APS News

Washington Dispatch

ISSUE: Leadership Agrees to a Continuing Resolution
Congressional leadership has agreed to a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government funded through March 2013 at fiscal year 2012 levels. The agreement punts the issue of appropriation down the road and does not signify any change in the tone of hyper-partisanship that has dominated Washington recently. It merely leaves the appropriations issue for the next Congress to resolve. House Republicans, using the Ryan budget as a blueprint, and the President are still far from agreement on spending for defense and social programs.   

ISSUE: The Romney/Ryan vs. Obama Budget Plans
For now the debate remains between the Romney/Ryan budget plans and the President’s budget proposal. An analysis developed by the AAAS, which compares five-year outlooks for non-defense R&D spending based on the two plans, assumes the budgets for individual agencies, as a percentage of total spending, will remain relatively constant. Ignoring sequestrations (see below) the analysis finds that the overall R&D spending under the Ryan budget plan would be $39B (~5%) lower than the President’s request through 2017. The Ryan plan would provide $1.8B (~6%) less for General Science (Function 250)–covering NASA, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) – and $517M (~2%) less for Health (Function 550) with the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) share likely falling below the President’s request by $30M (~1%). The Ryan plan would also provide $1.5B (55%) less for Energy programs (Function 270), among them ARPA-E and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). By contrast, it would provide $514M (~1%) more for R&D within the Defense budget (Function 050).

The budget proposal put forth by Governor Romney poses additional uncertainties that at this time cannot be quantified.  

ISSUE: Sequestrations
Current law (the Budget Control Act of 2011) mandates across-the-board reductions (sequestrations) for all discretionary programs beginning January 2, 2013. Defense programs would suffer reductions of approximately 10 percent, while non-defense programs would be cut approximately 8 percent. Absent bipartisan legislative action, NSF would be forced to reduce the number of grants it awards by at least 500 and perhaps by as many as 1500, and NIH would have to shrink its grant program 1,600 to 2,600 grants. Other science agencies would face comparable grant reductions, and the Department of Energy would confront the very real prospect of closing one or more scientific facilities.

ISSUE: Obama and Romney Science Policies
President Obama and Governor Romney recently responded to 14 questions regarding science and public policy posed by the “Science Debate.” Their side-by-side answers appear at http://www.sciencedebate.org/debate12/.

ISSUE: Media Update
The Hill published an op-ed on Sept. 10 by APS President Robert Byer and ACS President Bassam Z. Shakhashiri regarding Office of Management and Budget travel regulations and Congressional legislation that reduce travel and meeting expenses by 30 percent for federal employees in fiscal year 2013. Roll Call printed an op-ed on Sept. 10 by Michael S. Lubell, APS Director of Public Affairs, who is a regular guest columnist for the paper. Lubell discussed the eroding support for large, US-based science projects and offered compelling reasons why science appeals to both political parties.

Log on to the APS Public Affairs website (http://www.aps.org/policy) for more information.

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Editor: Alan Chodos