated that the mental health research budget be doubled within that larger account. Disappointingly, the President's proposed budget for FY07 included only $399 million for VA research.

Within the Department of Homeland Security, funding for research and development increased by 3.1 percent for FY06. The Center for the Study of High Consequence Event Preparedness and Response, the fifth University-based Center of Excellence, was awarded to Johns Hopkins University. One hundred twenty nine new Scholars and Fellows were named, thirty percent of who were psychology or other social science majors. But new leadership for the department brings a new set of priorities, and while Secretary Chertoff is focused on border security and Weapons of Mass Destruction, new behavioral science staff are committed to involving psychologists at many levels in the implementation of the DHS R&D portfolio. Having said that, the recent resignation of Charles McQueary, head of the Science and Technology Directorate, and a proposed 5.6% cut in R&D at the DHS for FY '07 suggest an uncertain future for research in the department.

Within the Department of Education, the proposed budget for research, development and dissemination at the Institute of Education Sciences is equal to its FY 2006 appropriation of $162.6 million. Likewise, the National Center on Special Education Research would receive level funding of $71 million. The Administration proposed a slight increase of $3 million for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which would allow it to begin a new secondary longitudinal study of the educational experiences of middle and high school students. Also within the Department of Education, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) is slated to receive level funding of $106.5 million.

The President's Budget is only the first step in a year long process to fund the federal government. In the coming weeks, the House and Senate will each develop their own congressional budget resolutions, which will serve as blueprints for the appropriations committees that fund these agencies. As the process moves forward, APA's Science Policy Office will work with Congress to enhance federal support for behavioral research and to educate Members about the importance of these critical research programs. 

To read the National Institutes of Health budget, click here.