R&D funding on the rise in 2013 budget proposal

Spending for scientific research and development, including clean energy, bio and nano research and education, would increase under the president's 2013 budget proposal.

President Barack Obama has requested $140.8 billion for research and development activities for fiscal 2013, which includes a requested 5 percent increase in non-defense R&D spending from 2012.

The budget, released Feb. 13, reflects the president’s commitment to promoting and funding scientific discovery, innovation for business and manufacturing, and clean energy development, as well as improving education, said John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. There also is a total of $3 billion requested for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs.

Overall, R&D spending represents a small fraction of the proposed $3.8 trillion budget, but it represents a major investment in the economic and national security of the nation.

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Three agencies account for much of the scientific R&D work being done — the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology — and the budget request includes $13.1 billion in research programs at these agencies.

Officials from those agencies and from the White House OSTP had outlined the administration’s science and technology goals for the coming year in a Jan. 13 briefing.

Federal spending on non-defense R&D peaked at about $73 billion in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and fell back to about $60 billion in 2010. It climbed slowly over the next two years, and the total request for non-defense R&D for 2013 is $65 billion.

The Energy Department’s $27.2 billion request “reflects tough choices” for cutting in some areas in order to focus on more productive investments, said David Sandalow, DOE assistant secretary for policy and internal affairs.

This includes cutting from programs that already have succeeded, including $4 billion in annual tax subsidies to oil, gas and other fossil fuel producers, and from programs that are not working. Some 35 research programs that show no signs of being successful have been cut.

DOE’s Office of Science budget request for the coming year is about $5 billion. Included in it are $95 million for wind energy research and $310 million for the SunShot initiative for affordable solar energy. Another $770 million would go to the Office of Nuclear Energy for programs, including research on advanced small modular reactors. Smart grid and energy storage research would get $143 million, and $155 million has been requested for carbon capture and storage research.

Another $350 million would go to the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA-E, for “investments in high-performing programs [that] will help position the United States as a world leader in the clean energy economy, and create the foundation for new industries and new jobs.”

The Energy Department also is the steward for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, and $7.6 billion is proposed for weapons activities, an increase of $363 million or 5 percent above what was enacted for fiscal 2012. But by reducing and stretching out the schedule of several weapons life extension programs, the current budget request is $372 million less than the amount requested for weapons activities last year.

Another $1.1 billion is requested to support work on naval reactors, including support for current nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, as well as for development of reactors for a new class of ballistic missile submarines. The request also includes $2.5 billion for accelerated efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials within the next four years.

The National Science Foundation provides more than 80 percent of federal funding for computer science research in this country, said NSF Director Subra Suresh. The agency’s funding request for 2013 is $7.37 billion, up $340 million or 4.8 percent from what it received in 2012, Suresh said. This includes $57 million for a coordinated cybersecurity research initiative, and $459 million for the prestigious graduate fellowship and early career faculty programs.

Cuts to NSF administrative expenses are expected to save $19 million.

NIST is housed in the Commerce Department, which would get $5 billion under the 2013 proposal, up by $380 million from 2012. NIST laboratories would receive $708 million, an increase of $86 million over 2012 levels for what the administration calls investments in the country’s long-term economic growth and competitiveness. Much of this would be for research in such areas as bio-manufacturing and nano-manufacturing, including $21 million for a new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program. This would be a public-private partnership created to support research to address common manufacturing challenges faced by businesses.

NIST also houses the National Program Office for the president’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. That office would be funded at $8 million in 2013.

Investments in STEM education are aimed at an administration goal of preparing 100,000 teachers in this area over the next decade, including recruiting 10,000 new teachers in the next two years. The budget includes $80 million for the Effective Teachers and Leaders State Grant program for this, and funds a jointly administered mathematics education initiative with $30 million each from the Education Department and NSF.