March 2010

President Proposes Decent Budgets for Science Agencies


The White House released its 2011 federal budget proposal Feb. 1, and, despite fears of the possible impact of a previously announced freeze on domestic discretionary spending, science funding was a clear winner overall, with most research agencies receiving increases. Although most administration-proposed budgets are modified during congressional consideration, this budget gets science funding off to a good start.

The Numbers

Dollar SignPresident Obama’s budget for 2011 comes in at $3.8 trillion, with a $1.2 trillion deficit. This is the largest budget, and the largest deficit, in history. Due largely to growing public and congressional concern over the size of the deficit, the administration is proposing a three-year freeze in nonsecurity discretionary funding (that is, discretionary funding outside of defense, homeland security, veterans affairs and international affairs), with funding thereafter increasing roughly with inflation. Over the next 10 years, the policy is expected to save $250 billion.

However, this freeze affects only a very small portion of the federal budget, and it is not an “across-the-board” freeze; most science funding, for example, is slated to increase. In addition, all the programs that are frozen at current levels have champions who will be working hard to keep them growing.

The budget calls for $66 billion in nondefense research and development, an increase of $3.7 billion or 5.9 percent overall more than 2010. “The president understands that, more than ever before, science holds the key to the prosperity of our nation, the security of our people, the health of our planet and the richness of our lives,” said John P. Holdren, adviser to the president for science and technology and director of the White House office of science and technology policy.

Specific agencies fared well, for the most part.

The National Institutes of Health received $32.1 billion under the budget proposal, an increase of $1.0 billion or 3.2 percent more than the 2010-enacted level. Investments will focus on five strategic priorities, first described publicly by NIH Director Francis Collins shortly after his appointment this past fall. They are:

- applying genomics and other high-throughput technologies;
- translating basic science discoveries into new and better treatments and diagnostics;
- using science to enable health care-reform;
- global health and
- reinvigorating and empowering the biomedical research community.

The NIH also will continue to award and oversee the $10.4 billion provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition, the NIH Common Fund will invest $562 million, an increase of $18 million over 2010, to support cross-
cutting, trans-NIH programs that require participation by at least two NIH institutes or centers or that would otherwise benefit from strategic planning and coordination.


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