Letter to Congress: Act on Current Spending, Reject Proposed R&D Cuts

Hundreds of leading business, science and engineering, medical and health and higher education organizations are urging House and Senate leaders to quickly complete action on the fiscal 2017 spending bills and to reject the steep spending cuts the Trump administration has proposed for scientific research programs and agencies for fiscal 2018.

“Our nation’s research enterprise is among the most powerful engines for American prosperity,” the group said in a letter sent Thursday to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “One of the consistent areas of bipartisan agreement over the past 70 years has been the importance of the federal government’s role in supporting research and innovation.”

The letter, signed by 287 organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, presented a robust defense of the nation’s research and development enterprise, saying it has elevated the United States to be “the world’s preeminent, most effective and sought-after partner for innovation.”

In particular, the letter urges lawmakers to avoid a year’s long continuing resolution to fund government programs for the current fiscal 2017 spending, which is set to expire on April 28, and complete action on those pending fiscal 2017 appropriations measures. It also calls on Congress to rebuff the administration’s proposed cuts to R&D programs in fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, and instead to increase investment in R&D programs to “sustain our nation’s status as the world’s innovation leader.”

Scientists and engineers account for 4% of the nation’s workforce, yet they help create jobs for 96% of the nation’s population, noted the letter citing a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report. “Scientists’ discoveries and insights extend beyond the research laboratory, impacting and employing people in many other sectors, from designers to builders to salespeople to consumers.”

The letter’s signatories warn that reductions in science spending cannot be easily reversed, noting that rebuilding diminished science and engineering programs would be “expensive and slow.” Already, the letter said, reduced investment in scientific research threatens the nation’s long-term competitiveness and comes when the growth of annual R&D investments of China, South Korea, Russia, Singapore and Germany outpaced U.S. levels from 2000 to 2013.

Leadership in physical and life sciences research has advanced public health and improved food safety, while Earth sciences research, including in agriculture and the environment, has given state authorities, businesses and farmers access to information critical to decision making about energy and transportation systems and water resources.

The letter further spells out the beneficial impact of a broad swath of scientific research on military effectiveness, disaster response, intelligence analysis, cybersecurity, technological development and space exploration.  

“U.S. investments in science R&D have created millions of jobs in public and private sectors, enhanced state economies and generated commercial growth,” said the business, science and engineering, medical and health and higher education signatories. “We urge America to support its research and innovation infrastructure.”

[Associated image: Dave Newman/AdobeStock]