Federal Relations

APLU Shares Summary on FY10 R&D Budget Request Hearing

The hearing summary below has been provided by staff from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).

APLU Hearing Summary
Date: May 14, 2009
Committee: House Committee on Science and Technology, Full Committee
Hearing Subject: An Overview of the Federal Research and Development (R&D) Budget for FY2010

Members Present: Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), Brian Baird (D-WA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Brad Miller (D-NC), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), Pete Olson (R-TX), Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Donna Edwards (D-MD), David Wu (D-OR), Ben Lujan (D-NM), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Gary Peters (D-MI)

• Dr. John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)

Opening Remarks:
Upon reviewing the FY2010 R&D budget, Chairman Gordon was impressed that President Obama substantiated his claims about the societal importance of science.   Gordon said the Committee on Science and Technology has already “reported out legislation on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, nanotechnology, information technology, water resources, electronics recycling, design of green buildings, and international cooperation.”  The research and development budget was enhanced by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, but money is still tight.  For this reason there must be a unified government effort, led by OSTP, to ensure the U.S. uses its resources efficiently and effectively to address some of its greatest challenges.

Ranking Member Hall has concerns regarding the FY2010 budget.  First of all, he is worried about the budget and leadership gap of NASA.  Hall said NASA still has no permanent Administrator and is retiring its Shuttle Program without a plan or vehicle for the future.  He is also upset that the FY2010 budget does not address President Obama’s promise to boost R&D funding to three percent of GDP.  Lastly, Rep. Hall said he disagrees with the President’s energy policy decisions to implement a cap and trade on greenhouse gasses and to remove R&D funding for domestic fossil fuels.

Dr. Holdren said the President has already started on several initiatives in the realm of science, technology, and innovation (STI).  These initiatives include: stem cell research, scientific integrity, STEM education, nanotechnology, high-risk, high return research, clean energy, international cooperation, and open government.  He said President Obama believes that nourishing America’s world-leading abilities in STI is crucial to surmounting each of its national problems. 

Holdren said the FY2010 budget provides $147.6 billion for federal R&D investment.  Assuming a 1.1-percent inflation rate from FY2009 to FY2010, this would mean the FY2010 R&D budget has 0.7 percent less real spending power than the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  Holdren said this decrease can be accounted for in two ways: the Department of Defense (DOD) budget, and ARRA funds.  The FY2010 budget drastically decreases the development sector of defense R&D, causing it to drop by three percent in real spending power from FY2009.  Non-defense R&D, on the other hand, will increase by 2.5 percent in real spending power.  Holdren also emphasized that the ARRA allotted $18.3 billion for R&D funding to be spent over FY2009 and FY2010.  He said with these funds, the FY2009 and FY2010 R&D budgets will be the largest in U.S. history. 

Holdren said that the Obama Administration has placed a great deal of importance on both basic and applied research in order to bolster “the fundamental understandings that are at the root of all innovation…”  In fact, the FY2010 budget will provide the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories, and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, the three largest American basic research agencies, with $12.6 billion, an increase of five percent above the FY2009 enacted total.  This will maintain the President’s goal of doubling the budgets of these three agencies over the next decade.  Holdren also said that when combined, “the Omnibus Appropriations Act, the Recovery Act, and the 2010 Budget meet the 2009 and 2010 America COMPETES Act authorization for NSF, DOE Science, and NIST.”  He believes the President will work to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act beyond 2011. 

The FY2010 budget requests $7 billion for the NSF, an increase of 7.4 percent above the FY2009 enacted level.  The ARRA also provided the NSF with an additional $3 billion.  This increase in funding will improve and expand the work of the NSF, “the primary source of support for academic research for most non-biomedical disciplines…”  It will also accomplish the President’s promise to triple the number of NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowships by 2013.  Included in the FY2010 budget is a $64 million increase for the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program to promote partnerships between higher education institutions and employers to train future workers in the high-technology fields.  Holdren said the NSF will also work hard with the DOE to expand the RE-ENERGYSE program.  Individually, in FY2010 the DOE will begin its Energy Innovation Hubs to support cross-disciplinary R&D on commercializing scientific discoveries. 

Another focus of the FY2010 budget was NASA, for which it requests $18.7 billion, about $1 billion more than the FY2009 enacted level.  This is in addition to the $1 billion NASA received from the ARRA.  Holdren said the President is committed to both human and robotic space exploration, and is searching for a way to reconcile these goals with NASA’s other missions.  In order to do this, President Obama is in the process of forming a blue-ribbon panel for examining the possibilities of extending the life of the Shuttle program beyond 2010. 

Question and Answers:
Several of the members focused on the future funding of NASA, specifically the retirement of the Shuttle program in 2010.  Holdren stated that the President is committed to human space flight and is establishing a blue-ribbon panel chaired by Norm Augustine to minimize the funding gap and job loss, and to determine how to extract more value from the international space station.  Holdren said NASA needs to better balance its funds between human and robotic space missions, and, more broadly, between space exploration and Earth observations.  In response to questions about America’s relationship with Russia and China, Holdren said NASA is still negotiating with Russia the price per seat for passage to the international space station after the retirement of the U.S. Shuttle program.  While the U.S. has not been speaking with China, Holdren said such talks could help mitigate Russia’s monopoly on the price of shuttle flights.  Holdren also said the President is working vigilantly to appoint an Administrator of NASA that will be able to spearhead these issues. 

Rep. Lipinski asked if the DOE’s Energy Innovation Hubs would be in industrial, academic, or professional lab settings.  Holdren said the Hubs will use and coordinate between each of the three settings.  Lipinski then asked about the future of R&D funding in FY2011 when ARRA funds have been spent.  Holdren said some of the ARRA funds should be put into long term assets like grants, facilities, and equipment, which will still have value in 2011 and beyond.  He also stated that the President plans to increase the NSF budget in the coming years. 

Rep. Ehlers expressed his concern that the FY2010 budget only requests a 1.5 percent increase in funding for the Education and Human Resources (EHR) sector of the NSF.  Holdren said that education is now explicitly part of NSF’s mandate.  Therefore, all across the agency, grantees have to develop education components.  This makes the actual NSF funding for education difficult to measure.  Holdren then cited the President’s commitment to triple the number of NSF Graduate Research Fellowships by 2013.  Ehlers responded that he was more concerned about elementary and high school education. 

Rep. Dahlkemper asked what role the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) would play in the use of biomass.  Holdren said the NSTC is currently involved in the issue, which means the DOE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) are involved as well.  Holdren said the indirect land use impacts of growing biofuels is a major concern.  He also said there needs to be more research performed on heat resistant, drought resistant, and other multiuse plants.  Rep. Giffords then asked about the future of solar energy and other sources of renewable energy.  Holdren said the President has committed $150 billion over the next ten years for clean energy techniques, and that solar energy will play a significant role.  

In regards to the issue of scientific integrity, Holdren said the Administration is looking to the public for its opinion.  He also said he has spoken with Cass Sunstein about the importance of acting on imperfect information.  However, Holdren stated that information is always imperfect, and that inaction is not always the same thing as not making a decision.  Ultimately, Holdren claimed the Obama Administration will not use imperfect information as a pretext for inaction. 

Prepared by: Greg Kuhn, Intern, A۰P۰L۰U