Politicians argue over the federal budget every time Congress reconvenes in January. But the money that the government spends each year, which can differ from the budget, reveals how much funding departments and agencies actually receive. The outlays for research and development, shown here for 2009 (latest available), largely support the nation’s science work. The relative proportions have been fairly constant in recent years (data do not include one-time American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money).

When the dollars are plotted by agency, department and selected organizations within departments, interesting patterns emerge: defense swamps all other recipients. The country spends as much on fossil energy as it does on renewable energy and efficiency. It invests more in nuclear energy than it does in all of agriculture. Some members of the new Congress have already vowed to cut all nonmilitary R&D.