Panel debates R&D budget figures

The chairman of the House Science Committee says that pouring money into research and development projects to fight terrorism may be spending too much money in one area and not enough in others.

At a Feb. 13 hearing — the first on President Bush's fiscal 2003 R&D budget — committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) said he feared the nearly $112 billion request may not be a "panacea." The request includes a 9 percent increase in spending that emphasizes biomedical research and fighting terrori

"The focusing of the proposed R&D budget on two narrowly defined priority areas has left the spending for other agencies anemic," Boehlert said. "The Congress will have to show its mettle and provide an infusion of cash for the rest of the research budge

Nevertheless, John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, defended Bush's research budget. He said budget priorities have changed because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The attacks laid bare vulnerabilities in our physical security and exacerbated weaknesses in our economy," Marburger told the committee. "The priorities of the nation drastically changed in a matter of a few hours."

The R&D budget follows the administration's pledge to double the funding over five years for the National Institutes of Health. The first installment, in the fiscal 2003 budget, would increase funding by $3.9 billi

It also calls for tripling the R&D funding for homeland security from nearly $1 billion in 2002 to $3 billion in 2003. And it seeks to increase networking and information technology R&D to $1.9 b

These increases are sorely needed, said Samuel Bodman, the Commerce Department's deputy secretary. "Technology in the pipeline or still on the laboratory bench can help the United States and its allies prevail in the fight against terrorism. It can help to bolster homeland protections and to correct vulnerabilities in critically important infrastructures," he said.

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