(Photo credit: AAAS)
President Barack Obama recently released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, and Technocrat chatted with Matt Hourihan of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences about some science and research issues proposed in previous budgets that have and haven’t been embraced by lawmakers.
Q: What are some science issues in past budget proposals that have found support from Congress over the past few years?
A: …Certain areas that Congress does seem to favor. I think you’d have to include some of the exploration programs at NASA. Development of the Orion crew capsule. Funding for development of a variety of space exploration, you know, manned space exploration programs. I mean, the last year’s budget, Congress restored quite a bit of funding. Those programs had been slated for some cuts last year. And generally speaking, the administration’s budget isn’t always incredibly generous with NASA. And Congress often seems to restore funding for certain components related to space exploration.
I think life sciences research remains pretty popular in Congress. Obviously there are, even now there are quite a few legislative proposals that attempt to increase funding for NIH. Things like the BRAIN Initiative have been met with pretty broad support.
Advanced computing is also an area that Congress seems quite willing to grant increases and there are advanced computing programs at NSF, at the Office of Science at DOE and these are areas that seem to do pretty well year in and year out compared to certain other areas with appropriators.
Q: Are you saying these are areas – manned exploration, life sciences, advanced computing – these are areas that Congress and the President agree on or that these are areas that [lawmakers] favor?
A: So manned space exploration, Congress definitely seems, in the last couple years at least they’ve seemed more generous than the Administration on some of those programs.
But advanced computing and life sciences… those are areas where I think there is a lot of agreement…. the Administration and Congress do seem to see eye to eye on many advanced computing programs. Although, again, at times Congress is more generous. But overall, advanced computing and some of the neuroscience research those are not areas where there’s a whole lot of disagreement I don’t think.
Q: When it comes to the President’s budget proposals in recent years, what are some particular issues that haven’t found backing from Congress?
A: Well, advanced manufacturing is a big one. In particular, the Administration has definitely proposed some pretty aggressive budgets in the advanced manufacturing realm. In particular, this recurring idea to establish a major national network of manufacturing innovation institutes. It will require a good bit of funding. There are many in Congress who like the idea, but so far, the full funding hasn’t been realized, the full plan hasn’t been realized. The Administration has been kind of slowly building out the network piece by piece. Ultimately, I think they want over 40 of these manufacturing institutes around the country and they’ve been asking Congress for funding to make that happen and Congress hasn’t provided the funding for the full network, but the Administration has been able to piece together… they’ve got several that are either up and running or in the works.
So that’s one area….
Climate research in certain areas – that’s been a much harder argument to win… I should say not even just climate change research, but environmental research overall. EPA’s budget has been declining. Climate research at NOAA has been for years been a hot button issue. Environmental research in the Department of Energy, within the Office of Science there’s a biological and environment research program. That’s always an area of controversy. It usually falls along partisan lines.
A lot of the big infrastructure proposals haven’t been embraced. Again, high-speed rail is always an issue that meets with opposition in Congress and the related technology funding….
Those are the big ones I think.
[Edited for length]