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Federal research funding to climb 4% in fiscal '97

Appropriations for federal research programs in fiscal 1997 were completed before the new fiscal year began on October 1, and total federal research and development increased 4.1 percent ($2.9 billion) to $74 billion compared to fiscal 1996, according to a preliminary analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

However, the $74 billion appropriation for R&D reflects a net loss due to inflation of 1.9 percent since fiscal 1994, the AAAS said. The only agencies to outpace inflation since then are the National Institutes of Health (NIH-up 10 percent beyond inflation) and the National Science Foundation (NSF-1.8 percent beyond inflation).

Congress acted on seven of the appropriations bills and wrapped the remaining six into an omnibus funding package which was signed into law by President Clinton on September 30.

Student aid wound up rising more than 20 percent, with Pell Grants increasing more than $1 billion ($230 each, up to a maximum of $2,700). The much smaller Perkins loans and work-study programs were increased 57 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

Most major research agencies saw increases in their R&D funding-particularly the NIH, which received a 6.9 percent increase in overall funding, and the Department of Defense (DOD), which got a 4.9 percent boost. Only two agencies experienced R&D funding decreases: NASA (1.6 percent), and the Department of Interior (7.9 percent).

Non-defense R&D increased 2.7 percent to $33.55 billion. The Clinton administration had requested $34.47 billion; the 1996 base was $32.67 billion, the AAAS said.

Federal support for basic research increased over 1996 levels. Basic research totals for 1997 are $14.8 billion-up $395 million or 2.7 percent. The final figure was $125 million more than President Clinton requested. The lead agency for federal research support in the basic sciences is the NIH, followed by the NSF and the Department of Energy (DOE). It should be noted that even though the DOD experienced an increase in their overall R&D budget from 1996 levels, basic research within the department declined by 5 percent to $1.1 billion.

DOE funding dropped $40 million (2.6 percent), including an $11 million (4.6 percent) decrease in funding for fusion energy research.

The AAAS reported that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce regained some financial support for R&D programs that were cut last year. The EPA saw an increase of $593 million, or 12.3 percent, and the Commerce Department received an additional $1.0 billion, including $588 million for the National Institute for Standards and Technology budget, $225 million for the Advanced Technology Program (planned for extinction in the budget resolution), and $54.3 million for Sea Grant-for a total 7.7 percent increase.

Other budget highlights appear below. Details are available on the AAAS Web site at .

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 23, 1996.

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