Government funding for non-defense research and development is slated to drop by about 25 percent in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars from fiscal year 1995 to fiscal year 2002, according to a new analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
In effect, the R&D government-funded effort would drop from $34 billion to $26 billion. The latest balanced budget plans issued by the President and Congress "suggest difficult times ahead for the science and engineering community," the AAAS analysis said.
Starting from a base of $34.3 billion in fiscal year 1995, the authorized spending would drop by fiscal 2002 to $30.16 billion (House) or $30.15 billion (President Clinton).
The impact of inflation means the House fiscal 2002 forecast is $25.928 billion, compared to $25.918 billion for the President's fiscal 2002 budget forecast.
The analysis is the third by the AAAS, updating calculations made last June and in March after President Clinton submitted his budget. Last year, the AAAS analysis of the final congressional budget resolution projected a one-third cut in real dollar value for non-defense R&D by fiscal 2002.
The difference in this year's outlook is largely a matter of a lower anticipated rate of inflation, about 2.2 percent a year instead of the 3.0 to 3.5 percent forecast last year, the AAAS analysis said. (The full analysis is available at the AAAS Web page at http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/rd/rdwwwpg.htm>.)
In March, the AAAS projected only a 12 percent drop over the seven years for the Administration's R&D spending, with about a 25 percent drop in the Congressional plan. (This figure was cited by MIT President Charles Vest at a Massachusetts Technology Collaborative meeting on the morning before the AAAS released a new analysis in mid-May.)
However, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that the Clinton budget would not balance by 2002 and that further cuts in discretionary spending were required to make it balance. The AAAS allocated the required cuts for fiscal 2001 and 2002 proportionally among all defense and non-defense discretionary accounts. Different assumptions on how to allocate the cuts among accounts could, of course, result in different outcomes for R&D, the AAAS noted.
In its latest analysis, dated May 16, AAAS said, "The Administration plan would impose deeper cuts on basic research agencies than the House, while providing more generously for applied programs. NIH and NSF would lose 15 percent and 24 percent, respectively, in the Administration's budget, nine percent and seven percent in the House's plan."
The AAAS noted that the resolution containing the congressional figures has not been approved by the full House nor reconciled with its Senate counterpart. However, the numbers in last year's final congressional budget resolution matched those in the House Budget Committee's version quite closely, and there is reason to expect the same to be true this year.
On defense R&D, the President's budget would cut it by 32 percent by fiscal 2002, after adjusting for inflation, while the comparable figure for the House plan is a seven percent cut.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 5, 1996.