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From the Hill

DOD, NIH big winners in Bush R&D budget; other agencies face cuts

On April 9, the Bush administration released details of its fiscal year (FY) 2002 budget request, which contains an overall increase in federal research and development (R&D) spending but cuts in most of the individual sponsoring agencies. The budget calls for overall discretionary spending to rise 4 percent or $26 billion in FY 2002 to $661 billion. Almost the entire requested increase would go to top priority agencies, the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Education, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with a reserve for emergencies. All other discretionary programs, including R&D programs outside NIH and DOD, would be left with flat or declining budgets.

The request for total federal R&D in FY 2002 is $96.5 billion, $5.6 billion or 6.1 percent more than FY 2001 (see table). The proposed increases for DOD ($3.6 billion) and NIH ($2.7 billion) account for more than the overall $5.5 billion increase; hence, all other R&D funding agencies combined are left with less money than in FY 2001.

DOD, the largest federal sponsor of R&D, did not submit a full budget on April 9. The department is currently undergoing a major review of defense spending priorities, and a full FY 2002 request was expected in June. In the meantime, most of the DOD request consists of placeholder figures assuming the FY 2001 budget plus inflation, but there is also a request for an extra $2.6 billion in unallocated funds for DOD development, presumably for national missile defense and other administration priorities. Total DOD R&D would increase 8.5 percent to $45.9 billion. The placeholder budget assumes for the moment that basic research (the 6.1 account), applied research (the 6.2 account), and individual agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would all grow by 2.1 percent in FY 2002.

NIH would receive $23.1 billion in FY 2002, a $2.8 billion or 13.5 percent jump that would keep NIH on track to double its budget in the five years between FY 1998 and 2003. NIH R&D would rise 13.6 percent to $22.4 billion, with most of the institutes receiving increases between 11.5 and 12.5 percent. The NIH budget would emphasize investments in R&D facilities, both for extramural research facilities grants ($100 million, up from $78 million) and intramural construction ($307 million, double the FY 2001 funding level). Funding for the Office of Research on Women's Health within the Office of the Director would more than double, and the new National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities would receive a nearly 20 percent boost in its budget to $158 million. The new National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering would receive $40 million, up from $2 million.

The National Science Foundation's (NSF) R&D investments would decline 1.6 percent to $3.2 billion. There would be an expansion of NSF's science and mathematics education activities, but most of the research directorates in Research and Related Activities (down 0.5 percent to $3.3 billion) would face budget cuts. Only astronomy, mathematics, and nanotechology-related research would receive inflationary increases, leaving research in nearly 30 other program areas such as information technology research, physics, and the social sciences with flat or declining funding. The budget would also cut NSF's investments in research instrumentation by a third and Major Research Equipment by more than 20 percent.

R&D in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would fall 8.1 percent to $1.8 billion, reversing a similarly sized increase last year. Funding for competitive research grants in the National Research Initiative ($106 million) and formula research funds in the Hatch Act ($180 million) would stay even with FY 2001, while the administration would find savings by not renewing more than $120 million in congressionally designated research projects. Intramural research in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would stay even with FY 2001 at $852 million, but there would be $44 million in cuts to projects in ARS Buildings and Facilities (down 27 percent to $118 million), many of them congressionally designated.

R&D in the FY 2002 Budget by Agency
(budget authority in millions of dollars)

  FY 2000 FY 2001 FY 2002 Change FY 01-02
Actual Estimate Budget Amount Percent
Total R&D (Conduct and Facilities)
Defense (military)1 39,959 42,258 45,855 3,597 8.5%
  S&T (6.1-6.3 + medical) 8,603 9,392 9,589 197 2.1%
  All Other DOD R&D 31,356 32,866 36,266 3,400 10.3%
Health and Human Services 18,182 20,859 23,496 2,637 12.6%
  Nat'l Institutes of Health 17,234 19,710 22,395 2,685 13.6%
NASA 9,494 9,925 9,967 41 0.4%
Energy 6,956 7,744 7,399 -346 -4.5%
  NNSA and other defense 3,201 3,499 3,542 42 1.2%
  Energy and Science programs 3,755 4,245 3,857 -388 -9.1%
Nat'l Science Foundation 2,931 3,279 3,226 -52 -1.6%
Agriculture 1,776 1,961 1,803 -158 -8.1%
Commerce 1,174 1,201 1,110 -91 -7.6%
  NOAA 643 726 772 47 6.4%
  NIST 471 421 313 -108 -25.7%
Interior 618 631 593 -39 -6.1%
Transportation 607 747 798 51 6.8%
Environ. Protection Agency 558 609 569 -40 -6.5%
Veterans Affairs 645 703 722 19 2.7%
Education 238 265 259 -6 -2.3%
All Other 630 704 663 -41 -5.8%
 




  Total R&D 83,769 90,887 96,459 5,572 6.1%
Defense R&D 43,160 45,757 49,397 3,639 8.0%
Nondefense R&D 40,609 45,130 47,062 1,933 4.3%
Nondefense R&D excluding NIH 23,374 25,420 24,668 -752 -3.0%
Basic Research 19,468 22,014 23,343 1,329 6.0%
Applied Research 18,957 21,439 22,458 1,019 4.8%
Development 40,425 42,367 45,561 3,195 7.5%
R&D Facilities and Equipment 4,919 5,068 5,097 29 0.6%

Source: AAAS, based on OMB data for R&D for FY 2002, agency budget justifications, and information from agency budget offices.

