House research budget cuts “would effectively end America's legendary status as the leader of the worldwide scientific community” – Ray Orbach, Bush’s Energy Dept. Science Under Secretary

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Orbach watched the U.S. House of Representatives action on H.R. 1, the 2011 continuing appropriation bill, “with a mixture of astonishment and dismay,” he writes in a February 24 online editorial in Science. “Scientific research is not a partisan issue – or at least it shouldn’t be.”

Raymond L. Orbach, director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, who served as the Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy for President George W. Bush, writes in a February 24 editorial published online by Science:

It was with a mixture of astonishment and dismay that I watched as the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1, a bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year. Left intact, the massive cuts in research contained in the bill passed on 19 February would effectively end America's legendary status as the leader of the worldwide scientific community, putting the United States at a distinct disadvantage when competing with other nations in the global marketplace. Other countries, such as China and India, are increasing their funding of scientific research because they understand its critical role in spurring technological advances and other innovations. If the United States is to compete in the global economy, it too must continue to invest in research programs. …[full text here, by subscription]

Increasing the scientific research budget is a national goal supported by both President Bush and President Obama, and supported by Congress in December 2010 in the passage of the America COMPETES Act, Orbach says.

On February 19, in H.R. 1, The House of Representatives approved an appropriation bill covering the remaining seven months of fiscal year 2011 that would cut roughly $5 billion from current federal spending on research. The continuing resolution would make billion-dollar cuts in the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Department of Energy's Office of Science, and significant additional cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and NOAA budgets.

“House Republicans were especially keen to derail presidential initiatives in education, energy, and climate research,” the February 25 issue of Science notes.

The Senate will take up the matter of Fiscal Year 2011 continuing appropriations next week. The current agreement to extend 2010 funding levels for federal agencies expires on March 4. The House and Senate, with White House approval, must reach an agrement by the end of next week, or much of the U.S. government will shut down.

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