Originally appeared in Washington Business Journal, December 05, 2013
Earlier this week leaders of a diverse range of organizations representing research universities, public service providers, aerospace and defense companies, and the broader manufacturing sector gave concrete examples of how federal budget cuts are harming the national interest.
What they shared was pretty alarming. Here's a taste.
Hit to university spending on research and development
Hunter Rawlings, the President of the Association of American Universities noted that as a direct result of the ongoing budget cuts, the National Science Foundation reported that university spending on research and development has begun declining. The 1.1 percent decline in university R&D funding in Fiscal Year 2012 was the first constant dollar decline since 1974.
He also pointed to a recent survey of leaders from 171 public and private research universities, which found that 70 percent cited delays in research projects in the first seven months of sequestration.
This effect could have been worse, said Rawlings, had it not been for major research universities with large endowments like Harvard and MIT committing funds to protect their research enterprise.
“But you can’t backstop in the second, third and fourth year of sequestration,” when the cuts are slated to be steeper than in Fiscal Year 2013, he said.
Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman Corp., and chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association’s Board of Governors, said his company has reduced its workforce by 19 percent in recent years, and the loss of talent could get worse in sequestration’s second year.
“America’s young technical workforce needs to see that our collective enterprise provides technically challenging projects. And they need to see the opportunity to build a stable, long term career in defense,” Bush said. But under sequestration, he observed, “there is cause for concern for the future."
Technology leadership suffered
And Ian Steff, Vice President for Global Policy and Technology Partnerships with the Semiconductor Industry Association emphasized that sequestration is undermining the public-private partnership platform “that has rendered the U.S. the global leader in technology.”
Steff warned that while overall research and development expenditures as a percentage of economic output has been flat in the U.S. over the past 10 years, it has risen by 90 percent in China and 50 percent in South Korea this past decade. He added, these countries are “pouring R&D funds into strategic sectors at an unparalleled rate.”
Interestingly, every organization representative said that members of Congress from both parties they talk to recognize that sequestration is a bad policy, or as Rawlings said, “A way of avoiding policy.” House and Senate negotiators need to close a deal to replace sequester cuts with other budgetary savings, even if only for a few years, to give Congress time to work out a long-term balanced solution to our debt and deficit.