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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Budget for science agencies climbs

Federal budgets signed into law late last month gave some science agencies slightly more funding for the next fiscal year, reversing a multi-year trend of widespread cuts to research and policy institutes.

Money devoted to the National Science Foundation edged up by 2.5 percent compared to fiscal year 2011, while spending levels for agencies for aeronautics, ocean and air conditions and technology climbed as well. The total allocation reached $128 billion.

Science organizations were optimistic about the boost, even though the allocations for the sciences are still about $800 million lower than the level President Barack Obama initially sought in his budget proposal in February.

Joanne Carney, director of the Office of Government Relations at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the 9.4-percent addition to the National Science Foundation’s budget.

“It wasn’t as high as what the president initially requested for NSF, but considering what we were expecting – we were expecting greater decreases for the NSF – it ended up giving [the NSF] even more,” Carney said.

After Congress failed to reach an agreement to reduce the nation’s deficit by its Nov. 23 deadline, “that might be the last year we see increases for NSF,” Carney said.

Automatic budget cuts, which will begin in 2013,will affect government-funded programs, including education directed funding like university research grants.

Physics professor Mark Reeves said science scholars expected drastic slashes in spending, but were pleased by the outcome of the budget deliberations.

“There was talk that there might not be new funding next year, but now it looks like there will be because there is sufficient money in the budget to do that,” he said. “It’s got to be a good thing for the University.”

As a member of the appropriations committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Frank Wolf, R-Va., had a hand in crafting the budget that originated among Republican members of the House. Wolf’s press secretary Dan Scandling, who called the representative a “champion for the sciences,” said the increases are good for the researchers.

“The sciences come out ahead of a lot of other places in the budget,” Scandling said. “The science community should be very happy with where they are.”

At the same time, a 32-percent reduction hit the budget of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which advises the president’s administration on scientific matters. Carney said the office plays an important role as a coordinating body that works across agencies.

“It’s a way for minimizing redundancy, making sure funding is allocated in a proper manner,” Carney said. “How they plan to adapt to a 32-percent cut, we’ll wait to see.”

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