American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


SPONSOR: Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), Introduced 01/21/97


A bill to invest in the future of the United States by doubling the amount authorized for basic science and medical research.

The following information is reprinted from the American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News

FYI- The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 11: January 28, 1997

Sen. Gramm Proposes Doubling Federal Research Dollars By 2007

"The United States simply does not spend enough on basic research." With these words, Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) on January 21 introduced a bill that would permit the doubling of federal spending on non-defense R&D over the next ten years, "from $32.5 billion in fiscal year 1997 to $65 billion in fiscal year 2007." The "National Research Investment Act of 1997" (S. 124), cosponsored by Republicans Connie Mack of Florida and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, would specify annual authorization levels for a collection of programs encompassing most federal R&D activities. Within this general authorization, particular funding levels are designated each year for the National Institutes of Health; no specific amounts are set for the other programs. The bill directs that priority be given to "basic scientific research in order to develop new scientific knowledge;" that funds can only be used for "pre-competitive" R&D; and that the money "shall be allocated using a peer review system." See FYI #12 for details of the funding levels in the bill.

Specifically, the bill calls for NIH funding to double in ten years, from $12.75 billion in FY 1997 to $25.5 billion in FY 2007. Overall funding for 11 other R&D programs cited in the bill would also double in that time period, from $19.75 billion in FY 1997 to $39.5 billion in FY 2007. In addition to NIH, the bill includes the following research agencies: NSF, NASA, NIST, NOAA, and the R&D activities of DOE (non-defense), EPA, the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control, Veterans' Affairs, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Department of Education. Not addressed in the bill are Department of Defense R&D, and the defense activities of DOE.

Gramm's bill does not dictate how funding for individual programs other than NIH should grow, nor does it suggest reductions elsewhere in the federal budget to offset the increase to science spending. How the bill will fare in the current climate of budget-balancing is uncertain. New Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections indicate that the deficit might increase slightly this year, leading to warnings about a five-year freeze on non-defense discretionary funds. The Gramm bill contains the following language: "no funds may be made available under this Act in a manner that does not conform with the discretionary spending caps provided in the most recently adopted concurrent resolution on the budget." In addition, as an authorization bill, it would only permit these new levels of funding to be spent but not provide them - that job is up to the appropriators.

According to Gramm, his bill would "double the amount spent by the federal government on non-defense research over ten years in a dozen agencies, programs, and activities...making sure that within that amount the funding for the National Institutes of Health would double.... At the same time, in order to be sure the increase in funding is spent wisely, the bill gives priority to investments in basic science and medical research in order to develop new scientific knowledge which will be available in the public domain. The legislation does not allow funds to be used for the commercialization of technologies, and allocates funds using a peer review system. Expanding the nation's commitment to basic research in science and medicine is a critically important investment in the future of our Nation."

FYI -- The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 12: January 28, 1997

Gramm Bill Would Double Federal Research Dollars By 2007

As reported in FYI #11, Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) has introduced a bill, S. 124, to double funding for most non-defense federal R&D over the next ten years. The bill specifies the total R&D funding for each year, and the amount to go to the National Institutes of Health. For the rest of the eleven programs covered by the bill, including NSF, NASA, NIST, and non-defense R&D within the Department of Energy, no specifics are given as to how the annual increases shall be divvied up.

The Gramm bill would authorize the following amounts over ten years. (Authorization bills can permit, but not provide, federal funding.) NIH funding would rise by increments of $1.275 billion/year, or 10 percent of its current FY 1997 appropriation of $12.75 billion. Funding for the remaining programs, now totaling $19.75 billion, would increase by $1.975 billion/year (also 10 percent of current funding), and the combined total, currently $32.5 billion, would grow by annual increments of $3.25 billion.

NIH Authoriz.
(in billions)
R & D Programs
% Incr.
from Previous Year
1998 $35.75 $14.025 $21.725 10.00%
1999 39.00 15.300 23.700 9.09
2000 42.25 16.575 25.675 8.33
2001 45.50 17.850 27.650 7.69
2002 48.75 19.125 29. 7.14
2003 52.00 20.400 31.600 6.67
2004 55.25 21.675 33.575 6.25
2005 58.50 22.950 35.550 5.88
2006 61.75 24.225 37.525 5.56
2007 65.00 25.500 39.500 5.26

In introducing his bill, Gramm noted that federal R&D funding for non-defense programs has fallen in recent years: "in 1965, 5.7 percent of the federal budget was spent on non-defense research and development. Thirty-two years later, that figure has dropped by two-thirds to 1.9 percent. In no year since 1970 has the United States spent as large a percentage of its GDP on non-defense research and development as Japan or Germany.... From 1992 through 1995, for the first time in 25 years, real federal spending on research declined for four straight years. If we don't restore the high priority once afforded science and technology in the federal budget and increase federal investment in research, it will be impossible to maintain the United States' position as the technological leader of the world."

"As a nation," Gramm continued, "we have an interest in the research funding decisions of the private sector. Investing in basic science and medical research can provide much needed help to all our technology companies without giving any single company a special advantage over its competitors. Our goal should be to raise all the boats in the harbor, not just the ones belonging to the politically well-connected."

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 13: January 31, 1997

In Perspective: S. 124, The National Research Investment Act

Senator Phil Gramm's introduction of S. 124, The National Research Investment Act of 1997, contributes to the ongoing debate about the level and nature of federal support of basic science and medical research (see FYIs #11 and 12.) While it may help to increase federal R&D funding, it is not money in the bank.

There are two main types of legislation affecting federal funding for science. The first, authorization legislation, establishes a department or agency, or its programs. An authorization bill can also set new spending limits for an existing program. The Gramm bill falls into this category.

Of much greater importance are appropriations bills. There are 13 such bills passed every year. These bills actually provide the money.

Members of Congress often introduce authorization legislation as a rallying point. Senators and representatives can demonstrate their support for a bill's objectives by cosponsoring it. The introduction of a companion bill in the other house sends a strong signal of support. A bill with many cosponsors, especially if they are powerful or well-known, is a very effective vehicle to prod the congressional leadership to act. Gramm's message to his colleagues and the Clinton Administration is straightforward: "The United States simply does not spend enough on basic research."

Constituents can show their support for a bill's objectives, and determine their own representative's leanings, by writing to them and requesting that they cosponsor a bill. This is very common. At present, Senators Connie Mack (R-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) are cosponsors of S. 124. There is no companion House bill.

The much larger, and more important legislative goal for the coming months revolves around the yet-to-be drafted appropriations bills. These bills have to "balance" when compared with the overall discretionary spending limit. This is going to be a difficult year. S. 124's call is one of many attempts to increase federal spending, ranging from transportation to housing to job training. The Gramm bill does not affect the overall spending limit -- in fact, it states that any increase must be in compliance with domestic discretionary spending caps. On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. George Brown (D-CA) has announced his intention to introduce an authorization bill promoting federal investment in R&D, capital infrastructure, and education and training. Brown's bill will outline offsetting spending cuts, which S. 124 does not.

So what does this all mean? It is noteworthy that a powerful Senate Republican, usually associated with spending cuts, is calling for the doubling of federal science spending. His message will become stronger as other senators cosponsor S. 124. Of far more importance are the appropriations bills that will actually put money in the bank. This process begins next Thursday, February 6, when President Clinton sends his FY 1998 budget request to Congress.

Contributed by :
Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
The American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094

Uploaded January 31, 1997

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