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July 25, 2007

Appropriations Update -- FY 08 Defense Approps and Commerce, Justice, Science

Two developments of note today in the annual appropriations cycle. First, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense will mark up its version of the FY 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill, which includes research funding for the various service and defense-wide accounts. We've gotten our first look at the funding levels for the Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation title of the bill in the Chairman's mark, and they look pretty good for most of the accounts the computing research community might care about. In general, defense basic research accounts (6.1) are up vs. the President's request, as are most of the computing-related applied research accounts (6.2). The remainder are funded at the President's request.

DARPA does suffer an overall cut in the bill, however, related to the fact that the committee continues to have concerns with the rate of spending at the agency. DARPA has been slow to execute programs for which it has been appropriated money either because a) the agency has been a careful steward of taxpayer dollars or b) because programs have become bottlenecked in the Director's office, depending on whether you believe the agency's explanation or the feeling among some congressional committee staff. As a result the committee reduced funding in the Biological Warfare, Electronics Technology, Advanced Aerospace Systems and Land Warfare Technology program elements. As a result of this spend-it-or-lose-it DC culture, the cuts would cause DARPA to lose $80 million vs. FY 2007, a reduction of 2.6 percent.

For a more-detailed look at the different accounts, take a gander at the table included in the jump. (Click on the "Continue Reading" link below). We'll update the table as we get additional detail.

Keep in mind, however, that these numbers are just a first step. The committee needs to approve them, then the whole House, then the Senate needs to approve its version, then a compromise version between the chambers, and then, after all that, it's likely that the President will veto the bill for being too generous. (More on that below....) So, consider these numbers a starting point in the inevitable negotiation that will occur between both the Senate and the President. But, it's a good place to start.

Speaking of vetoes, the Administration also issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) yesterday on the FY 2008 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill that the House will begin debating today, indicating that the President intends to veto the bill should the version the House will likely approve land on his desk. The CJS Appropriations bill, as we've discussed previously, contains funding for some science agencies we care about -- in particular, the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology (as well as NASA and NOAA). The bill includes healthy increases for both NSF and NIST, in line with both the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda.

Despite issuing the veto threat, the President does commend the bill for its support of NSF and NIST's research accounts, but takes issue with increases the House Appropriations Committee provided for NSF's Education and Human Resources directorate beyond his request. The SAP also criticizes excessive earmarking in the bill and bluntly states that because the HAC failed to demonstrate offsets for the increased spending, he will veto the bill if presented to him.

This is not terribly surprising. Facing a Democratically-controlled Congress for the first time, it was likely that the President would be drawn into a political fight over spending, and his only leverage in that fight is the veto. While Congress chugs away at passing the 12 annual appropriations bills necessary to fund the operations of government, its unlikely many (if any) will pass with the majority required to override any potential presidential veto. Indeed, in the House, the "magic number" for the President is 145 -- he needs just 145 out of 201 Republican members of the House to sustain any veto and provide him significant leverage in the spending negotiations that will follow. So far, none of the bills passed so far (Interior, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations) have had "veto-proof" majorities, so the President has retained his leverage.

It's likely the appropriations process is again headed for a train-wreck, just as in previous years. The final form of this particular train-wreck isn't yet known, but I tend to agree with others who expect that the end game will involve another omnibus appropriations bill in which, despite strong support for science programs in Congress and by the President, those programs will be threatened by across-the-board cuts required to get spending down to a level that the President will sign. The focus, then, of many of us in the science advocacy community once again will be on protecting the increases for science agencies approved by Congress and supported by the President in a bill in which they are just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of competing programs. The good news is that we've had some success with this approach in the past....

But for now, the funding levels included in both the Defense Appropriations and Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations are powerful symbols of the support R&D issues have in Congress, even if its likely that those levels might get modified in the coming months for reasons mostly unrelated to Congress' support of science.

We'll, of course, have all the details here as they emerge.

FY 2007 FY 2008 req FY 08 HAC-D FY 08 SAC-D HAC-D
vs. 2007
% vs 2007
vs. 2008 req
% vs 2008 req
Defense RDT&E 75,721,604 75,117,194 76,229,140 507,536 0.7% 1,111,946 1.5%
Army-BR In-House Lab Research 19,266 19,266 0 0.0%
Army - Defense Research Sciences 137,676 161,176 23,500 17.1%
Army - URI 64,843 76,743 11,900 18.4%
Army - University and Industry Research Cen 84,034 96,784 12,750 15.2%
Army 6.2 - Command Control Communications 22,215 38,465 16,250 73.1%
Army 6.2 - Computer and Software Tech 5,368 11,368 6,000 111.8%
Navy - URI 76,637 93,137 16,500 21.5%
Navy - In-House Lab Independent Research 16,556 16,556 0 0.0%
Navy - Defense Research Sciences 374,052 380,052 6,000 1.6%
AF - Defense Research Sciences 256,259 265,759 9,500 3.7%
AF - URI 104,304 104,304 0 0.0%
AF - High Energy Laser Research Initiatives 12,636 12,636 0 0.0%
AF 6.2 - Command Control and Communications 116,705 125,105 8,400 7.2%
DefWide - DTRA Uni Strategic Partnership 5,000 8,000 3,000 60.0%
DefWide - Defense Research Sciences 0 9,800 9,800
DefWide - GICUR 0 5,000 5,000
DefWide - Nat Def Ed Program 44,372 44,372 0 0.0%
DefWide 6.2 - Info and Communications Tech 229,739 235,139 5,400 2.4%
DefWide 6.2 - Cognitive Computing 179,728 179,728 0 0.0%
DARPA 3,115,310 3,085,617 3,035,222 -80,088 -2.6% -50,395 -1.6%

Posted by PeterHarsha at July 25, 2007 12:41 PM
Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | FY08 Appropriations | Funding