Summary and Analysis of the President's FY 2009 Budget Request for Federal Research and Education Programs

print-no-cover.pngAuthor Lewis-Burke Associates
Title Summary and Analysis of the President's FY 2009 Budget Request for Federal Research and Education Programs
Publisher Council on Social Work Education, Washington, DC
Copyright February 5, 2008
Download Report (PDF, 208KB)

Introduction

Today President Bush sent his final budget proposal to the Congress. The President’s proposed $3.1 trillion federal budget request has few departures from the major themes and initiatives of his previous budget proposals. The President calls on Congress to address immediate economic challenges with a stimulus package; to provide increased funding for the Department of Defense and the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; to hold overall domestic discretionary spending levels below the rate of inflation; to address the long-term challenge of increasing growth of entitlement programs; and to enact various budgeting reforms to meet the Administration’s goal of eliminating the budget deficit by 2012.

The President’s “déjà vu” budget proposal and the Democratically-controlled Congressional audience receiving the budget portend another difficult year on the budget and appropriations front. Add to this the high stakes race for the White House and a historic level of retirements from Congress, and it could be an entirely new “team” that completes the FY 2009 appropriations process after the November elections.

Given the showdown between Congress and the White House over the final FY 2008 omnibus appropriations bill, the President’s proposed budget needs careful scrutiny to assess the outlook for some of the President’s major initiatives of interest to the research and education community.

The President once again proposes to double funding for federal research in the physical sciences over ten years through the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). The FY 2009 budget request would provide funding to “catch up” on the ACI for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, for the National Science Foundation (NSF), and for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In FY 2009, the Administration budget proposes a total of $12.2 billion for the three agencies, which is $1.6 billion (15 percent) above the level enacted in FY 2008.

The budget proposal presents a challenge to the Congress to deliver on the proposed ACI investments. Given that the overall domestic budget is essentially a freeze, these increases are proposed at the expense of funding reductions across the federal government. The President proposes to eliminate or reduce funding for 151 federal programs to save $18.2 billion in the budget. These proposed savings on paper help make room for the President to propose new spending initiatives, such as the ACI, within a flat domestic budget. These savings are likely to be rejected by Congress again this year, leaving it no choice but to increase domestic spending (as it did last year) or come up short on funding to implement the ACI.

Following Defense Secretary Gates’ review of the Department of Defense science and technology programs, the FY 2009 budget proposes a promising increase of $65 million (4 percent) for DOD basic research.

Not all federal research programs, however, would do as well under the FY 2009 Administration request as would the ACI agencies. The budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would remain flat yet again with a request of $29.2 billion for FY 2009. The NASA science program would be essentially flat as well, and research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would decline by $20 million or 5 percent.

The President’s FY 2009 budget request and the strong bipartisan commitment of Congress to the ACI gives renewed hope to the research and university community that important investments in the scientific enterprise will be secured by the end of the budget and appropriations process for the next fiscal year. However, it is likely to be a protracted process to complete the FY 2009 appropriations bills and address this important issue.

Finally, on the education front, the President proposes a $2.6 billion annual increase in appropriations for Pell Grants to assist students in paying for college. The proposed investment, together with mandatory funding provided by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act passed last year, would support a maximum Pell Grant of $4,800 in 2009, and allow the maximum grant to rise to $5,400 by 2012 were the President’s proposal to be implemented.