The Council of The American Physical Society is gravely concerned that some policy documents and budget scenarios for FY 1998 and beyond plan large cuts to the DOE's Office of Energy Research, one of the primary sponsors of science in the United States. The cuts being considered would seriously damage a major component of the nation's outstanding basic research activities, in universities as well as national laboratories. They would threaten our nation's quality of life, future economic competitiveness and military security. The Council urges planners to rectify this situation and make budgetary adjustments accordingly.
For more than half a century, every Congress and every President has recognized the unique role of science in sustaining the nation's world-power status. They have consistently given federal investment in basic research strong bipartisan backing. In spite of extraordinary budgetary pressures, leaders in both political parties continue to maintain this bipartisan commitment. They have properly identified the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as key sponsors of scientific research. However, they have overlooked the prominent roles played by some programs in the mission agencies. This is now particularly true of the Office of Energy Research (OER).
More generally, among federal agencies, the DOE through OER is the leading supporter of basic research in the physical sciences, accounting for almost as much federal spending as NASA, the Department of Defense and the NSF, combined. In support of basic research as a whole, the DOE ranks third among federal agencies. With its progenitors, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Administration, DOE-funded research has led to more than sixty Nobel prizes, attesting to the high quality and impact of the work it supports.
The science base built through OER support over the past several decades has generated a wealth of technological advances that have dramatically improved the energy security of our nation. Research supported by OER has also made major contributions to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and medical isotopes; composite materials used in military hardware and motor vehicles; and x-ray diagnostics of computer chips and other high-tech materials. The OER has provided a vital complement to the support of basic research carried out by NSF and NIH and programs in other mission agencies. The OER, for example, as part of its radiation health and safety mission, initiated the human genome project and currently provides approximately one-third of all of its federal funding.
The Council of The American Physical Society strongly urges policy planners not to make short-term decisions which reduce DOE's crucial basic research activities. Proposed cuts would diminish our quality of life and our nation's future economic competitiveness and military security.
(Adopted by the Council on May 6, 1996)
Category: National Policy