Impact of Funding on Materials R&D Programs in the Departments of Energy and Commerce, and NASA Since FY 1980

EMD-82-73: Published: Apr 19, 1982. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1982.

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GAO was requested to review the impact of funding levels on materials research and development (R&D) programs in the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The review was limited to an analysis of only those budget line items and component materials R&D activities that agency budget and program officials could identify within the allotted timeframe.

The review resulted in three general findings: (1) little change appeared in funding levels for materials R&D between fiscal year 1980 and 1983; (2) funding has not kept up with inflation or increasing major facility operating costs; (3) materials R&D program funding for fiscal years 1982 and 1983 reflects the Administration's policy of continuing the Federal role as a supporter of basic research, while deemphasizing support of applied and developmental research. Within Commerce, a portion of a National Bureau of Standards (NBS) program represented over 90 percent of its materials R&D. Commerce and NBS materials research funding, program emphasis, and personnel levels have remained relatively constant. However, about 90 percent of the NBS program is applied research which is likely to be terminated. Metal processing research is to be shifted to private industry or performed on a cooperative basis. Funding for NASA materials R&D has increased by about $11 million from 1980 to 1983. Much of this research is applied and developmental and is potentially subject to cuts. Among the notable changes were shifts away from large multi-use facilities with sizable operating costs. The portion of ongoing materials R&D identified at DOE represented the largest amount of materials R&D funded by the three agencies. Most funds are spent within the Materials Science Division, which performs high-risk, long-term basic research which is unlikely to be cut. Modest increases have occurred in overall basic research funding, program emphasis, and personnel levels.

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