U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wants the federal government to commit more money to scientific research. Durbin is introducing the American Innovation Act, which would boost the annual research budget by 5 percent per year, plus inflation. It’s a lot of money, he says, yet not really a lot of money by Washington standards. “The total cost of that, for 10 years: $250 billion. Well you say that’s a lot of money? In that period of time, the federal budgets will be over $15 trillion. It’s a tiny decimal point in the budget,” he said in announcing the initiative Monday in Chicago, before heading to Washington to formally file the bill.
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Durbin says the type of research the government funds usually pays for itself in terms of the results of the research, and it creates jobs.
The money would go to the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, the Department of Defense science and technology programs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology scientific and technical research, and NASA.
Durbin says research spending, as a percentage of all discretionary spending, has been declining for decades – two-thirds since 1965 – and it’s down 20 percent over the last three years, adjusted for inflation.