Bush requests big budget increases for science agencies

Fiscal 2009 could turn out to be a good year for science and technology agencies, thanks to the Bush administration’s focus on global competitiveness.

President Bush requested across-the-board increases for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and NASA in the budget proposal he sent to Congress today.

Hot funding areas included nanotechnology, supercomputing and research facilities. The president proposed that the Energy Department spend $300 million on nanotechnology research and $369 million on supercomputing. The latter is an $18 million increase compared with budgeted supercomputing expenditures for fiscal 2008.

“It might be more appropriate to call us the Department of Science or Engineering Science,” said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, referring to the proposed increases in research spending. Energy manages five of the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world.

Energy's budget request also includes $100 million for a new research program that would award grants of  $2 million to $5 million each to universities, laboratories and nonprofit organizations for energy science research.

The president's budget proposal for NSF includes $397 million nanotechnology studies and $1.1 billion for supercomputer research. NIST would get $634 million for nanotechnology and other scientific research, a 20 percent increase compared with the previous year’s enacted funding levels. If enacted, NIST's budget would provide $148 million to construct four new facilities for astronomy and physics research.

NASA could receive additional funding to implement Bush’s manned space exploration program. The budget request includes $2 billion for NASA’s human spaceflight vehicles and $1.3 billion for Mars exploration.

Many of the proposed budget increases stem from the American Competitiveness Initiative, which President Bush proposed in his 2006 State of the Union address. The initiative calls for increased spending on research and education and for free trade through deregulation.

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