Mixed News for Research in President's Budget


The good news is...the President's budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 1996 generally treats research kindly. Research at the National Science Foundation (NSF) fares well, meriting a 7.6% inscrease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget holds steady with a 4.1% increase. The bad news is...university-based research funded by the Department of Defense is not slated for an increase. Although the Republican leadership in Congress has not summarily rejected the President's budget, the budgets produced in the House and Senate in the coming weeks are likely to reflect different priorities and to rearrange the deck chairs considerably.

Although NSF accounts for only 3% of total federal spending for research and development, it provides nearly 1/2 of all federal support for nonmedical basic research performed at colleges and universities. Under the President's budget, total NSF spending would increase 3%, to $3.36 billion. Within that total, NSF research would increase by 7.6%, to $2.454 billion. The Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate would receive an 8% increase.

The budget request for NIH is $11.8 billion, an increase of 4.1% over FY 1995 levels. In the current budget climate, 4.1% is a healthy increase, although if those funds are appropriated, the increase will not quite cover the biomedical research inflation rate of 4.3%. The NIH budget request thus allows NIH merely to tread water.

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) in the Office of the Director at NIH is slated for $2.3 million, which is slightly above the current FY funding level.

The administration has proposed an increase of $72 million for the NIH Office of AIDS Research, which would raise the AIDS research budget to $1.4 billion for FY 1996. AIDS-related research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) would receive increases of $6 million, $4 million, and $400,000 respectively.

Overall increases for NIDA (3.3%), NIMH (3.3%), and NIAAA (3%) approximate those received by the other NIH institutes.

The President's budget proposal asks for an increase of 3.1% overall for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, an increase of 3% for the National Institute on Aging, and an only slightly higher increase of 3.2% for the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development.

Department of Defense-sponsored research at colleges and universities would remain constant in FY 1996 under the President's budget.

Most observers view the President's budget as the high-water mark. Efforts to balance the federal budget and fund tax cuts will be going on at the same time Congress is examining the utility and necessity of many federal programs. Jeff McFarland, Associate Executive Director for Public Policy at APA, said, 'Although research has done relatively well in the President's budget, this Congress is interested in re-examining all federal spending, and making significant cuts. That means that our advocacy efforts this year will be somewhat more defensive than they have been in the past. We have to be prepared to answer different types of questions, such as, Why should this program be a federal responsibility?'




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