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Public Policy Report for 02/11/2002


President Bush on February 4 delivered the Administration's official budget request to Congress. A preliminary analysis of the budget reveals that the biological sciences would, for the most part, stay at Fiscal Year 2002 levels or decline somewhat. More detailed analyses will be provided by AIBS over the coming weeks, but the big picture is not good. Except for the National Institutes of Health (requested change: 17%), NASA, EPA, and NSF, all research and development agency budgets - including those of the Department of the Interior and the USDA - would decline.

National Science Foundation -

The National Science Foundation has been singled out by the Bush Administration as a "true center of excellence" and has received the only "green light" rating handed out by the President's Office of Management and Budget. However, the Administration's fondness of NSF is not particularly evident in its proposed budget for the agency. On the surface, NSF appears to be getting a 5% increase (~$240 million) to approximately $5.0 billion for FY2003. However, once transfers of funds from other agencies and increases in salaries and expenses are taken into account, only half of the NSF increase will actually make its way to research and education.

Research and Related Activities - is increased by $184.6 million (5.1%); however $74 million of this increase comes from the transfer of programs from other agencies (NOAA Sea Grant program ($57 million - which is a decrease from FY2002's appropriations of $62.4 million), EPA's environmental education program ($9.0 million) and USGS's hydrology of toxic substances program ($10 million). Therefore, the effective increase in NSF's Research programs is only 3.0% (compared to the 7.6% increase granted to NSF in FY2002).

BIO Directorate funding - Within the Research and Related Activities funding, the Biology directorate (BIO) will receive a $17.2 million (3.4%) increase over FY2002. (For reference the BIO directorate received a 4.9% increase in last year's appropriations.) Within the Bio directorate, NSF is placing a new emphasis on "emerging frontiers". NSF officials tell AIBS that this is not a new division within BIO, but a "virtual" division that will emphasize multidisciplinary research, including projects that may not have been fundable in other directorates. Funding for "emerging frontiers" is taken from each subactivity of BIO (excluding plant genomics) as shown below.

Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
FY03 Request ($M) 111.56
Change from FY02 ($M) -3.04
Change from FY02 (%) -2.7

Integrative Biology and Neuroscience
FY03 Request ($M) 98.72
Change from FY02 ($M) -2.7
Change from FY02 (%) -2.7

Environmental Biology
FY03 Request ($M) 99.77
Change from FY02 ($M) -2.72
Change from FY02 (%) -2.7

Biological Infrastructure
FY03 Request ($M) 72.32
Change from FY02 ($M) 3.8
Change from FY02 (%) 5.5

Emerging Frontiers (see above)
FY03 Request ($M) 68.25
Change from FY02 ($M) 21.87
Change from FY02 (%) 47.2

Plant Genome Research
FY03 Request ($M) 75.00
Change from FY02 ($M) 0
Change from FY02 (%) 0

Total, BIO
FY03 Request ($M) 525.62
Change from FY02 ($M) 17.21
Change from FY02 (%) 3.4

NEON funding - For the first time, the administration has included funding for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) - $3.0 million within research for operations and $12.0 million in major research equipment for construction of two prototype NEON sites. The budget documents also show a total of $12 million for FY04 and $16 million in FY05 for NEON in the major research category. The Administration sites NEON as a potential "early detection system for a wide array of biological and chemical threats, from invasive species to chemical and biological warfare agents.

Department of the Interior, U.S.. Geological Survey -

The Biological Research Program would lose nearly $6 million under the Bush budget request. Of this amount, $2.8 million comprises a transfer of funds for fire ecology research to a central Department of the Interior Wildland Fire Management Account. Some, but not necessarily all, of this funding might eventually be allocated to research. Other cuts included what OMB characterizes as earmarked projects. While some of these projects were, in fact, added by individual members of Congress, that fact alone does not justify termination. For instance, two of the earmarks fund studies of non-native invasive species in ballast water and of amphibian declines. We have not yet determined how the National Biological Information Infrastructure will fare under the proposed budget; there is no plan to eliminate this funding.

Overall, the USGS budget is slated to decrease by $46.6 million (about 5%). Much of the proposed decrease consists of the "absorption" of "uncontrollables" - the ordinary inflationary increases in salaries and other costs. In past years, the Administration has sought to force USGS to absorb 100% of the inflationary costs, which would of course result in a serious erosion of programmatic funding. Congress has always rejected this flawed cost-saving measure. This year, the Administration proposes that USGS absorb 50% of the uncontrollables. The largest cuts are in Water Resources Investigations, where the Administration proposes to transfer the Toxic Substances Hydrology program to the National Science Foundation's Geology Directorate. Of the $13 million base funding for this program, $10 million would go to NSF while the other $3 million would be eliminated from the USGS budget. In addition, the Administration wants to decrease the National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) by $5.8 million, again arguing that the users of the data generated by this program - mostly EPA and the states - should bear at least part of the cost of the program. And again, they have not proposed a commensurate increase in the EPA budget. The Administration also proposes to terminate USGS support for the Waer Resources Research Institute, a decrease of $6 million to this state competitive grants program. Altogether, the cuts proposed for Water Resources total $28 million dollars.

USDA National Research Initiative -

The NRI is proposed to double, to a total of $240 million, with the focus on new and emerging pests and diseases of crops and livestock, agricultural genomics, management of agricultural operations, and investigations into the nutritional value and functional properties of food products. Funding for expanded graduate training will be made available through NRI.

Forest Service Research -

The Forest and Rangeland Research program would increase by $1 million, to $254 million. The language in the USDA budget overview suggests that there will be a shift in emphasis in Forest and Rangeland Research: "The FS maintains one of the world's largest forest research organizations. While it has a very broad mission to develop the knowledge and technology needed to enhance the economic and environmental values of all the Nation's Forests and related industries, it also must support the specific research needs that arise from the FS's prime responsibility of managing the National Forest System (NFS). The budget eliminates low-priority research and Congressional earmarks consistent with other Departmental research agencies and redirects these funds for priority research projects, including an additional $5 million for biobased products and bioenergy research and an additional $5 million for a quantitative and analytic data project, and fully implements the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program." Details will be provided in a later report.


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