President thinks a billion of nano, but a bit less than allowed by law

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2004 — President Bush has proposed nearly $1 billion in funding for the federal government’s nanotechnology initiative under his fiscal year 2005 budget unveiled Monday.

If Congress approves the request, the $982 million in proposed funding for federal nanotechnology initiatives would mark a 2 percent increase over funding for fiscal year 2004.

John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said that given that most nonsecurity-related discretionary programs throughout the budget were limited on average to an increase of 1 percent or less, the amount proposed for nanotechnology reflects the higher priority that the Bush administration has given to nanotechnology.

Administration officials also noted during a briefing on the president’s science and technology budget request that nanotechnology funding has increased dramatically since the initiative was first launched in 2001.

“This is a good example of where you need to look at a broader sweep than just the ’05 budget,” said Marcus Peacock, associate director for natural resource, energy and science programs at the Office of Management and Budget. “Spending on nanotech is now double what it was a few years ago.”

As in previous years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive the biggest chunk of money among the 10 agencies that are funded as part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The president’s budget plan calls for $305 million for the NSF — a 20 percent increase over 2004 — followed by $276 million for the Defense Department and $211 million for the Energy Department.

The president’s nanotechnology funding request, however, falls short for the most part of the amounts authorized for the five agencies included in the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (PDF, 56.1 KB). The bill, which was signed into law in December, made the president’s nanotechnology initiatives a permanent part of the federal government.

The nanotech act authorizes $385 million for the NSF and $317 million for the Energy Department in 2005. The National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive $53 million under Bush’s plan, compared with the $68 million authorized by the nanotech bill. The budget requests of $35 million for NASA and $5 million for the Environmental Protection Agency, however, fall closer in line with the amounts authorized in the bill.

Nanotech industry representatives were still optimistic that Congress will provide more money for nanotechnology than the president has requested.

“We are appreciative of the fact that in a year when the president is trying very hard to hold discretionary spending to an absolute minimum, he has nonetheless increased funding for the 10 agencies involved in nanotech by 2 percent,” said Paul Stimers, a Washington representative for the NanoBusiness Alliance and a lawyer with the law firm of Preston Gates Ellis LLP. He added that his group will continue to work with Congress to ensure that nanotechnology is “fully funded.”

“The nanotech bill itself passed overwhelmingly” in Congress, Stimers said. “And we have some very strong supporters of nanotechnology (on Capitol Hill)…people who understand it’s an investment.”

Mike Roco, senior adviser for nanotechnology at the NSF, echoed this sentiment, saying he is optimistic Congress, as in past years, will appropriate more funding for nanotechnology than the president had requested.


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