- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2006

Along with homeland security and defense, President Bush is proposing spending increases for initiatives in energy, science and education in what otherwise is an austere 2007 budget.

Although the proposed budget reduces or eliminates 141 programs and keeps a tight rein on most domestic spending, it seeks more money to combat rising costs for energy and health care and to improve the nation’s global competitiveness in the areas of math and science.

Much of this falls under the president’s American Competitiveness Initiative, which would extend the research and development tax break for businesses, improve math and science curricula and recruit teachers in those areas, and increase the federal commitment to scientific research.

Mr. Bush is requesting $5.9 billion in 2007 for the initiative and $136 billion over 10 years, including doubling to $20 billion by the end of 2015 the amount the government spends on basic research at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The emphasis would be on research that is most likely to boost economic competitiveness, including alternative fuels, faster computers and energy-efficient lighting. For 2007, NSF funding would increase by 7.9 percent to $5.8 billion, the Office of Science would receive $505 million more than last year, and the NIST would gain $75 million more for research.

The president’s energy initiative aims to reduce dependence on oil from the Middle East, replacing 75 percent of oil imports from that region by 2025. Part of this would come through the investment in scientific research for alternative fuels. The budget also includes a $42 million package aimed at enhancing the availability of affordable gas, oil and other energy resources.

The Bureau of Land Management would receive an increase of $9 million, under Mr. Bush’s request, to process an anticipated record number of permit applications to drill for oil on federal land.

In health care, Mr. Bush wants improvements to health savings accounts, including increasing maximum contributions and making it easier to move the accounts to new jobs or new states.

The proposed budget aims to build 80 health centers in poor rural counties and allocates $188 million for an initiative to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly among minorities.

The Department of Homeland Security would receive a $2.3 billion increase, and general homeland security initiatives across government agencies would be given a $3.2 billion increase, or 8 percent more than last year.

The spending plan allows for 1,500 more border patrol agents and 6,000 more detention beds to help secure the borders. The Defense Department would receive $439.3 billion, a 7 percent increase over this year.

Mr. Bush also is requesting $322 million for Agriculture Department programs aimed at protecting the nation’s food supply from natural or terrorist attacks, an increase of $69 million over 2006.

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