“Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new jobs and new American industries.”
-President Obama, 2012 State of the Union Address

In anticipation of the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, this edition of ISTC Catalyst takes a further look at the federal budget, reviewing FY12 and setting the stage for the year ahead. President Obama will be releasing the budget on Monday, February 13.

According to AAAS, for FY12 total R&D spending was set at $142 billion in the recently signed ‘megabus’ spending bill, a decrease of 1.4%, or approximately $1.9 billion, from 2012. However, a few areas fared better than others, and the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology all saw increases.

Matt Hourihan, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program, shared his perspective with the ISTC on what these figures might mean for FY13:

“It’s always hard to predict what’s going to happen, especially now given a tough fiscal environment. The White House does remain fairly clearly committed to a robust public-private innovation system, and by extension to investment in R&D. The President stated as much in his State of the Union, and Defense Secretary Panetta has also echoed those comments publicly. The past few budget requests have sought to substantially support federal R&D investment, and I’d expect that to continue, if at a smaller magnitude than in the past. The Administration will need to abide by the discretionary budget caps established in the Budget Control Act in their proposed budget, but will likely ignore the sequester.

The real question is what will happen in Congress. There is bipartisan Congressional support for funding research and innovation, but there is also the competing priority of deficit reduction. If the automatic cuts in the Budget Control Act remain in place come January 2013, it will result in around $100 billion in additional cuts. Much of that would come from Defense spending, but there are already several proposals to restore those Defense cuts and replace them with spending cuts elsewhere. Even if the sequester is rolled back – and many believe that will happen – it will require another budget deal, and that probably doesn’t happen until after the elections. The future is obviously hazy, but it’s hard to imagine a situation where research budgets see much of an increase this year. We may end up with a result similar to last year with funding gains in some areas offset by cuts elsewhere.”

For a schedule of individual agency budget briefings and R&D budget information, visit the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In the Numbers: A History of R&D

Federal Spending by Performer
As this graph provided by the National Science Foundation shows, industry and universities and colleges usually get the largest amount of federal support for research and development. As of 2009 industry received $43.8 billion, while universities and colleges were awarded $36.48 billion.

Support for Science and Engineering Fields
According to the NSF, since 2001 the life sciences have accounted for half of the federal research portfolio. As of 2009, about $30.47 billion went to life sciences. Engineering received $9.87 billion and physical sciences received $6.07 billion.

Watch and Listen:

State of the Union 2012: Clean Energy and Job Creation
Patrick Gallagher, Director NIST, Discusses How to Out Innovate: Federal Support for R&D


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