Archive | Budget RSS for this section

Understanding the Federal Budget

I am sure that you are as annoyed with the word “sequester” as I am, but here is a great article further explaining the complexities of the Federal Budget and the impacts of this “sequester”. Last week, each agency drafted a letter to Senator Mikulski explaining the impacts of the sequester specific to their agency.  In the letter to NASA the letter seemed to indicate that NASA was “picking winners and losers”, but that was in fact not the case. There is a much more fascinating (is that the right word?), maybe annoying nuance in the letter to Sen. Mikulski that Marcia Smith/Space Policy Online does a great job of explaining further. Please take a look at this blog post on Space Policy Online as it definitely sheds light on where all of these percentages and millions/billions in cuts come from (their starting point). At least for NASA. 

http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/interpreting-nasas-letter-to-sen-mikulski-about-the-impact-of-the-sequester

What would happen to science if Mitt won the White House?

House Republican Press Conference on Health Care Reform
I definitely owe my readership this post from a few months back when I was doing a series on the Republican candidates and their viewpoints on scientific research.

My apologies for it being All Quiet on the Blog Front as I prepare to defend and apply for jobs. As a good friend reminded me earlier today: thinking about science policy does, on some strange level, make me happy.

Plus, Romney has pretty much snapped up the nomination and it’s about time we talked a bit about his science stance. Now also the reason that I hadn’t written about this earlier is that it’s pretty difficult to find his thoughts on funding scientific research. But then Paul Ryan and the House Republican Budget came out and this is what Romney said:

Romney: I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier. I think it’s amazing that we have a president who three and a half years in still hasn’t put a proposal out that deals with entitlements. This President’s dealing with entitlement reform — excuse me — this budget deals with entitlement reform, tax policy, which as you know is very similar to the one that I put out and efforts to reign in excessive spending. I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.

There has been quite a bit discussed about the large slashes in corporate taxes and government programs that help the poor; but in addition to those detrimental cuts there are also many things in the budget that should be a concern to scientists and those involved in federally funded research.

The Obama Administration specifically listed the programs that involved in science, technology and innovation that the Ryan-Romney budget resolution would cut, with the House Republicans claiming massive duplications, bureaucratic barriers and red tape that are preventing job creation in these sectors.

The House Budget would cut programs within the Department of Energy’s Office of Science that provide the funding for future clean energy technology and advanced manufacturing initiatives. Specifically stating in the Path to Prosperity that renewable-energy interests are only for political gain.

The President has also stifled domestic energy production by blocking or delaying production both onshore and offshore, destroying jobs and idling American energy sources. The stimulus alone allocated $80 billion of taxpayers’ dollars specifically for politically favored renewable-energy interests.

But, in fact, this statement is not true at all, that currently domestic production is at its highest since 2003. This Budget Resolution will reduce the current efforts to develop a clean-energy economy at a time when our international competitors are ramping up their investments. China is the world’s top investor in renewable energy projects investing over $120 billion between 2007-2010.

The House Budget resolution would also be detrimental to agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) by cutting the budget of those agencies by almost 10% on average. Cuts to these programs would not only eliminate basic research but as well as education grants and fellowships that help graduate students and postdocs pursue careers in science. OSTP indicates that this would be $670 million below 2012 enacted levels equalling 2,000 fewer competitive grants. But, Path to Prosperity does state that:

This budget would continue funding essential government missions, including energy security and basic research and development, while paring back spending in areas of duplication or non-core functions, such as applied and commercial research or development projects best left to the private sector.

ok, so then my question is where are all of these overflowing private sector investments in research and development and why haven’t they hired me yet? I am a competitive candidate with extensive laboratory skills and I am excited to do cutting-edge research. But what am I doing? I am applying for postdocs. How are postdocs funded? Exactly.

Will the prospect of a clean energy future get our budget passed?

In talking to many people, very few were as excited about the President’s budget rollout as I was. This is probably due to the dim prospects of it actually getting passed this year it being an election year. Well, without going into a debate about whether or not it will fly in Congress, I do want to write a post about it as I think that it clearly showcases the importance that President Obama places on a clean energy economy.  And because of this, I also think that congress should at least consider (at least the R&D side) the budget because if some of the clean energy investments are passed, the benefits will trickle down to their substituents and create more jobs and industries in their own states. The rest of the world is on board with investing in clean energy, why are we not? Although, according to Bloomberg, in 2011, we finally surpassed China in our investments in clean energy with 55.9 billion dollars when China invested 47.4 billion dollars in clean energy. Lets increase this!

I was excited to read that the Department of Energy’s proposed R&D budget for FY 2013 is 11.9 billion, an $884 million increase (8% of 2012 enacted). Within this budget request, specifically for R&D, there is (nearly a) 30% increase ($2.3 million) in the budget for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Programs, as well as (almost a) 30% increase ($350 million) in the budget for Advance Research Projects Agency in Energy (ARPA-e). I am proud of these increases because energy efficiency programs and efforts are some of the most important things that we can do now to reduce our emissions and save on energy. It it amazing how much economic sense improvements in efficiency can have and yet we consistently under invest in these types of efforts. But, there is a great piece by psychologist Brandon Hofmeister, that perhaps describes the cognitive barrier between knowing that something that makes economic sense and actually doing what makes economic sense. Nonetheless, more efforts to encourage consumers to be energy efficient and for utilities to reward their consumers when they are energy efficient is a very good thing.