Proposed R&D budget 'out of balance'

The Bush administration appears to view a boost in research and development spending as a "panacea" in the fight against terrorism, the chairman of the House Science Committee said Feb. 13.

At the first hearing on President Bush's fiscal 2003 budget for research and development, committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) said the $111.8 billion budget request — a 9 percent increase in proposed spending — is "out of balance" with other priorities.

Although the proposed budget would support such critical areas as biomedical research and the fight against terrorism at home and abroad, other fields of research should not be neglected, Boehlert said.

"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 budget.

But Deputy Commerce Secretary Samuel Bodman said Congress must place an even higher premium on invention and innovation.

"Technology in the pipeline or still on the laboratory bench can help the United States and its allies prevail in the fight against terrorism," Bodman said. "It can help to bolster homeland protections and to correct vulnerabilities in critically important infrastructures.

Among Bush's requests in his 2003 budget:

* An increase from nearly $1 billion in 2002 to $3 billion in 2003 for research for homeland security and combating terrorism.

* $421 million in the Department of Transportation budget to research and improve the safety of the nation's highway infrastructure and $95 million for aviation security technology research.

* $27.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health, including $3.9 billion for research, which would double the NIH budget by 2003.

"The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 dramatically changed the context for this budget," said John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who defended Bush's R&D budget.

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

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