Both Republican and Democratic proposals would cut more than US$1 trillion in spending over a decade, amounting to a budget reduction of at least $100 billion per year. Nature examines how this might affect the scientific community….
Republicans have made it clear that they will not cut defence spending, and Democrats are keen to protect social security and health-care programmes such as Medicare and Medicaid. Thus, the cuts are likely to fall on the roughly $600-billion discretionary, domestic budget, which includes funding for scientific agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. A reduction of $100 billion, applied across the board, would result in a 17% cut to such agencies…
The least-favourable outcome is that a deal to cut $100 billion per year is reached, and that it starts in fiscal year 2012. In that case, it might be hard for legislators to re-evaluate the 2012 appropriations bills programme by programme, given that several have already been passed by the House of Representatives. It would be more likely that they would apply the reduction roughly equally to all programmes. That would result in cuts of more than $5 billion to the NIH, $1 billion to the NSF (which is already under stress because stimulus grants awarded in 2009 are about to run out) and $800 million to the Office of Science, enough to force the closure of one national lab or cuts in personnel at many.
Keep in mind that figure of $100 billion is based on a lower estimate of $1 trillion (unless a ‘clean bill’ with no stipulations is passed). Most of the proposals call for more money to be cut, although things are so confused right now, it’s hard to tell (e.g., some of the ‘cuts’ involve withdrawing or decrease our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan).
I realize my readership is ‘bifurcated': some focus on the science, and some on the politics. But if you like science, this is the intersection of the two. And it’s pretty damn important.
Because across the board science cuts of 17% is not winning the future.
(and don’t even get me started on the macroeconomic effects of this stuff. Don’t).