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NSF & Congress
Hearing Summary: Senate Commerce Subcommittee On Science, Technology And Space/Hearing on Federal Research and Development Funding and Trends

April 16, 1997

Federal Research and Development Funding and Trends was the subject of a April 16, 1997 hearing of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee On Science, Technology And Space. Witnesses were: Dr. John Gibbons, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Dr. Al Teich, AAAS, Dr. Lewis Branscomb, John F Kennedy School of Government, and Claude Barfield, American Enterprise Institute.

Subcommittee Chairman William Frist (R-TN) lauded the contributions of federal funded science and technology to the national welfare. As part of his opening statement, Senator Frist noted that: 1) research and development, science and education bring advancements and innovation; 2) innovation has been the basis of our competitive edge--peaceful and defense--and of our extraordinary lifestyle; it is the cornucopia of modern America and the envy of the world; 3) federal funding of research, and creating an environment that encourages private research and innovation, is the bedrock upon which the National Enterprise has been founded.

Frist was joined by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) who used this opportunity to press for greater attention to R&D priorities - especially in areas where the U.S. is close competition with other nations. Rockefeller particularly noted the importance of technology partnerships like the ATP and also plugged the concept of EPSCoT an idea put forth by himself and Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT), to extend the EPSCoR program so that mid-size and smaller universities would have greater participation in the federal R&D system.

Dr. Gibbons defended the President's budget request for R&D. Gibbons noted that balancing the budget by the year 2002 required tough choices, but that the President's request will hold the line on civilian research funding while completing the job of balancing the budget. He pointed to R&D partnerships as a critical way to leverage scarce resources. Gibbons said "we want to create new State-Federal level cooperation, seeking international cooperation as well." Gibbons also touched upon the stresses on the university system in recent years and mentioned the efforts of the PCAST to launch a government-wide policy and administrative review of the university research system. He said the review will assist the US in developing strategies to promote cost-effective university-based research, allocate research costs fairly, strengthen the research-education linkage, and maintain appropriate accountability for expenditure of public funds in an environment of highly constrained budgets.

Dr. Teich gave a detailed assessment of federal R&D budget trends and said that despite the forecasts of downward trends, the FY 97 appropriations turned out to be more generous than the budget resolution. Teich cautioned that the 1.8% FY98 R&D increase in the President's budget over FY97 may be overstated because the total includes approximately $1.2 Billion to froward-fund a number of new DOE facilities projects. He also said that using inflation adjusted numbers, federal R&D would continue to fall over the next few years. Of the individual agencies, only NIH is expected to show any real growth over next few years and adjusted for inflation, overall R&D will see a 14% cut.

 

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