1FY 2002 DOD figures represent a projection from FY 2001 funding levels plus inflation, plus an additional $2.6 billion (in development) for unspecified projects.

Department of Commerce R&D programs would decline 7.6 percent to $1.1 billion. The budget would eliminate the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in FY 2002 and would allow FY 2001 funds to be used only to fund existing ATP awards. Intramural R&D in the NIST laboratories, however, would increase 9 percent. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration R&D would increase by 6.4 percent to $772 million, including program increases for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR).

The Department of Energy (DOE) would see its R&D programs decline 4.5 percent to $7.4 billion after a 12 percent increase last year. Most programs in the Office of Science would receive level or slightly increased funding, including Basic Energy Sciences (up 1.3 percent to $1 billion), Advanced Scientific Computing Research (unchanged at $163 million), Nuclear Physics (unchanged at $355 million), and High Energy Physics (up 1.3 percent to $706 million). Biological and Environmental Research would fall 8.2 percent to $442 million, mostly because of the deletion of congressionally designated projects. Funding for the Spallation Neutron Source would rise $13 million to $291 million. Energy R&D, however, would suffer steep cuts: Solar and renewable energy R&D would drop by more than a third; nuclear energy R&D would be almost halved; and energy conservation R&D would fall by nearly 25 percent. In Fossil Energy, a new Coal for Clean Power Initiative of competitive, cost-shared R&D grants funded at $150 million would offset steep cuts in gas, oil, and other fossil energy R&D program areas. In DOE's defense programs, construction of the troubled National Ignition Facility would continue with a 24 percent boost to $245 million, while the Advanced Simulation and Computing Initiative (ASCI) would receive $738 million, a slight decrease.

R&D in the Department of the Interior would fall 6.1 percent to $593 million, but steeper cuts would fall on Interior's lead science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). USGS R&D would decrease 10.7 percent to $491 million. Hardest hit would be programs in Water Resources (down 25.5 percent as a result of the elimination of some programs and dramatic reductions in the National Water Quality Assessment program) and Biological Research (down 7 percent because of the elimination of the National Biological Information Infrastructure program).

Department of Transportation (DOT) R&D funding would climb 6.8 percent to $798 million. Many DOT programs do not compete with other discretionary programs for funding because they rely on guaranteed spending from transportation trust funds. Because transportation tax revenues have been rising steadily, R&D funding would also rise. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) R&D would increase by 27.5 percent to $374 million, including a 46 percent boost to $74 million for R&D in Intelligent Transportation Systems.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) R&D budget would fall 6.5 percent to $569 million, mostly because of the elimination of dozens of congressionally designated research projects. EPA's core research programs would mostly be held to level funding. The overall EPA budget would decline from $7.8 billion in FY 2001 to $7.3 billion in FY 2002.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) R&D programs would increase 0.4 percent to $10 billion. Although Space Science would increase by 6.2 percent to $2.8 billion, there would be cuts of $200 million (11.7 percent) in the Earth Science enterprise to $1.5 billion. Biological and Physical Research (formerly Life and Microgravity Sciences) would decline 4.7 percent to $361 million. Aero-Space Technology would increase 7.3 percent to $2.4 billion because of a more than $200 million increase to $475 million for the Space Launch Initiative to explore technologies for reusable launch vehicles. Although the budget contains a $2.1 billion request for the International Space Station (down 1.2 percent), there are no details for FY 2002 because the entire project is undergoing a major review that will likely result in a heavily restructured and scaled-down station.

New rules on medical privacy go into effect

The Bush administration announced in April that it would immediately implement medical privacy regulations put forth last year by the Clinton administration. The rules, which were postponed by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, will provide the first-ever federal floor for medical privacy standards.

The rules were initially scheduled to take effect on February 14. But in the face of protests from health care interests, Thompson decided to allow an additional 60 days of comments. On April 12, two days before the end of the comment period, he said that the rules would go forward. One change was made to allow parents to have access to their children's records. The health care industry will have two years before it is required to comply. During the first year, however, Thompson will be able to alter the rules, and he has already said that changes are not out of the question.

Space station cost overruns jeopardize scientific research

The International Space Station (ISS) is now expected to be $4 billion over budget by 2006, which would put it substantially over a congressionally mandated $25 billion budget cap imposed in 2000. In an effort to remain below the cap, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is once again making changes in the project, including cutting scientific research.

Since its inception in 1984, the ISS has been plagued by cost overruns. Its initial cost estimate was $8 billion, with construction to be completed within 10 years. The original space station concept envisaged three elements: an occupied base for eight crew and two automated research platforms. By 1989, the estimated cost had risen to $14.5 billion (in 1984 dollars), and development of the automated platforms had been halted.

