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President's FY 2009 Budget Requests 3.4% Increase in R&D Funding

NSF 08-312 | July 2008 | PDF format PDF  

by Richard J. Bennof[1]

The Bush administration has proposed a total budget authority of $143 billion for federally funded research and development in FY 2009, an increase of 3.4% in current dollars over the preliminary FY 2008 figure of $138 billion (table 1). Defense R&D is slated to rise by 3.8% and nondefense R&D by 2.8%. In constant FY 2000 dollars, federally supported R&D is expected to increase 1.3% in FY 2009, with growth in defense R&D (1.7%) outpacing proposed growth in nondefense R&D (0.8%).

TABLE 1.  Federal R&D budget authority ordered by FY 2009 proposed amounts, by budget function:  FY 2004–09.

  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Unless otherwise indicated, all references to dollar amounts or percentages for the remainder of this InfoBrief are in current dollars.

Proposed Defense R&D Funding

The defense component of federal R&D budget authority proposed for FY 2009 is $84.1 billion, an increase of $3.0 billion over FY 2008 amounts. This increase reverses a $1.2 billion decline in national defense R&D the previous year. The proposed defense R&D budget would keep the defense share of total federal R&D level with the FY 2008 share at 59%. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the great majority of federal defense R&D (90% in FY 2009) is allocated for development, whereas the nondefense portion of the federal R&D budget is directed mostly toward funding research (78% in FY 2009).[2]

Nearly 95% ($79.6 billion) of FY 2009 defense dollars will be funded from Department of Defense (DOD) military research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) programs (table 2). The Air Force, Army, Navy, and two defense agencies, the Missile Defense Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will account for 88% ($70.1 billion) of the RDT&E account.

TABLE 2. Federal R&D budget authority for national defense: FY 2006–09.

  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

The Air Force is slated to get the largest portion of defense R&D funding ($28.1 billion), up $2.2 billion, or 8.4%, over the FY 2008 level. The Air Force increases are for development programs "for engineering, development, and testing work on specific weapons systems" (AAAS 2008: p. 61).[2] Other than for the Army (a 12.5% decrease), increases in R&D funding levels are expected for each of the other RDT&E DOD departments, ranging from 3.7% to 11.0% (table 2).

A 4.4% increase in R&D funding, to $3.6 billion in FY 2009, is proposed for Department of Energy (DOE) atomic energy defense activities, mainly for support of weapons development (table 2).

Proposed Nondefense R&D Funding

Total nondefense R&D budget authority is scheduled to increase by $1.6 billion, to $58.5 billion in FY 2009. The nondefense share of federal R&D budget authority decreased from 43% in FY 2004 to 40% in FY 2007 but rose to an estimated 41% for both FY 2008 and FY 2009. Nevertheless, in constant FY 2000 dollars, increases in nondefense R&D have barely exceeded inflation in each of the past 2 years and, in real terms, its proposed FY 2009 R&D budget authority total is less than it was 5 years ago, in FY 2004 (table 1). The six functions accounting for most (93%) of the federal budget proposed for nondefense-related R&D activities are discussed below and are shown in table 1.


R&D funding for health mostly includes programs of the National Institutes of Health and is proposed to increase by $0.15 billion from the FY 2008 level, or by 0.5%. Health, projected to be $29.8 billion in FY 2009, is the second largest R&D budget function after national defense. However, in constant FY 2000 dollars, health R&D budget authority fell for the fifth consecutive year, this time by 1.5%. The health share of total federal R&D budget authority reached 23% in FY 2004 and FY 2005 then declined, dipping to 21% in 2007, where it has remained each year since.

Space Research and Technology

The Bush administration has proposed a 5.4% increase in R&D budget authority, to $9.7 billion, for space research and technology, an increase of about $0.5 billion from FY 2008. National Aeronautics and Space Administration programs account for this entire amount. The share of R&D funding for space research and technology has increased each year since FY 2005, rising from 5.8% to an expected 6.8% of the proposed total federal R&D budget authority in FY 2009.

General Science

Research funding for general science is expected to increase 13.9% in FY 2009, or by nearly $1.1 billion, to a total of $9.0 billion. This represents the largest dollar and percentage increase proposed for any individual nondefense R&D funding category. The National Science Foundation accounts for 53% ($4.7 billion) of these general-science funds, and DOE and the Department of Homeland Security account for the remaining portion ($4.3 billion). Under the proposed budget, general science would account for 6.3% of the total federal R&D budget authority, up from 5.7% in FY 2008.


Energy R&D is budgeted at $2.5 billion in FY 2009, up 3.7% from the FY 2008 level. The Department of Energy accounted for nearly all of these funds. Since FY 2006, energy R&D budget authority will have more than doubled (an average annual increase of 27.3% in current terms). Most of the 3-year increased funding has been to support energy efficiency and renewable energy R&D programs and nuclear energy R&D programs.

Natural Resources and Environment

Proposed natural resources and environment R&D is $2.0 billion in FY 2009, down 1.0% ($21 million) from the FY 2008 level. Four agencies provide nearly all of the support for R&D in this area: Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce, and Department of Agriculture (USDA).


Agriculture R&D is scheduled to total $1.6 billion in FY 2009, down by 12.7% from the FY 2008 funding level. USDA would receive all of these funds for its projects, with the bulk of the dollars going to the Agricultural Research Service and to the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.

Data Comments and Availability

The figures used in this report, provided by federal agencies between February and March 2008, represent agencies’ best estimates of actual (FY 2007), preliminary (FY 2008), and proposed (FY 2009) federal budget authority for R&D. These data are based primarily on information that agencies provide to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and account for nearly all federally sponsored R&D activities. The R&D budget figures reflect estimates of R&D based on agency documents and OMB data through March 2008. They do not reflect 2008 supplemental appropriations. Budget numbers for individual activities, programs, or agencies may therefore differ from those published in the President’s budget or agency budget documents. Pending congressional action will determine the final budget authority for R&D in FY 2009.

A full set of detailed tables on the President’s requested federal funding of R&D components of agency programs for FY 2007–09 will be available in the forthcoming report Federal R&D Funding by Budget Function: Fiscal Years 2007–09 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/fedbudget/. The report also contains R&D information that became available from the individual agencies after the administration’s budget was prepared and reported. Individual detailed tables may be available in advance of the full report. For more information, please contact the author.


[1]  Richard J. Bennof, Research and Development Statistics Program, Division of Science Resources Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (rbennof@nsf.gov; 703-292-7783).

[2]  AAAS, Intersociety Working Group. 2008. AAAS Report XXXIII: Research and Development FY 2009. AAAS Publication Number 08-1A. Washington, DC. Available at http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/rd09main.htm.

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics
President's FY 2009 Budget Requests 3.4% Increase in R&D Funding
Arlington, VA (NSF 08-312) [July 2008]

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