Says Administration’s Current Budget Lacks Right Priorities, Consistency

(Washington, DC) Members of the House Committee on Science and Technology today questioned the White House’s Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) – Dr. John H. Marburger – on the Administration’s proposal for federal research and development funding for Fiscal Year 2008 (FY2008).

“You have heard me say this before, but it continues to ring true – as the father of a five year old daughter, I am deeply concerned that our children will be the first generation of Americans not to inherit a better standard of living than their parents.  We need to get serious about ensuring that our country’s economic strength continues to be the envy of the world,” said Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).  “I appreciate your answers Dr. Marburger, but I’m still not convinced this budget proposal is informed or realistic.”

In the President’s budget, federal basic and applied research is cut by two percent compared to FY2007, and when adjusted for inflation, federal research would see a decrease for the 4th year in a row. 

Chairman Gordon was pointedly critical of the Administration’s proposal to place 70 percent of its funding for math and science education in the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) with the Department of Education for math curriculum development.  Furthermore, he noted the ACI does not even include a specific science education component.

The National Science Foundation K-12 education programs – home to 50 years of proven research, teacher development and training – have been cut almost 50 percent over the last four years, and the Administration’s FY08 budget would preserve those cuts.   

“More than sixty percent of this country’s middle school math teachers and more than ninety percent of our physical science teachers are working with neither a major nor a certification in these fields,” added Gordon.  “NSF’s programs are the way to bridge that distance and provide our teachers with the tools they need – that’s where the funding belongs, not predominantly in very narrow curriculum programs at the Department of Education.”

The President’s budget also cuts successful programs like the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) funding by more than half.  That means more than 8,000 small manufacturing businesses will lose over $650 million in cost savings and $3 billion in sales.  Given MEP’s 10-1 return on investment, this means a loss of over $1 billion to the economy.

Funding for the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) – 66 percent of which goes to small businesses and which provides a return to the federal government of 8-1- is also slated for elimination.

“It’s no good to just talk about keeping American students and workers competitive with their global counterparts, we have to put forth sound policy and a budget framework to back it up,” concluded Gordon. “I look forward to advancing legislation through Congress soon to put that framework in place.”

Following pointed and difficult questions from Chairman Gordon and Committee Members, Dr. Marburger said the Administration “look(s) forward to working together in the future to advance American innovation and competitiveness.” 

The Committee plans to consider an innovation package of legislation built upon the recommendations of the widely acknowledged “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report issued by the National Academy of Sciences.  The legislation (“10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds” Science and Math Scholarship Act (H.R. 362) and Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act (H.R. 363)) underscores the importance of NSF’s work in maintaining U.S. preeminence in math and science education and research.

These bills will serve as the vehicle for broader discussion of issues by the Science and Technology Committee, as well as a cornerstone of the Democrats’ Competitiveness and Innovation Agenda.

Also, upcoming budget hearings will focus on NASA, NIST, the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies under the Committee’s jurisdiction.