FIGURE 1–1 Federal obligations for research, FY 1990–FY 1999 (in constant dollars).

Like basic research, federal funding of research at universities also fared better than overall federal research funding. The federal agencies with the six largest R&D budgets obligated $13.2 billion for research performed at universities in 1999, compared with $11.0 billion in 1993, a real increase of $2.2 billion. This increase of 19.6 percent was larger than the increase in overall federal support of research of 11.7 percent and was only exceeded by an increase in support for research at nonprofit institutions of 23.2 percent over the same time period. The other major types of performers experienced much smaller increases: intramural laboratories (4.4 percent), industrial laboratories (4.6 percent), and federally funded research and development centers (6.9 percent).

Universities received substantial increases in both basic research support (up 19.4 percent from 1993 to 1999) and applied research support (up 20.0 percent). As a result, universities accounted for 39.4 percent of federally funded research and 52.2 percent of federally funded basic research in 1999, compared with 36.8 percent and 51.0 percent in 1993, respectively. And they were expected to receive even higher percentages of federal research funding in 2000 (40.5 percent and 52.9 percent, respectively).


Between 1993 and 1997, only NIH, NSF, NASA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and DOC experienced real growth in research budgets among the nine largest agencies, but in 1998 and 1999 nearly all agencies benefited from the improved budget picture. NIH had the most success. Its budget for research was 33.5 percent larger in 1999 than it was in 1993 in real terms. But the cases of double-digit growth also included the DOC (up 30.5 percent), NSF (up 19.3 percent), EPA (up 13.3 percent) and NASA (up 10.0 percent). The Department of Agriculture (USDA) turned a 5-year decline in research funding (−5.0 percent from 1993 to 1997) into 6.5 percent real growth by 1999. Even the DOD research budget showed modest increases in 1998 and 1999, although the drop from 1993 was not greatly affected (down by 26.6 percent in 1997, compared with 22.4 percent in 1999). Of the major federal agency sponsors of research, other than DOD, only the Department of Interior continued to experience reductions in research funding (off 5.8 percent in 1999 from its 1993 level). (See Annex, Table 1–1.)

Although by 1998 or 1999 most agencies’ research budgets were higher than they were in 1993, the divergence in budget success observed in 1997 persists. NIH accounted for much of the growth in federal research funding; all other agencies received 4.9 percent less research funding in 1997 than in 1993, primarily due to the substantial cut at DOD. By 1999, the non-NIH agencies were up by 1.4 percent over 1993. NIH’s steady increases pushed up its share of federal research funding from 32.1 percent in 1993 to 38.4 percent in 1999, and it was expected to increase to 40.4 percent in 2000.1

The upward trend in agency funding of research is certain to continue through FY 2000 and FY 2001 because of enacted appropriations, but it is by no means certain to persist in future years. In its first budget, the new administration is attempting to reduce to 4 percent the “recent explosive growth” in discretionary spending, which had been growing at a rate of 6 percent in recent years.2 Proposed overall budget increases of $14.2 billion for DOD, $4.6 billion for the Department of Education, $2.9 billion for NIH, and $5.6 billion for a National Emergency Reserve leave little for growth in other programs and agencies in FY 2002. The FY 2002 budget submission also proposes to limit future growth in discretionary spending to the projected rate of inflation, approximately 2.1 percent a year. The budget requests an increase in nondefense research and development of 4.3 percent in FY 2002 (from $45.1 to $47.1 billion), but excluding NIH, nondefense R&D would decrease by 3.0 percent. Nondefense R&D would increase substantially in 2003, because of the final


American Association for the Advancement of Science. December 19, 2000. “A Preview Report for Congressional Action on Research and Development in the FY 2001 Budget” Table 2, Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Changes in this paragraph are expressed in current, not constant dollars.

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