Science Spending: How Much In This Election Year?

To boost U.S. competitiveness, the Bush Administration has proposed a sharp increase in the 1993 budget for basic research and for technologies such as high-performance computing, materials, and advanced manufacturing. The National Science Foundation, for example, is slated for an 18% hike.

But the plan is in for a rough time on Capitol Hill. At a recent NSF budget hearing, Representative Bob Traxler (D-Mich.), chairman of the House subcommittee that funds the NSF, NASA, Housing & Urban Development, and the Veterans Administration, said that under current budget caps the NSF will be lucky to get a 5% increase. That would have a "devastating impact on those areas related to critical technologies," warns an NSF official, who says the new programs in materials and manufacturing are largely contingent on the 18% boost.

Things could get even worse. The President's budget leaves out some expensive programs favored by members of Congress, such as new solid-fuel rocket motors for the space shuttle. Adding those back in would leave even less money for science and technology programs. NSF officials hope that election-year politics will put the spotlight on U.S. competitiveness and research and development--and prompt Congress to lift spending caps and pump more money into research.