… the federal government must lead the way in investing in the Nation's future. Despite necessary overall constraints, this budget continues my policy of providing real growth in Federal support of basic research. Such support is a relatively small fraction of the total budget—$4.6 billion in 1980, but is vital to the future of our Nation. The knowledge created through basic research holds the potential for breakthroughs to the solution of problems we face or will face in such critical areas as health, environment, energy, defense, and the overall productivity of our economy. Higher productivity gains in the future, moreover, will make an important contribution to reducing inflation.
This passage from President Carter's budget message does not seem to be just idle words. Table 1 shows federal obligations for basic research, and even excluding HEW from the totals, one finds an increase of more than 25% over fiscal year 1978. Furthermore, basic research is faring much better than total R & D and than the budget as a whole; for 1980, total R & D will be up 6.8% over 1979, or a total of 16% over the 2 year period.