In recent weeks, numerous voices in Congress have shared policy priorities with the super committee about options for reducing the nation’s budget deficit. The super committee, more formally known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, was soliciting suggestions on how to meet its charge of cutting at least $1.2 trillion from federal spending over the next decade.
Although many Senate and House committees, as well as individual lawmakers, provided comments to the super committee, there was little mention of science, either as an area to cut or to protect. The notable exception was the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. In separate letters from most of the Republican members and the senior Democrat on the panel, Science, Space, and Technology Committee members shared their recommendations for federal investments in scientific research and education programs.
Representative Eddie Bernie Johnson (D-TX), the ranking Democrat on the Science Committee, wrote in support of science as a driver of economic growth. “I strongly support continued federal investment in science and technology as an important component of any serious effort to achieve long-term deficit reduction.” Her letter goes on to state that “[i]t is clear that federal investments in R&D [research and development] bring significant returns for decades to come…..I urge you…to do whatever it takes to prioritize steady growth of our investments in science, technology, and STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] education.”
A letter from Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) and ten other Republicans who serve on the Science Committee supports federal investments in select research programs, but recommends cutting $1.5 billion from research and development in fiscal year (FY) 2012. The letter supports funding the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $6.86 billion, the same amount as the House Appropriations Committee would provide in FY 2012. However, the lawmakers would like to see reductions in the Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program, climate change activities, and the Education and Human Resources program at NSF.
The Republicans also call for reductions to climate and environmental programs at other agencies. They argue for reduced spending on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate research, and climate and weather satellite acquisition. The letter also recommends zeroing out the Environmental Protection Agency’s global change research. The Department of Energy Office of Science stands out as a clear winner, to “be protected from cuts by the Joint Committee.” Despite this strong statement, the Republican lawmakers call for a 10 percent reduction to the Biological and Environmental Research program within the Office of Science.
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