House questions Bush R&D budget

House Committee on Science

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Members of both parties in the House Science committee expressed concern today about the President's fiscal 2005 research and development budget, questing if it adequately addresses the nation's science and technology needs.

Although noting that President Bush's 2005 R&D budget of $132 billion contains increases for weapons development and homeland security, Republican and Democratic committee leaders lamented the fact that spending for science and technology would actually decrease from 2004 levels.

"It's impossible to seriously view this as a good budget for science," said House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.)

"I am going to be as blunt as the chairman has been today in expressing my disappointment in the proposed science budget," said Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.). "It is simply inadequate in light of the challenges that we are facing."

Gordon said funding in areas other than defense development, testing and evaluation — termed the federal science and technology budget — documents a decrease of 0.4 percent in proposed funding from 2004 levels.

According to the statistics Gordon cited, $60.4 billion is requested for the 2005 science and technology budget, compared to the $60.65 billion estimated for fiscal 2004.

The committee also noted that the science and technology budgets for certain departments would decrease in the president's 2005 budget, including a 12 percent cut at the Commerce Department and a 14 percent decrease for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Committee members pushed for increased funding of several science and technology programs, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Energy Department's Office of Science.

Though the 2005 budget does request $18.5 million for cybersecurity R&D at NIST, an increase of $6 million over the 2004 level, the committee expressed dismay at the fact that the total NIST budget request of $521.5 million is significantly less than its 2004 level of $628 million.

A large reason for this is the elimination of the NIST Advanced Technology program, a grant program that included awards to the private sector.

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) chairman of the Environment, Technology and Standards subcommittee, recognized the president's $422 million request for NIST labs represents an increase of $85 million over 2004 levels, but he also noted that the 2004 enacted budget for the labs was $22 million less than the 2003 appropriation.

"I believe that the FY 2005 request for NIST's labs should be considered the absolute minimum required for NIST to carry out its critical research activities," Ehlers said.

Boehlert also called for increased support of NIST, stating, "we have to reverse the bad decisions on NIST that this Congress ratified in the Omnibus spending bill and move forward."

In addition to cybersecurity, other initiatives that NIST labs support include voting technology.

Members also expressed concern about programs designed to spur job creation and aid U.S. manufacturers. In addition to the elimination of the NIST Advanced Technology program, funding for the Manufacturing Extension Program and technology transfer programs at NASA and Energy was significantly decreased.

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