Clinton Ducks Future R&D Spending Issue

WASHINGTON, D.C.--President Bill Clinton praised science innovations today as the engine behind what he calls "the new economy" of growth, and he also proposed $94 million in new defense and civilian R&D funding. But in a brief speech during the annual awards of the Medals of Science and Technology at the White House, he stopped short of announcing any major new initiatives and gave few clues to his 1999 science budget request, now nearing completion.

Clinton proposed spending $82 million on eight new competitions in the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program for efforts that could create lightweight computer displays, better drugs, and radio-transmitting cards to locate lost children. He also said $14 million in Defense Department funding would go to universities and private companies to try to develop a supercomputer the size of a computer chip.

The speech was being watched closely by R&D advocates who back a Senate bill that calls for doubling civilian R&D spending over the next decade, to $68 billion (Science, 31 October, p. 796). Clinton said his Administration has backed science and technology funding increases 5 years in a row, but he did not discuss future growth. White House officials have criticized the Senate measure as unrealistic, and Science Adviser Jack Gibbons said pointedly during the award ceremony that the president has maintained a strategy of "fiscal responsibility" along with R&D investment.