WASHINGTON, D.C., October 7, 1996 -- Congress departed from the cuts projected in its FY 1997 budget resolution and approved appropriations providing a 4.1 percent increase for R&D for FY 1997. Nevertheless, a preliminary analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) indicates that the increase only begins to make up ground lost in the previous three years to spending cuts and inflation.
Congress approved a total of $74 billion for R&D programs for FY 1997, an increase of $2.9 billion over FY 1996. Every major R&D funding agency except the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Interior received increases. However, the overall boost for R&D in FY 1997 was not enough to overcome three years of level funding at $71 billion, resulting in a net loss to inflation of 1.9 percent between FY 1994 and FY 1997.
Only two agencies -- the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) -- have kept their R&D budgets ahead of inflation during the three-year period. The bulk of the increase to R&D in the FY 1997 budget goes to the Department of Defense (DOD) which received an increase of $1.8 billion (4.9 percent). NIH received an increase of $785 million (6.9 percent), which is by far the largest share of the increase in nondefense R&D.
Funding for defense R&D overall (which includes weapon-related work in the Department of Energy) received a total of $40.5 billion, an increase of $2 billion (5.2 percent) over FY 1996, and comprises 55 percent of the total R&D budget. Funding for nondefense R&D received a total of $33.5 billion, an increase of $879 million (2.7 percent) over FY 1996. Support for basic research also increased by 2.7 percent from $395 million to $14.8 billion, but is growing at a slower rate than total R&D.
"Had Congress followed the budget resolution that called for extensive cuts to R&D funding, the news would have been much worse for the scientific community," said Al Teich, director of the AAAS Science and Policy programs.