Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Budget-Cutting Ax Swings but Clinton Shields Science Funding in 1997 Could Drop Considerably

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Budget-Cutting Ax Swings but Clinton Shields Science Funding in 1997 Could Drop Considerably

Article excerpt

AS the president and Congress lay ax to the federal budget, the White House is trying to protect one key investment: federal support for science and technology.

That support took root 50 years ago this spring, when FDR's science adviser, Vannevar Bush, issued a report that laid the groundwork for the postwar expansion of federal funding for science. That backing helped catapult the country into its position as the world's leading economic and technological power.

But discretionary spending, which includes the money for R&D, is being squeezed between fast-rising Medicare and Medicaid costs and interest on the federal debt on one side, and efforts to cut the deficit on the other.

For science and technology in fiscal 1996, President Clinton has requested $72.9 billion, a 0.2 percent increase over 1995. Although this fails to keep pace with inflation, it still represents a substantial investment, say many in the science community, who look elsewhere in the budget request and see 140 programs terminated, 271 consolidated, and still others cut substantially.

"What's striking about this budget is its generosity toward research," agrees Kathleen Gramp, a chief budget analyst at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

Last August, the White House set out its R&D priorities in "Science in the National Interest." It notes that United States leadership in science and technology must be maintained and underlines the administration's support for basic research. It also aims to throw the weight of federal support behind basic research that focuses on national needs, such as the economy and health.

Yet "we're under severe fiscal constraints," says John Gibbons, Mr. Clinton's science adviser.

To meet its goals while holding the rein on spending, the White House has shifted R&D money among various agencies. …

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