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<< Back to March 2004 CRN Table of Contents

[Published originally in the March 2004 edition of Computing Research News, Vol. 16/No. 2.]

Administration Releases "Austere" FY05 Budget

Computing R&D Declines Under President's Plan

By Peter Harsha

Federal government support for computing research would decline by 1 percent overall next year under the President's budget request for 2005, released February 2, 2004. Computing research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Department of Energy (DOE) would grow slightly under the President's plan-at a rate close to or below the rate of inflation-while funding at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Defense (DOD) would see significant cuts.

Overall, federal research and development would see an increase to $131 billion in FY 2005, up from $125 billion appropriated in FY 2004, an increase of 5 percent. Federal support for basic research would see a modest 0.6 percent increase, to $26.8 billion in FY 2005 from $26.7 billion in FY 2004.

Presidential budget advisors, however, said the funding levels were indicative of the high priority the administration places on federal research and development activities. In a press briefing coinciding with the budget release, Marcus Peacock, Associate Director, White House Office of Management and Budget, noted that the 5 percent overall growth in federal research and development spending should be judged in comparison to the less than 1 percent increase in non-defense-related discretionary spending throughout the rest of the budget.

Speaking at the National Academy of Sciences with White House Office of Science and Technology Policy director John Marburger, Peacock said the 2.3 percent increase in non-defense-related R&D in an otherwise "very austere" budget demonstrated the administration's continued commitment to a healthy federal R&D enterprise.

Under the President's plan, the federal government's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program (NITRD)-the program comprising all federal IT R&D activities-would decrease slightly to just over $2.00 billion for FY 2005, down from $2.02 billion in FY 2004. Funding at NSF, the lead agency in the NITRD program, would increase by $7 million to $761 million for FY 2005, an increase of 1 percent. Funding at DOE would also grow to $354 million, up $10 million from FY 2004.

Marburger described the NITRD initiative as "highly successful" and "mature," justifying limited reprioritization within some agencies and allowing for program cuts. Under the administration's blueprint, NASA's spending on IT R&D would fall to $259 million in FY 2005, down $16 million from FY 2004. Funding would also be reduced at DOD to $226 million for FY 2005, down 26 percent from FY 2004 levels.

Rounding out the program, the Department of Commerce-which includes the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-would receive a $7 million increase to $33 million for FY 2005; and the Department of Health and Human Services-which includes NIH- would receive $371 million in FY 2005, an increase of $3 million. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would remain unchanged from FY 2004 at $4 million.

The President's plan would increase NSF's overall budget by 3 percent in FY 2005, to $5.745 billion. Included in the plan is a 2.2 percent increase to NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate to $615 million in FY 2005. Five areas would receive priority funding in FY 2005: 1) Nanoscale Science and Engineering; 2) Biocomplexity in the Environment; 3) Mathematical Sciences; 4) Human and Social Dynamics; and 5) Workforce for the 21st Century. NSF's Information Technology Research (ITR) priority, one of four NSF programs rated "effective" (the highest designation) by OMB reviewers, is scheduled to end in 2004, and program funds will revert to "NSF's fundamental science and engineering core in 2005," according to the administration plan.

While overall Research and Related Activities funding would rise to $4.45 billion in FY 2005 (an increase of 4.7 percent), NSF's Education and Human Resources directorate would see a significant reduction to $772 million in FY 2005, down from $939 million in FY 2004-an 18-percent decline. The bulk of this decline appears to be the administration's request to move the directorate's Math and Science Partnerships program out of NSF and to the Department of Education. This proposed change has already generated swift criticism from House Science Chairman, Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who noted his committee would fight the move "tooth and nail."

The President's budget also includes $204 million "to advance U.S. leadership" in high-end computing research at the Department of Energy in FY 2005. The request includes $38 million for the Next Generation Computer Architecture, as well as a second funding account for supercomputing work at the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA).

Other agency highlights include a $3.7 billion increase requested for the Department of Homeland Security, a move that would bring the agency's budget to $40.2 billion for FY 2005. Included in that funding is $1.039 billion for FY 2005 for the department's Science and Technology directorate, up from $913 billion in FY 2004. DHS Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology, Penrose Albright, indicated that "30 to 40 percent" of that $1 billion would be directed toward the department's DARPA-esque research agency, the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA).

The administration had warned for several months that this budget was going to be particularly tight. Several areas received priority: winning the war on terror, protecting the homeland, strengthening the economy, and "supporting key priorities like education, health care, and helping Americans most in need." In addition, the President required that the budget put the government on course to halve the $521 billion budget deficit in five years, and that it keep spending growth to less than 1 percent in areas not related to defense and homeland security.

Marburger and Peacock also emphasized the administration's growing concern over the proliferation of "congressionally directed" programs-programs not competitively funded or peer-reviewed-throughout the research and development budget. These congressional earmarks, they said, now total more than $2.0 billion and account for nearly 8 percent of all university funding. Asked whether the administration, in addition to "zeroing out" the earmarks in future budgets, would withhold funding for earmarked projects in the current year, Marburger and Peacock both cited the political difficulties surrounding such a move and said it was unlikely.

The President's budget request marks the start of the annual federal budget and appropriations cycle. In the coming weeks, Congress will begin work on its own budget, culminating ultimately in the passage-likely later this fall-of the 13 annual appropriations bills that fund all federal government activities. Congress is not obligated to accede to the President's budget request; however, the President's budget serves as a useful baseline as the process moves forward.

For more detail on plans and priorities for computing research in specific agencies (unavailable at press time), check the CRA Government Affairs website at


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