President Signs Recovery Act with Unprecedented Commitment to Science and Technology
President Signs Recovery Act with Unprecedented Commitment to Science & Technology
Spurred by President Obama’s determination to help rebuild the American economy by harnessing the power and potential of science and technological innovation, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with much-needed support for science programs that promise to generate jobs even as they develop alternative energy sources, increase energy efficiency and accelerate the search for new medical diagnostics and cures.
All told, the Act provides $ 21.5 billion in additional funds for scientific endeavors—a roughly 15 percent federal increase above conventional annual science appropriations. The funding, which embraces both biomedical and physical sciences and will support a blend of projects anticipated to provide both short-term economic benefits as well as longer-term scientific payoffs, amounts to a crucial first step toward getting this important sector back on track after many years of inadequate funding and a lack of executive branch attention.
Among the highlights:
The National Science Foundation, which is the major government backer of physical sciences and science education-related research in this country but which has for several years running been denied Congressionally authorized budget increases, will receive some $3 billion—about half again that agency’s typical annual appropriation. Importantly, those funds are in line to be spent immediately—to finance grants that have already passed peer-review, to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education programs, and to purchase equipment and finance building construction.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which also has had a number of authorized budget increases in recent years but has failed to get those funds appropriated, will receive a much-needed $1.6 billion to advance a number of important green-energy projects. It will also receive an additional $400 million for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E, which will pursue high-risk/high-payoff “blue skies” research of the kind that has paid off so well in its sister defense department agency, DARPA.
The National Institutes of Health is in line to receive a one-time boost of $10.4 billion—more than a third of that agency’s standard operating budget. That breaks a five-year period of flat-funding which, after inflation, has left this jewel of the U.S. biomedical research crown with less buying power than it had several years ago. This will allow the NIH to fund the best science in pursuit of improving the length and the quality of the lives of our citizens, while at the same time stimulating the economy of the 50 states and territories.
The $1 billion that NASA is in line to get under the Act marks the beginning of an all-important investment that will be needed in coming years to make the most of the U.S. space program—not only for manned and robotic space exploration but for the crucial work of understanding our own planet and assessing the climatic and other global changes that we must try to temper and to which we will have to adapt.
Similarly, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s allocation of $833 million will help start that agency’s work of rebuilding the health of our planet’s oceans and gaining a better understanding of weather and climate patterns.
And the U.S. Geological Survey, which does world-class scientific research within the Interior Department and whose research portfolio includes earthquakes and other natural disasters, will get $140 million under the terms of the Act.