White House: 2007 budget includes R&D increases

Some critics, however, say the Bush administration is taking money away from science and technology education

U.S. President George Bush has asked for an increase in funding for two agencies conducting science and technology-related research and development, administration officials said Monday.

The R&D budgets would rise at the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF), if Congress approves Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget request, said John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Most other U.S. government R&D spending would stay flat, with some R&D budgets falling slightly over the 2006 budget approved by Congress.

The agencies receiving additional money are an important part of Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative, announced during his State of the Union address Jan. 31, Marburger said Total U.S. government R&D would increase from about US$133.8 billion in 2006 to $137.2 billion in 2007 under Bush's budget.

The R&D budget "puts the United States in a position to maintain its scientific preeminance," said Raymond Orbach, director of DOE's Office of Science.

DOE's R&D budget would increase from $8.56 billion to $9.16 billion in Bush's 2007 budget, including a $505 million increase in the Office of Science budget. Much of the increased funding will go toward DOE's research laboratories and improving its supercomputers, Orbach said. Some DOE computers will reach computing speeds of 100 teraflops, speeds thought unrealistic just three years ago, he said.

Many tech trade groups have praised Bush's competitiveness goals, which include more programs for improving math and science education and an increase in federal R&D spending. But some tech and school groups criticized Bush Monday for again attempting to end the Department of Education's $500 million Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, which helps schools fund technology projects.

Bush's 2006 budget also attempted to leave the program unfunded, but Congress kept it alive.

"Understanding and using technology are critical components of all students' academic careers and, most certainly, barometers of their future employment prospects," Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education, said in a statement. "Given the president's emphasis in the State of the Union on the importance of developing math and science skills in America's students in order to keep America competitive globally, we do not see how eliminating federal education technology funding advances his global competitiveness agenda or helps our students."

NSF's R&D budget would increase from $4.2 billion in 2006 to $4.55 billion in Bush's budget. NSF has 86 percent of the total U.S. government funding for computer science research. Included in NSF's 2007 budget is $597 million for cyberinfrastructure research, $904 million for networking and IT R&D ,and $373 million for nanotechnology research.

White House officials also highlighed R&D funding at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), saying the NIST budget would see a 24 percent increase from Bush's 2006 budget request to his 2007 budget request. But Congress added about $135 million to Bush's $431.2 million budget request for 2006, and Bush's 2007 budget includes only about $104 million more than his 2006 request.

Marburger complained about congressional funding "earmarks" for new programs, saying those funds don't go through agency and White House evaluation before getting added.

"That is not the best use of taxpayer funds," Marburger said of congressional earmarks.

NIST research includes nanotechnology, hydrogen fuel and quantum information sciences, said William Jeffrey, NIST's director.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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