Sen. Gramm Proposed Doubling Federal Research Dollars by 2007
"The United States simply does not spend enough on basic research." With these words, Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) on January 21 introduced a bill that would permit the doubling of federal spending on non-defense R&D over the next ten years, "from $32.5 billion in fiscal year 1997 to $65 billion in fiscal year 2007." The "National Research Investment Act of 1997" (S. 124), cosponsored by Republicans Connie Mack of Florida and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, would specify annual authorization levels for a collection of programs encompassing most federal R&D activities. Within this general authorization, particular funding levels are designated each year for the National Institutes of Health; no specific amounts are set for the other programs. The bill directs that priority be given to "basic scientific research in order to develop new scientific knowledge;" that funds can only be used for "pre-competitive" R&D; and that the money "shall be allocated using a peer review system." See FYI#12 for details of the funding levels in the bill.
Specifically, the bill calls for NIH funding to double in ten years, from $12.75 billion in FY 1997 to $25.5 billion in FY 2007. Overall funding for 11 other R&D programs cited in the bill would also double in that time period, from $19.75 billion in FY 1997 to $39.5 billion in FY 2007. In addition to NIH, the bill includes the following research agencies: NSF, NASA, NIST, NOAA, and the R&D activities of DOE (non-defense), EPA, the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control, Veterans' Affairs, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Department of Education. Not addressed in the bill are Department of Defense R&D, and the defense activities of DOE.
Gramm's bill does not dictate how funding for individual programs other than NIH should grow, nor does it suggest reductions elsewhere in the federal budget to offset the increase to science spending. How the bill will fare in the current climate of budget-balancing is uncertain. New Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections indicate that the deficit might increase slightly this year, leading to warnings about a five-year freeze on non-defense discretionary funds. The Gramm bill contains the following language: "no funds may be made available under this Act in a manner that does not conform with the discretionary spending caps provided in the most recently adopted concurrent resolution on the budget." In addition, as an authorization bill, it would only permit these new levels of funding to be spent but not provide them - that job is up to the appropriators.
According to Gramm, his bill would "double the amount spent by the federal government on non-defense research over ten years in a dozen agencies, programs, and activities...making sure that within that amount the funding for the National Institutes of Health would double.... At the same time, in order to be sure the increase in funding is spent wisely, the bill gives priority to investments in basic science and medical research in order to develop new scientific knowledge which will be available in the public domain. The legislation does not allow funds to be used for the commercialization of technologies, and allocates funds using a peer review system. Expanding the nation's commitment to basic research in science and medicine is a critically important investment in the future of our Nation."