Cameron Wilson at USACM’s Technology Policy Blog has a great dissection of the FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill in which Congress managed to reverse two years worth of positive efforts in science and innovation funding policy. His piece is titled “Congress Abandons Commitment to Basic Research; Puts NIST in the Construction Business” and it’s a must read.
Also, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (of which CRA is a member) released a statement today expressing grave disappointment in the appropriations outcome. Since it’s not yet posted on the Task Force website, I’ll quote it here:
The FY08 omnibus appropriations bill that Congress is considering represents a step backwards for the bipartisan innovation agenda. The President and Congress, for all their stated support this year for making basic research in the physical sciences and engineering a top budget priority ended up essentially cutting, or flat-funding, key science agencies after accounting for inflation.
The nations that seek to challenge our global leadership in science and innovation should be greatly encouraged by this legislation.
The President and a near-unanimous Congress, by enacting the America COMPETES Act earlier this year, laid out a bold path toward revitalizing basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. COMPETES was a welcome Congressional initiative to double funding for Americas science research programs and expand science education that complemented the Presidents American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda.
This appropriations legislation takes a step back from the promises contained in all of these initiatives.
The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation is hopeful that this reversal of direction does not represent a lack of commitment to turning around the nations long decline in support for basic research programs. For now, the failure to provide the funding required to begin growing these programs makes these promises little more than empty gestures. We intend to work with the Administration and Congress in the new year to make the promise of America COMPETES a reality.
Strong words from an organization consisting of some of the most important technology companies and organizations on the planet.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out some interesting statistics. Late last summer, 367 members of the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 2272, The America COMPETES Act, which we celebrated and covered in great detail. It was an unequivocal demonstration of support for strengthening the federal investment in basic research in the physical sciences, computing, mathematics and engineering and the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Of those 367 members who voted for the COMPETES Act, 244 voted for this omnibus bill — a bill which represents a nearly 180 degree reversal from the goals of COMPETES. 206 Democrats, 38 Republicans.
Now there were clearly other possible reasons for voting for the omnibus, including a deluge of earmarks in the bill. But the fact remains that support for science ceased to be a priority for those 244 members — including quite a few who probably should have had science ranked high on their personal lists. As we now start to think about the FY 09 appropriations process, certainly it will be worth checking in with those members to understand the dissonance in their positions. (See the extended entry for the full list….)
Democratic House Members Who Voted for Both the COMPETES Act and the Omnibus
Sánchez, Linda T.
Republican House Members Who Voted for Both the COMPETES Act and the Omnibus: