The Society for the
Study of Social Issues

Science and US Government Budgeting

22 November 2011

In the midst of continued speculation and political gamesmanship over the future of federal spending in the U.S., some federal science agencies at least can breathe easy for a while longer. Deep cuts for science have not been metered out as some feared in the first round of spending bills that congress is currently deliberating. However, this accounts for just one small appropriation in spending plans that will be muddled through in a hotchpotch process of automatic cuts, political deals, and financial constraints over the coming months.

On Friday, President Obama signed the Science Appropriations Act which saw a modest increase of $155 million for the National Science Foundation, $600 million short of the amount that scientists recommended and that Obama endorsed in his original 2012 budget. Even the bulk of the funding increase which went to NASA will be many millions below what moderate economic experts and the Obama administration once deemed an acceptable level for science in a national effort to pull the U.S. out of recession and start along the trajectory of a new "Sputnik Moment”.

Of course, wrangling between Democrats and Republicans over the best way to move the economy forward has led us far away today from any kind of concerted plan to raise the scientific competitiveness of the nation. Now that the “Supercommittee” tasked with making strategic cuts and new revenue gains has ended discussion with no agreement, we are in a world of automatic across-the-board cuts. These cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next decade will probably go into affect in 2013 and the roughly 8% funding decrease intended for all non-defense and non-social security programs will be debated by Congress next year. At great concern for all involved will be the specifics, and these specifics are still very far from being known.

Alex Ingrams
Policy Coordinator

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin