Facing heat on the right for excessive spending, President Bush has apparently indicated he will provide a “very tough” spending blueprint to Congress for FY 2006. In a commentary posted today, the Washington Times quotes members of the Administration saying the President will exert “very, very strong discipline” on next year’s spending.
“That discipline will be there big time,” [White House Chief of Staff Andrew] Card told business leaders.”
The Times is pretty specific in predicting the cuts:
Among the budget-cutting targets: the bloated Agriculture Department, corporate welfare, scientific research, housing, state and local giveaway grants, and other low-priority and no-priority programs that will be slashed or eliminated altogether.
The National Science Foundation’s social research grants, long criticized as wasteful, will be cut and NSF’s overall spending is expected to be flatlined. So will the National Institutes of Health, which has seen its budget skyrocket over the past decade, especially in the past four years.
This is very disturbing news, not just because of the cuts it portends, but because the attitude on display in the article is a far cry from the very supportive language we’ve seen this Administration use in reference to the National Science Foundation and the rest of the federal basic research effort. My hope is that the article is more reflective of the Heritage Foundation position on the budget than the President’s, but we’ll know for sure on February 7th.
In the meantime, let’s reflect on the President’s feelings about the federal role in R&D as they were expressed in last year’s budget request. Surely the situation hasn’t changed so much in the intervening 12 months that he no longer believes this, has it?
The eminent 19th Century American scientist Joseph Henry once asserted, “Modern civilization depends on science.” This still holds true. Indeed, investments in science and technology have resulted in much of the unparalleled economic growth in the United States over the last 50 years, as well as the standard of living and quality of life we now enjoy. Advances have been possible only with the support of both public and private investment in research and development (R&D).
And we continue to invest. The R&D investments of the United States are unmatched. However, unlike 40 years ago, when Federal R&D expenditures doubled those of the private sector, industry R&D spending now exceeds that of the Federal Government. Still, by a wide margin, the U.S. Government continues to lead the world in R&D spending.
Investments in technological advancement are vital to strengthening our capabilities to combat terrorism and defend our country. The Presidents 2005 Budget continues to focus R&D on winning the war against terrorism, while moderating the growth in overall spending. But the benefits of innovation and discovery are not limited to national security. They are just as critical to economic security. The Administration, recognizing that fundamental research is the fuel for future innovation and technology development, has maintained the highest levels of support for priority R&D areas such as nanotechnology, information technology, hydrogen energy, and space exploration. The non-defense R&D share of the discretionary budget is at a near record high over the last 30 years.
–Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States of America, FY 2005 (p. 47) – (pdf)