House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)
addressed the AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy
last week. Boehlert stated at the outset that “the science
budgets the Administration has proposed are too low,” and
predicted that “these numbers are going to get better.”
Looking ahead, Boehlert said “what supporters of research need
to begin doing now is reinforcing the arguments for the
federal investment in R&D,” and cautioned against what he
called “a recipe for failure.”

Chairman Boehlert’s address was very well received by the
audience. It is reprinted below:

“It’s a pleasure to be here this morning to address this
colloquium my first chance to do so as the Chairman of the
House Science Committee. Still, I have to admit that I’m not
sure I would have chosen this particular year to make my
premier appearance. That’s not because things are so bad the
overall outlook is positive if a bit uncertain. But rather
I’m worried that the scientific community has talked itself,
as it sometimes does, into a kind of funk.

“The mood reminds me of the opening line of Woody Allen’s
essay ‘My Address to the Graduates’ which some of you may
have heard me reference before. Woody Allen’s graduation
speech begins: ‘Today we are at a crossroads. One road leads
to hopelessness and despair; the other, to total extinction.
Let us pray we choose wisely.’

“I hope I’m able to dispel that kind of gloom.

“I’m not going to try to change your mood, though, by being a
Polyanna. So let me be clear: the science budgets the
Administration has proposed are too low. In fact, last week,
when we had officials from NSF, NASA, DOE and NOAA in front of
our Committee for a budget hearing, I asked them if they had
thought of staging a sit-in at the Office of Management and
Budget when they saw the numbers. [See FYI #58.]

“The numbers for the National Science Foundation and the
Energy Department’s Office of Science are especially
disappointing. We know that those agencies can productively
and efficiently absorb greater increases because they’re doing
so this year.

“I’m also very disturbed by the proposed slashing of the
research budgets for alternative energy sources and energy
conservation because advances in those areas must be an
integral part of any sensible, comprehensive energy policy.
I’m still holding out some hope that Vice President Cheney’s
energy report may revisit those programs.

“I’m certainly willing to examine the energy programs to see
if they can be made more effective. But they’re not going to
be made more effective by having far less money to spend. And
they’re not going to be made more effective by being told to
tread water for a few years until they can be resurrected with
ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] revenues.

“Firstly, I don’t believe there are going to be any ANWR
revenues, and, in any event, we shouldn’t have to deplete one
energy resource to find the money to develop another one.

“Finally, on the budget, we still don’t really even know what
the proposed numbers will be for research spending in the
Defense Department because they won’t be determined until next
month after Secretary Rumsfeld’s review is completed.

“So, with the major exception of the National Institutes of
Health, the proposed budget leaves a lot to be desired.

“So then why am I not more concerned? That’s simple:
because these numbers are going to get better most likely, a
little better this year, and a lot better next year. I say
that because support for R&D remains remarkably strong in both
the Administration and the Congress.

“The Administration’s budget this year reflects the
President’s campaign priorities, which, not surprisingly, did
not include R&D outside of the NIH. The budget does not
reflect any hostility toward, or ideological grudge against
R&D spending, and indeed the budget language already signals
an intention to increase spending for NSF in the next budget.
My conversations with Mitch Daniels, the director of the
Office of Management and Budget, have confirmed that

“Simply put, the numbers in this year’s budget have been
offered ‘without prejudice.’ They were driven by factors
outside of science policy, and the Administration is already
more focused on need to invest in R&D, even as it continues to
put together its science policy team.

“Moreover, Congress remains committed to making strong
investments in R&D. For example, the Senate voted to
significantly increase spending for NSF, NASA and DOE the
so-called ‘Function 250’ in its Budget Resolution.

“So what will come of all these warm if fuzzy feelings toward

“Well, for fiscal 2002, I think we’ll see some small
improvement over the proposed budgets. The final Budget
Resolution we will vote on later today provides for a 5
percent increase in overall domestic discretionary spending
one percentage point higher than what the President proposed.
That means that more money will be available for science
spending, and I will be working with the Appropriations
Committee to ensure that as much of that money as possible is
allotted to research.

“One thing that will be different this year with all the
budget machinery controlled by the Republican Party is that we
will stick to that overall domestic discretionary number. In
the past few years, the budget numbers vanished each fall like
the Cheshire Cat, leaving only a mocking grin. Those days are
over, and people are going to have to pay more attention to
the bottom line numbers in the Budget Resolution than they
have in the past.

“And that brings me to my final point which is a cautionary
one. Even though science can draw on a remarkably large
reservoir of good will, even though science spending will grow
more in 2002 and 2003 than the current numbers on the table
might indicate, the scientific community still has its work
cut out for it.

“That’s because the overall projected growth in domestic
discretionary spending for 2003 and beyond is only enough to
cover inflation. The actual figure is likely to be higher
than that, but spending growth will be constrained. That
means the competition for federal dollars will be fierce.

“So what supporters of research need to begin doing now is
reinforcing the arguments for the federal investment in R&D.
That means reinforcing them analytically and politically.
“Reinforcing the case for R&D analytically means providing
good, solid arguments for specific levels of spending not
just throwing the word ‘doubling’ around as if it cast a magic
spell. And it means providing good, solid thinking about what
it may mean to have a balanced federal research portfolio.

“Reinforcing the argument for R&D politically means making
sure you are working with all Members of Congress back home in
their districts and that business leaders are making clear
their reliance on federal R&D. Leaders of the scientific
community spend far too much time with their natural allies,
like me; and far too little time convincing newer or more
skeptical Members of Congress that R&D makes a difference in
their districts and to the nation.

“The scientific community must not be complacent, and it
cannot assume that it inherently has the greatest claim to, or
most self-evident argument for federal largess. That’s a
recipe for failure.

“Finally, the scientific community must demonstrate that it is
bringing its enormous resources to bear on central national
problems. I’m thinking especially of education. The
university community often talks about the link between
research and education, but that must be more than just a
rhetorical flourish.

“Universities must not only focus more on undergraduate
education even as they continue to offer world-class graduate
programs; universities and businesses must play a greater role
in improving K-12 education. And in the next week or so I
will unveil a bill that will help and encourage them to play
such a role. If research is going to continue to merit
large-scale public support as it must then the research
establishment must rededicate itself to addressing our most
pressing and perplexing public needs.

“And that attention will pay off because it will excite the
natural curiosity of the young. I’m reminded of some letters
I received from second graders in Cooperstown, NY, which is in
my Congressional district a few years ago. The second graders
had been asked to send me letters explaining why science is

“One wrote, ‘Without science the world would be whacko; there
might not even be gravity.’

“Now Washington may be the wrong place to talk about how to
keep the world from becoming ‘whacko,’ but this is someone who
understands that a lot is at stake when we talk about science.
And with his fractured second-grader logic, this student hit
on a larger point as well when we fail to analyze or
understand the world around us, it’s almost as if that world
ceases fully to exist.

“So I urge you to help us understand the value of science and
to take the time to understand the world of politics and
budgeting. That way each of our worlds can inform the other.
And that’s when the scientific enterprise and the nation will

“Thank you.”


Richard M . Jones

Public Information Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3095