October 4, 2022
On September 21 2022, AGU sent its Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations request to leadership in the Senate.
On behalf of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and our worldwide Earth and space science community, I would like to thank you for your efforts to finalize fiscal year 2023 (FY2023) appropriations. We respectfully urge you to reach a bipartisan agreement that prioritizes robust investments in our nation’s scientific enterprise and to complete the FY2023 appropriations process without harmful delays. Strong investments in science are essential to promoting economic growth, fortifying our nation’s security, and ensuring that the ambitions of the CHIPS and Science Act become reality.
America’s scientific enterprise has long been the backbone of its economic success, making long-term investments in science critical to growing and strengthening the nation’s economy. According to a 2020 report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, many studies, including two that led to Nobel Prizes in Economics, have found that up to 85 percent of long-term growth in America’s economy (as measured by GDP) is attributable solely to science and technology.
In addition to strengthening our economy, investment in science cultivates innovations that create industries and lucrative STEM jobs. For example, the internet industry, which has roots in networks built by federally funded programs for the U.S. Department of Defense and National Science Foundation, represented nearly 10% of U.S. GDP in 2019, while supporting nearly 8 million jobs. According to the National Science Board’s State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2022 report, STEM jobs have grown faster than non-STEM jobs since 2010 and the median annual salary for a STEM worker was $55,000 in 2019 compared to $33,000 for a non-STEM worker.
Unfortunately, as of FY20219 U.S. investment in research and development as a percent of GDP is at a 60-year low. Additionally, analysis of global R&D expenditure patterns shows the global concentration of R&D performance continues to shift from the U.S. and Europe to East-Southeast and South Asia. In 2019, the U.S. spent $668 billion on research and development, accounting for about 28% of global R&D expenditures compared to its 37% global share in 2001. The U.S. only contributed 23% to the growth in global R&D performance from 2000 to 2019, whereas nations within the East-Southeast Asia and South Asia regions contributed 46% to its growth—China alone contributed 29% to growth in global R&D performance. If the U.S. is to fully reap the economic benefits of research and development and maintain its global leadership in science, it is imperative that it substantially invest in science.
In addition to driving our economy, the scientific enterprise plays a central role in service of U.S. national security interests. From monitoring nuclear weapons; to maintaining and managing the U.S. presence in the Artic; to assessing and securing our energy, water, food, and mineral resources; to understanding our changing climate, researchers and scientists are an essential part of our national security interests. However, without significant investment into our national STEM ecosystems, ongoing barriers will continue to stymie the nation’s STEM workforce. For example, science proficiency levels for U.S. students in grades K-12 are not only stunted, but they are progressively worsening as students advance grades. In 2019, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), one measurement of America’s STEM status, found that only about a third of fourth and eighth graders and less than a quarter of twelfth graders could be considered proficient or better in science (36% of fourth-graders, 35% of eighth graders, and 22% of twelfth graders), while only about a quarter (27%) of fourth-graders, a third (33%) of eighth graders, and more than a third (41%) of twelfth graders were rated “below basic” for their grade level.
Another significant barrier to the U.S. STEM workforce is the uneven progress in increasing its gender, racial and ethnic diversity. The advancement of science and innovation is dependent on the workforce’s capabilities of learning new things and examining existing things in new ways. A diverse workforce brings different lenses, experiences, questions, and passions with it, thus increasing the likelihood of achieving scientific success and innovation. However, while women make up nearly half of the overall U.S. workforce, they only represent about one-third of the STEM workforce—growing marginally from 32% in 2010 to 34% in 2019. Further disparities in representation can be seen when examining the distribution of racial and ethnic minority STEM workers who hold a STEM degree—only 8% of Hispanic or Latino workers, 7% of Black workers, and less than 1% of American Indian or Alaskan Native workers hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field. It is critical that the U.S. continue to robustly invest in the next generation of scientific and technical experts who have the necessary knowledge and expertise to solve society’s most pressing challenges – key to both strengthening our innovation economy and keeping our nation secure.
Congress’s commitment to a historic investment in America’s scientific enterprise, through the recent passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, represents a vital step toward strengthening our national security, economy, and securing our global leadership in STEM. History has shown that if the critical benefits of CHIPS and Science Act are to come to fruition, Congress must provide the funding. For example, the 2007 America COMPETES Act called for major research agencies to receive an annual 10.4% funding boost, but Congress only provided a 6.4% annual increase, then slashed that to an annual rate of 3.1% in the years following. A review of both the 2007 and 2010 America COMPETES Act, by the Government Accountability Office, found that only one of the 28 new programs established in the bills was funded and implemented. Significant investment in science is necessary to ensure that the ambitions of the CHIPS and Science Act become a reality. Failing to do so will have long-term negative economic and national security consequences and will set the nation back on the global stage.
In support of a robust scientific enterprise and STEM ecosystem, for FY2023 we urge you to appropriate:
- $11 billion for National Science Foundation (NSF)
- $9 billion for NASAScience Mission Directorate and $154 million for NASA STEM Engagement
- $7.2 billion for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- $1.85 billion for S. Geological Survey
- $8.8 billion for DOEOffice of Science and $575 million for ARPA-E
- At least $840 million for EPA Science and Technology
- $1.01 billion for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and $91.5 million for the Superfund Research Program
We appreciate the funding challenges that Congress faces in addressing all the nation’s priorities. However, strong and predictable investment in America’s scientific enterprise continues to be one of the surest ways to boost economic growth, fortify our nation’s security, and solidify the nation’s position as a global leader in research and innovation. Thank you for your consideration.