More R&D spending proposed, earmarks criticized

By Randy Barrett

February 6, 2006

The Bush administration on Monday requested $137.2 billion for research and development in fiscal 2007 while decrying budget earmarks for specific projects in lawmakers' states.

The R&D figure represents a $3.4 billion increase, or 2.6 percent, over fiscal 2006. Within that, the request for basic research is $28.2 billion -- up $357 million, or 1.3 percent.

White House science adviser John Marburger said the administration's overall science funding request is flat, but non-defense R&D nevertheless would be boosted 1.9 percent. "The effort to reduce the deficit has an impact on all discretionary programs," he said.

The administration is particularly annoyed by earmarks and argued in budget documents that the practice works against R&D fiscal planning. "Earmarks that divert funding from a merit-based process will undermine America's research productivity," the White House said in the budget.

Many of the winners in the fiscal 2007 budget would benefit from the American competitiveness initiative, or ACI, recently proposed by President Bush. The project calls for $50 billion over 10 years to boost spending on research and science and math education. Next year's request is $5.9 billion, including $1.3 billion in new funding and $4.6 billion for the R&D tax credit.

The R&D account of the National Science Foundation would receive $4.5 billion in the budget request, a $349 million increase. The core account at the National Institute of Standards and Technology would get $535 million, up $104 million. The research pot for the Energy Department would be $9.2 billion, an increase of $595 million.

"NIST is positioned to play a key role in advancing our nation's innovation and competitiveness," Director William Jeffrey said. "The ACI will give us the resources we need."

Networking and information technology research also would fare well under Bush's plan. The administration asked for $2.78 billion, up $239 million, or 9.4 percent.

"[The] increase in support for advanced networking research in 2007, primarily by NSF, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and [Energy] will ensure that large-scale networking technologies will keep pace with the rapid developments in petascale computing systems," White House budget documents said.

Under the budget, the National Nanotechnology Initiative would receive $1.3 billion, an increase of about $77 million.

Homeland-security-related research funding for fiscal 2007 would be about $4.8 billion, administration officials said. That would include $535 million for the Pentagon's office for domestic nuclear detection, improvised explosives research, cyber security, and food- and livestock-protection projects.

By Randy Barrett

February 6, 2006