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Bush Proposes $2.8B NIH Funding Increase, DOE Cuts: Some Scientists Worried

WASHINGTON DC, Feb 23 – President George W. Bush said Friday he was planning to increase the National Institutes of Health’s 2002 budget by $2.8 billion in the budget proposal he makes to Congress next week, drawing mixed reactions from the scientific community.

Bush said he would increase the NIH budget from $20.4 billion to $23.2 billion, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Mary Hendrix, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, called the proposal a "good start," but vowed to lobby Congressional supporters such as Senators Arlen Spector (R-Pa) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to make up the difference between this figure and the $3.4 billion increase needed to stay on track with the NIH’s 5-year plan to double its funding by 2003, a goal supported by the President during his campaign. 

Spector and Harkin have already introduced an amendment to bring the NIH increase up to the full $3.4 billion. 

But even if this amendment passes, other agencies are likely to fare much worse. The Department of Energy, a key player in the Human Genome Project, would take a 5 percent cut off this year's $19.7 billion appropriation in the President's 2002 budget plan, according to a newsletter published by the American Physical Society. "'Balanced portfolio' is no longer in the White House lexicon", wrote University of Maryland professor Robert Park on Friday.

According to Park, the Bush budget would hand the National Science Foundation an increase of one percent or less in 2002. For 2001, the NSF budget increased 13.5 percent to $4.4 billion, down $200 million from former President Clinton's original request. The NSF, with its mission of fostering the basic research upon which more visible advances are built, is widely regarded by the scientific community as being under funded. "It looks like everybody will get less," a source in the NSF told GenomeWeb. "We'll just have to wait and see."

NIH and DOE officials refused to comment on these budget proposals.

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