Magazine article Science News

Federal R&D Spared from General Axing

Magazine article Science News

Federal R&D Spared from General Axing

Article excerpt

The budget request that President Reagan sent to Congress this week attempts to freeze this coming year's federal nondefense spending at fiscal year (FY) 1985 levels. But the key adjective is "nondefense."

Since two thirds of the $52.6 billion in outlays being proposed for support of research and development (R&D) would go toward defense-related programs, the federal R&D budget would actually be allowed to climb 14.7 percent in this austere budget -- a real gain of 10 percent when inflation is taken into account. (Outlays are actual sums that would be spent, as opposed to obligations, which are commitments to spend money in the current or future fiscal years.)

Overall funding outlays for basic research would increase by 5 percent in this budget; obligations for engineering and physical science components would climb 7 percent, the same increase slated for the National Science Foundation (NSF). In explaining how the administration targeted its few increases, Presidential Science Adviser George A. Keyworth II says programs were generally judged on their potential for making U.S. products more competitive in international markets, for reducing the deficit and for aiding national defense--specifically, reducing the presence and threat of nuclear weapons.

Keyworth cites the latter, for example, in justifying the administration's $3.7 billion appropriations request for the Defense Department's Strategic Defense Initiative (or "Star Wars" program) -- a figure 2-1/2 times its current FY '85 budget allotment. Similarly, he says, increases in biotechnology and in earth sciences and oceanographic studies were motivated by their potential payoff in terms of the nation's economic competitiveness. At NSF, biotechnology programs benefit with a proposed increase of $9.3 million, up 13.3 percent. NSF research on the earth's continental lithosphere (crust)--owing to its relevance to energy and minerals exploration--has been targeted for a 62. …

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