Science Chairman Responds to Budget
House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert’s statement: “I am very disappointed in the proposed science budget, and I will be working with the Administration and my Congressional colleagues to improve the numbers as we move through the budget process. I understand that we are in a very tight fiscal situation and that the Administration has tried to treat research and development (R&D) as favorably as possible. But we just have to find a way to do better. …
“The budget chapter on R&D includes the quotation that ‘Science is a horse. Don’t worship it. Feed it.’ The budget does not reflect that advice. After a few years of spending at the levels proposed in this budget, science would be an emaciated, old, grey mare, unable to produce any new ideas or young scientists.”
“We need to remember that the decade of unprecedented economic growth that began in 1992 and that lasted into this new century was a result of previous investments we had made in science and technology, particularly in areas such as information technology and the health sciences. If the current recovery is to be sustained, we need to invest now in R&D. A healthy investment in R&D is the only way to ensure that our economy will continue to create jobs over the long term.
“Yet basic and applied research in this budget would increase at less than the rate of inflation. And while we are still reviewing the specific budgets of individual agencies, some glaringly bad decisions already stand out. Primary among them is the proposal to move the Math and Science Partnerships from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the Department of Education. We will fight that decision tooth-and-nail. For some reason, the remaining, close-out money proposed for the Partnerships is moved to the research account of NSF, where it artificially inflates what would otherwise be a mediocre rise in research spending. And I remain concerned about embarking on new missions for NASA at a time when other science agencies are being cut in real dollars.
“There are, of course, positive aspects of this budget. The laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive a 20 percent increase after being cut by Congress in fiscal 2004. Restoring funding to those labs will be one of my top priorities this year. And, as in the past, the Administration has selected well in choosing interagency R&D initiatives.
“We will be continuing to get more details on the budget in the coming days and weeks. We will have our work cut out for us in figuring out how to ensure that science can continue to thrive in a time of fiscal distress.”