Science Budget: the White House Proposal

By Sean Carroll | February 14, 2011 1:50 pm

Following up on John’s post, the Obama administration has released a detailed budget proposal. (John was talking about the House Republicans’ proposal.)

Without going into any judgments, the White House budget is much more favorable for science. Here are summaries for the Department of Energy, NASA, and the National Science Foundation. Here are some highlights; for simplicity I’m just comparing the actual amount spent in 2010 vs. the proposed budget for 2012. (2011 is confusing because we’re currently operating under a continuing resolution, not a real budget.) So keep in mind that these percentage changes are spread over two years.

  • DoE discretionary spending would increase by 11.5%, from $26.5 billion to $29.5 billion. Much of that is for clean energy research. Science would increase by 9%, from $5.0 billion to $5.4 billion. If you dig into the details (pdf), we find High Energy Physics taking a 5% cut, from $842 million to $797 million. That’s been the story for quite a while now; flat or slowly declining budgets, which means that programs are being worn away by inflation.
  • NSF would get a 13% increase, from $6.6 billion to $7.6 billion. Most of this is real research money. There is $40 million to train new K-12 and undergraduate science teachers.
  • NASA’s budget stays flat at $18.7 billion. But the science budget would increase by 11.5%, from $4.5 billion to $5.0 billion.

Overall, not too bad for science. Keep in mind that this is only a proposal, and it won’t go through Congress unscathed. Given that Republicans have a majority in the House, you have to expect that the final agreement will be a compromise, so it’s still very possible that basic research will be gutted in the final budget. HEP would seem to be hurting no matter what, but I don’t know how much of that can be traced to the planned Tevatron shutdown.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Politics, Top Posts

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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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