Como a Ciência escapou da Foice do Orçamento — até agora…
O original, pode ser encontrado aqui: How Science Eluded the Budget Ax — For Now (DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6028.407).
É importantíssimo de se colocar esta notícia em comparação não só com os cortes oçamentários americanos, mas também com os cortes brasileiros: Brazil cuts its science budget, Brazil’s budget cut dismays scientists. De fato, duas comparações bastante interessante são as seguintes: percentual do corte orçamentário (o Brasil cortou o orçamento de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento em ~13%), e proporção do investimento em Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento em relação ao PIB (o Brasil investe ~1.25% do PIB em Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento).
É dentro deste contexto que a crise econômica mundial foi apenas uma “marola” no Brasil…
When details of the 11th-hour budget compromise that kept the U.S. government running emerged last week, it became clear that science programs fared relatively well. True, most research agencies will have less to spend this year than they did in 2010 (see table), and the totals generally fall well short of what President Barack Obama had requested when he submitted his 2011 budget 14 months ago. But the legislators and Administration officials who struck the spending deal managed to slice $38.5 billion from a total discretionary budget of $1.09 trillion without crippling research activities. How did that happen?
First and foremost, both Republicans and Democrats were working off a quiet but powerful consensus on the importance of science to economic prosperity. Last fall, Congress authorized steady increases for three key science agencies in a renewal of the America COMPETES Act, and Obama’s recent statements on the 2011 negotiations emphasized the need to continue investing in clean energy and medical research as the overall budget is cut. Second, Senate Democratic leaders had crafted a spending plan in March that, although it failed to pass the full Senate, showed how it could be done. Finally, the so-called cardinals, who chair the 12 appropriations panels in the House of Representatives and the Senate that oversee every federal agency, found ways to protect research while trimming other programs to satisfy the deal’s bottom line.
“There was no magic to it,” explains Representative Frank Wolf (R–VA), whose panel has jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology within the Commerce Department. “Science has been a priority for me and the other longtime members of the committee because you’re talking about jobs and about helping America maintain its economic leadership,” says the veteran legislator, who entered Congress in 1981. “There has not been any controversy about this.”
His appropriations counterpart, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D–MD), says she hopes that consensus will translate into “smart cuts that don’t cost us our future. I support science funding that can spur American discovery and ingenuity to create jobs for today and jobs for tomorrow.”
Of course, a passion for science wouldn’t have been enough to carry the day without the numbers to back it up. That’s clear from the actions of the commerce, justice, and science (CJS) panels that Wolf and Mikulski lead.
In February, the Republican-led House passed H.R. 1, which slashed $61 billion from current federal discretionary spending. For Wolf’s spending panel, that translated into $8 billion less than the committee dispensed in 2010. Divvied up among dozens of agencies, the $52.7 billion number forced Wolf to cut $360 million from NSF’s $6.87 billion budget, for example, and $600 million from NASA’s $18.7 billion budget.
In contrast, the 2011 spending plan devised by Senate Democrats gave Mikulski’s CJS panel $53.6 billion to work with. That $900 million difference allowed Mikulski to be kinder to the research agencies under her jurisdiction. It pared $75 million from NSF’s budget and even provided a slight boost to NASA.
“Nineteen billion dollars was authorized, and $19 billion is what I put in my appropriations bill,” Mikulski said at a hearing last week on NASA’s 2012 budget request, referring to both a reauthorization of NASA programs that was enacted last fall and the Senate plan for 2011. “But my [spending] bill died, so NASA won’t get $19 billion.”
The 8 April budget agreement resulted in a CJS allocation of $53.3 billion for each panel. And although that figure is a bit lower than the earlier Senate version, it was enough to turn the two chairs’ support for science into fiscal reality. The Senate bill was a “guide-post showing what could be done within that allocation level,” says a senior staffer at one federal research agency. “Having the Senate offer a road map made a huge difference.”
Wolf says he was happy to be able to deliver most of what science lobbyists had sought for agencies within his jurisdiction. “I thought science ended up pretty well,” Wolf says about the final bill, pointing out that it ranked with the FBI’s fight against global terrorism as his top priority. In contrast, federal support for local and state law enforcement assistance took a big hit, as did other Justice Department programs.
Mikulski believes she did the best she could under the circumstances. But she isn’t happy with the fate of NASA, which employs thousands at its Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington, D.C., in suburban Maryland. “NASA won’t even get the $18.7 billion it got in 2010,” she said at last week’s hearing. “Simply put, NASA will be cut more.”
With the 2011 budget finally put to bed, Congress is turning to the budget for the 2012 fiscal year that begins on 1 October. In addition to the political bickering over how to reduce a $1.5 trillion annual deficit, legislators will have to deal with the domino effect of the 2011 cuts, as activities that needed increases this year to remain on schedule will be delayed. NSF’s final budget, for example, cuts $48 million from its request to continue building a half-dozen major research facilities, including the newly launched Ocean Observatories Initiative and the National Ecological Observatories Network. A shrunken 2011 budget also means even bigger headaches for NASA’s troubled James Webb Space Telescope.
Striking a positive note, Mikulski told NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week that “NASA will need to work harder and smarter to accomplish its inspiring mission within a smaller budget.” Wolf was less sanguine. Asked what scientists should do to maintain support for federally funded research in these fiscally stringent times, he offers a one-word strategy: “Pray.”