Budget '98: Mixed Numbers for Smaller Agencies

President Clinton's 1998 budget, which is now being reviewed on Capitol Hill, did not subject science funding to the ax as many had feared. On Friday, ScienceNOW profiled the numbers for the agencies responsible for the bulk of the government's spending on science. Here's how some of the smaller agencies fared:

National Institute of Standards and Technology: NIST's proposed budget is up nearly 21% over last year, to a total of $692 million. The biggest chunk of this increase is a $51 million boost to the controversial Advanced Technology Program, which supports research jointly funded by industry. The proposed increase would raise the program's budget to $275 million. Technology officials strongly defended the 22% boost as a necessary step on the way to a $500 million budget in 2002. But after Congress nearly killed the 5-year-old program last year, they admit that winning any increase will be a tall order. At the same time, NIST officials have delayed any requests for building renovation and new construction on NIST's campus pending a report later this year to Congress, which has balked at earlier plans.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: NOAA's research budget would drop 2% to $248 million in the 1998 request, but climate and air-quality research would rise by 8%, with increases for forecasting El Niño and monitoring ground-level ozone. Ocean and Great Lakes research would drop by 16%, including a 7% reduction in the Sea Grant program. The undersea research program, which was not included in the president's budget last year but which Congress awarded $12 million, would receive $5.4 million.

Environmental Protection Agency: EPA Administrator Carol Browner pledges to beef up science and technology efforts at her agency, and R&D shares in EPA's overall 12.4% boost to $7.6 billion. Funding for the Office of Research and Development would go up 10% to $554 million. Most notable is a 21% rise, to $115 million, for the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) extramural grants program, which funds research in areas such as ecosystem protection and endocrine disrupters. Also targeted for increases are global change, the health effects of particulate matter, children's environmental health, and work to support new drinking-water and food-quality laws passed last year.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: USDA research spending would go up as part of a $1.8 billion rise--a 3.2% boost--in the 1998 budget. The National Research Initiative, which funds peer-reviewed projects, would get an increase of $36 million, to $130 million, mainly to expand research on environmental quality and the genetic enhancement of plants. The Agricultural Research Service budget would remain at $800 million.

For a closer look at the president's budget, check out this Friday's issue of Science; Science Online subscribers can read it first on the Web.