AAAS Cautiously Optimistic Of R & D Budget; Warns Of Slant Toward Health Research And Reliance On Tobacco Settlement

The significant increases in funding for R&D programs called for in President Clinton's FY 1999 budget proposal are encouraging, but uneven and heavily dependent upon revenues from an undetermined tobacco settlement, according to a preview of the annual budget analysis released today by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The AAAS analysis raises concerns about the source of the increases slated for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other R&D funding agencies. A major portion would come from the Research Fund for America, which will be built from tobacco settlement revenues. If a settlement is not reached, the White House may have to propose alternate funding sources for the increases, and may be forced to dip into the budget surplus, go beyond the spending caps, or reallocate money intended to fund other programs.

Another concern in the report is that the bulk of the increases in the President's proposal will support health and life science programs. According to the AAAS analysis, these programs often depend upon the research successes in the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics -- areas which are not slated for major increases. Increases in nondefense R&D are concentrated among only three agencies -- NIH, NSF, and the Department of Energy (DOE).

The AAAS analysis indicates that the President's budget request includes a 2.2 percent or $1.7 billion increase for R&D over the current FY 1998 funding level. After adjusting for inflation, the request represents a slight overall increase of less than one percent. In 1999, nondefense R&D would increase by 5.1 percent to $37.4 billion, while defense R&D would decrease by 0.3 percent to $40.3 billion.

"While the proposal is a positive one, and we are optimistic about it, it's neither balanced or straightforward," said Al Teich, director of the AAAS

Contact: Ellen Cooper
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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