In 1993, NASA unveiled the current ISS design, estimated at $17.4 billion and slated to be completed in 2002. That year also marked the beginning of Russian involvement in the project. In March 1998, the cost projection was raised to $21.3 billion, and in late 1998, to $22.7 billion. Now, it's being estimated at $28 billion to $30 billion, including the $4 billion overrun.

In recent testimony before the House Science Committee, NASA administrator Dan Goldin said the new overruns were first discovered in November 2000 after the delayed launch of the Russian Zvezda Service Module. "First and foremost, the cost growth is driven by the unprecedented technical and management complexity of the ISS program," Goldin said. He cited the advanced life support systems, Space Module training facility, and software integration as examples. He said delays by Russia in completing its obligations had added to the problems, and he blamed Boeing, NASA's primary contractor, for consistently underrepresenting cost projections, thus making it difficult for NASA to provide Congress with accurate forecasts.

In response to the projected new cost overruns, the Bush administration has proposed a NASA budget designed to achieve the program's top priorities, with the stipulation that no funding be taken from programs outside the Human Space Flight Program. To achieve this, NASA has proposed to end construction of the ISS after completion of the "U.S. Core" and the launch of the European and Japanese lab modules. NASA will then work with Congress to determine whether further U.S. development of the ISS is possible.

In order to complete the U.S. Core, which still lacks a docking node called Node 2, funds will be redirected from a propulsion module, habitation module, an emergency Crew Return Vehicle (CRV), and measures to increase scientific research capability. Halting development of the CRV means that only three people would be able to be on board the station at any given time because of present crew evacuation capacity.

NASA estimates that 2.5 people are required simply to run the station, so only half a person's time would be available for scientific research. As a result, many scientists are concerned that NASA has lost sight of the ISS's primary goal: world-class research in space. In addition, the fate of a Japanese-built centrifuge system is also uncertain under NASA's redirection plan. According to testimony by the Congressional Research Service's Marcia Smith, "Many in the scientific community consider the centrifuge to be one of the premier pieces of scientific equipment planned for the space station."

In a March 9 letter to NASA space flight chief Joe Rothenberg, Martin Fettman, chairman of NASA's space station biological research project science working group, wrote that if NASA goes ahead with the proposed redirections, "we might as well completely discontinue" science funding for the space station. The letter also warns that the entire life science community would "turn its support away" from the station. John McElroy, chair of the National Research Council's Space Studies Board, echoed Fettman's frustrations: "It's the old fear of putting up a tin can that isn't capable of doing good science."

According to Rothenberg, NASA will continue to "maximize research" aboard the space station. "We honestly believe the science community is our customer," he adds. Rothenberg said cuts would be made only after consulting with researchers.

Members of Congress were also upset by news of the overruns and were concerned about NASA's plans to address them. Reflecting on NASA's consistent history of cost problems, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) asked Goldin whether "part of the uniform at NASA is a pair of rose-colored glasses." Boehlert said that although Congress has historically supported the station, "This is not a case of unconditional love." Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) said that she was "outraged that we are not going to have enough area to have six people." Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) told Goldin that NASA was going to have to find sources of funding other than the "federal money truck."

In response, Goldin said that NASA "believes that there is considerable potential for instituting creative cost-cutting actions which streamline processes, focus resources, and leverage the strength of our international partners." Although Goldin appeared candid with the committee, he repeatedly asked for the committee's patience regarding many of the specifics of NASA's redirection scheme. According to Goldin, NASA is currently in the midst of a bottom-up review, the results of which will be available sometime during the summer. At that time, Goldin promised to return to explain to the members its findings and NASA's future ISS plans.

Panel calls for bolstering protection of human subjects in research

The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) on May 18 issued recommendations to improve the protection of human subjects in research, including the proposal that federal oversight be expanded to protect human subjects in private as well as public sector research. The commission's work was prompted by the death of a teenager in a gene therapy trial and the revelation that institutions had failed to notify the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the occurrence of adverse events.

Currently, 17 federal agencies abide by requirements collectively known as the "common rule," which include guidelines for obtaining informed consent and the use of institutional review boards. The common rule applies only to federally sponsored research. NIH, for example, monitors all clinical research that is funded through its institutes utilizing both the common rule and its own guidelines. The Food and Drug Administration, on the other hand, has oversight of both public and private research, but only in instances in which a potential commercial product such as a drug, medical device, biological product, or food item is being developed. According to the NBAC, these differences create an unbalanced structure and lead to failures to protect human participants.

In addition to calling for legislation that would create a comprehensive federal policy applying to all types of research, the NBAC recommended establishing a single, independent office within the federal government to develop and enforce policies. The NBAC recommends that the office extend guidelines for reviewing research throughout a given clinical trial to some previously exempt fields.

The final NBAC report, Ethical and Policy Issues in Research Involving Human Participants, which will discuss in full the panel's findings and recommendations, is expected to be released in the summer of 2001. More information is available at the NBAC's Web site at www.bioethics.gov.


"From the Hill" is prepared by the Center for Science, Technology, and Congress at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (www.aaas.org/spp) in Washington, D.C., and is based on articles from the center's bulletin Science & Technology in Congress.