Efforts Underway to Strengthen Funding for DOE Office of Science Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) are working to increase funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science in the budget request that will be sent to Congress next year. The senators, joined by 22 of their colleagues, sent a letter to President Clinton this week stressing the importance of the Office of Science to research in the physical sciences. Bingaman also delivered a hard-hitting speech to the Senate this week. Efforts are also underway to encourage the public to write to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to encourage the Administration to support the DOE Office of Science in the forthcoming FY 2002 budget request.
Bingaman's December 5 speech contains both good news and bad news. He begins his statement with the good news:
"I rise today to address the importance of the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the nation's leading source for fundamental research in the physical sciences for the areas of physics, chemistry, and materials science, and a significant contributor to the biological sciences. Besides funding the individual researcher, the Office of Science leads our nation in providing specialized large user R&D facilities. A partial list of such facilities would include the Stanford Linear Accelerator, the Center for the Microanalysis of Materials at the University of Illinois, the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, the High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge, the high energy accelerators at the Fermilab and the National Synchrotron Light Source at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. These user facilities are national treasures. One cannot over emphasize their importance. They are used by not only university researchers from all 50 states but by industry in both the biological and physical sciences. In 1999, there were 5500 users on just the large light sources alone to investigate new structures of matter in both the biological and physical sciences. In the last four years, the number of biological researchers using these facilities has risen by a factor of four and now accounts for 40% of all users. Each of these 5500 investigations on just the light sources alone generates new intellectual property - a dominant export in the 21st century global economy. In short, these facilities provide the critical basic R&D that industry cannot and will not fund directly, R&D that is crucial to maintaining the tremendous technological engine of growth that fuels our economy today."
But then Bingaman shared more troubling numbers with his colleagues, telling them that "The momentum at a national level in the physical sciences is one of decline." He began by remarking about the support there was for the Office of Science earlier this year:
"I would like to point out that in the 106th Congress there was a large and successful bipartisan campaign in both the House and Senate to support the Office of Science's budget request for Fiscal Year 2001. However, the Office of Science's 2001 budget request only met the level of its 1990 budget as adjusted in year 2000 dollars. In comparison the overall federal R&D budget for the life sciences has increased by 45% in the same period. The trends in the neglect of funding for the Office of Science are deeply disturbing and are now beginning to influence the basic indicators of intellectual property generation. If one tracks the submissions by U.S. researchers in some of our most prestigious physics journals you'll find that in 1990 the United States commanded the lead of submissions at about 50% worldwide. In 1999 the submission rate has dropped to about 25% worldwide. The momentum at a national level in the physical sciences is one of decline. We should be disturbed by this trend - the physical sciences are the foundation of the microchip industry, the telecommunications industry, the transportation industry and the petrochemical industry. We are talking about what fuels our engine of U.S. economic growth - high technology and maintaining a commanding lead in a 21st century global economy."
The day before Bingaman's address, a letter was sent to President Clinton in support of the Office of Science. It was signed by Bingaman (D-NM), Murkowski (R-AK), Blanche Lincoln (D- AR), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Slade Gorton (R-WA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), John Breaux (D-LA), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bill Frist (R-TN), John Edwards (D-NC), and Fred Thompson (R-TN). (See FYI #132 for the initial discussion of this effort.)
The letter to the President begins, "Thank you for joining us in providing strong support for the Department of Energy's Office of Science in this year's appropriation process. Together we have made great progress in advancing recognition of these critical scientific programs. Yet there remains much more that can be accomplished. Continued growth for these programs on par with that proposed for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) is vital to continued advances in the fields DOE supports and to the training of future scientists and engineers to continue the tremendous advances that America brings to basic science and to the marketplace."
After describing the importance of the research supported by the Office of Science, the letter concludes as follows: "The appropriation of $3.19 billion for FY 2001 is only a start at addressing these challenges. Annual increases similar to NIH and NSF are needed and merited by the important and unique work being conducted by the DOE Office of Science. They would also build on the spirit of the Senate's passage of the Federal Research Investment Act (S. 296) which calls for doubling investment in civilian research and development efforts.
"Support for increases in funding the for DOE Office of Science is critical if we are to attract and retain the best minds, support the construction and operation of modern scientific facilities, and continue to capitalize on the scientific vision that has been the trademark of the Office of Science for so many years. The budget request for FY 2002 is the logical place to continue this effort. We trust you agree and look forward to strengthening our scientific and technological capabilities in FY 2002 and beyond."
Although the next administration will undoubtedly revise the FY 2002 budget that is now being developed at the Department of Energy and the Office of Management and Budget, it is important for the Office of Science request to be as strong as possible. A copy of the senators' letter was sent to Jacob Lew, Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Efforts are now underway to get similar letters of support sent to Lew. His office is located at the Old Executive Office Building; 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW; Washington, D.C. 20503.
Richard M. Jones