Spending cuts approved by the House would end America's reign as a scientific leader if they are enacted into law, a former Bush administration Energy Department official said yesterday.

"Left intact, the massive cuts in research contained in the bill passed on 19 February would effectively end America's legendary status as the leader of the worldwide scientific community," Raymond Orbach wrote in an editorial published online by the journal Science.

The continuing budget legislation passed by the House last week would slash the budgets of federal environment, energy and science agencies compared to 2010 spending levels -- cutting $3 billion from U.S. EPA, more than $1 billion from the Energy Department, and roughly $450 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Senate Democrats have said the House bill cuts too deep, raising fears of a federal shutdown if Congress and the White House don't agree on a spending fix before the current stopgap budget bill expires March 4.

House Republican leaders have said they will not agree to a new, temporary funding bill unless it includes significant budget cuts in line with those included in the legislation the House approved last week.

In his new editorial, Orbach -- who served as DOE's undersecretary for science under President George W. Bush -- called the House cuts "devastating."

"I can personally attest that funding for scientific research is not a partisan issue -- or at least shouldn't be," wrote Orbach, now director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, Austin.

"The cuts proposed in H.R. 1 would reverse a bipartisan commitment to double the science research budgets of the National Science Foundation, the DOE Office of Science, and the National Institute for Science and Technology over 10 years. These are national goals supported by both Presidents Bush and Obama, and they were affirmed as recently as last December in the America COMPETES Act," he said.

Orbach called on the Senate to reverse the House cuts.

"Failure to do so would relegate the United States to second-class status in the scientific community and threaten economic growth and prosperity for future generations of Americans," he wrote.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500