Dems attack Bush R&D budget

House Democrats today attacked the Bush administration’s fiscal 2007 budget request for cutting research programs that fall outside the president’s innovation agenda.

After reviewing details of the proposed fiscal 2007 spending plan, Democrats on the House Science Committee published an agency-by-agency analysis to show that the proposal contains many cuts in research and development. “Cutting science to fund science will not get the job done,” the committee members said in a press release.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush announced an initiative to stimulate R&D in major scientific areas, including nanotechnology, supercomputing and alternative energy sources. The three-part program, called the American Competitiveness Initiative, focuses on R&D, education and workforce and immigration policies.

The Democrats said the budget for federal science and technology, a measure of federal research investment, would be reduced by 1 percent, and that overall science and technology research funding would fall below fiscal 2006 levels.

The committee’s Democrats said the president’s plan to double the National Science Foundation budget is welcome, but they added that it is four years behind and $3.8 billion short of a similar commitment made in 2002.

Democrats charged that the best job-creation programs are on the chopping block in the administration’s spending plan. The president requested no money for the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which awards grants to industry for high-risk research.

Under the administration’s budget proposal, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which provides engineering and manufacturing support services to small manufacturers, would receive $46.3 million instead of the $104.6 million that Congress appropriated for the program in fiscal 2006.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), ranking member of the House Science Committee, asked rhetorically, “When are we going to connect the dots? Science research breeds innovation,” he said. “Innovation creates quality jobs for U.S. workers. This plan doesn't do enough to help U.S. workers in the global market, now or in the future."

The committee will hear testimony Feb. 15 from the energy secretary, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the deputy commerce secretary and the National Science Foundation director on the administration’s fiscal 2007 R&D budget request.

"It is clear that there are budget winners and losers, and we'll explore that further with the heads of the science agencies this week,” Gordon said.

NASA’s funding would remain essentially flat, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s R&D budget for oceanic and atmospheric research would decline by 8 percent.

At the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, overall research funding would decrease by 23 percent, eliminating the ATP and a reducing the MEP’s funding by 56 percent.

The fiscal 2007 budget request for the Federal Aviation Administration’s R&D is $175 million, or 14 percent below the appropriation for fiscal 2006.

In December, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a statement that said innovation policies should not be politicized but implied that Republicans have been slow to respond to the nation’s R&D deficit.

“These issues don’t have to be partisan,” Pelosi said. “Democrats believe that, together, American can do better. We look forward to working together to implement our Innovation Agenda.”

Today’s press release highlights the fact that Gordon has introduced “the only House legislative package aimed at implementing a U.S. competitiveness plan.”

Several bipartisan bills to stimulate innovation are now moving through the Senate.

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