In contrast to last year’s State of the Union address by the President, this year’s speech didn’t feature much in the way of competitiveness or themes. While we’ve gotten many assurances from the White House in recent weeks that the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative — introduced with great fanfare last year and currently mired in the debacle which has become the FY 07 Appropriations process — is still a priority for the Administration and will continue in the FY 08 budget, in the wake of Tuesday’s State of the Union I thought I’d just check in again and make sure things hadn’t changed. Fortunately, they haven’t. Here’s the word from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (posted with permission):
Me: I notice the ACI didn’t recieve much mention in the President’s SOTU. Is ACI still a priority for the Administration? Will we see the commitment continue in FY 08?
OSTP: The SOTU was focused this year to a limited number of topics (mostly new of course), but I can assure you were still fully committed to its success. FYI, below is a response to a similar question that Dr. Marburger shared with a reporter earlier this week. I suspect well have more details to share between now and the budget release so Ill keep you posted.
The President remains fully committed to the success of the American Competitiveness Initiative and the Administration looks forward to Year Two of the ACI and working with the 110th Congress to achieve the Presidents vision for innovation.
Individually, the House and Senate funded Year One of the Presidents proposal to increase basic research in the physical sciences. However, to remain on track to meet the Presidents goal of doubling funding for these key research agencies over 10 years, Congress now needs to complete full funding for Year One of the Initiative (FY07).
The White House also indicated it plans to continue working to see ACI addressed in whatever final resolution Congress comes up with for FY 07 appropriations. News on that front is that the House plans to take up the CR next week, but as of this writing, there’s still no final decision on what will make the cut and what won’t. By pledging to “eliminate earmarks” in the CR, appropriators will free up somewhere on the order of $17 billion to $33 billion in funding to apply to agencies for FY 07. But that range demonstrates the difficulties the decision-makers are facing — gaining consensus on what constitutes an earmark in this case is fraught with political landmines. As a result, there is even talk at the moment of yet again extending the CR for a short duration past the Feb 15th deadline to give appropriators more time to negotiate a CR that will extend the balance of the fiscal year.
As always, as we learn more detail, we’ll pass it on….