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FYI Number 35: March 28, 2001

Science Committee Members Express Concern Over Bush S&T Budget

Republican and Democratic members of the House Science Committee have issued a report expressing concern about the "minuscule" budget increase the Bush Administration requested for the National Science Foundation for FY 2002, and are "particularly concerned" about the future of the DOE Office of Science. The committee also feels that the Administration's cost containment measures for the International Space Station "may provide inadequate."

These reactions to the Administration's Budget Blueprint (see FYI #24) are contained in the "Views and Estimates of the Committee on Science for FY 2002," mandated by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. The report was signed by all of the committee's Democrats, and all but three of its Republicans. The signatories include some of the most conservative and liberal members of the House. Their report is posted on the committee's web site.

This document has two components: a nine-page section signed by the majority of the committee, and a separate section of Additional Views. The first section reflects the committee's traditionally bipartisan nature, although the Democrats later explain that they signed the report "to show support for our new Chairman, and because the content of that report was both inoffensive and generally pointed in the right direction." The Additional Views are more critical of the Administration's request.

The nine page section begins by declaring:

"Science and technology are the keystones of our economic prosperity." It continues, "But advances in science and technology do not come cheap or without focused effort; nor are they solely the responsibility of the private sector." The committee "intends to continue to build on, and implement the principles in the Ehlers report and similar reports that have underscored the need to invest in R&D."

It will be "especially attentive" to education, energy policy, and environmental issues. The report later states:

"The Committee looks forward to working with the Administration and our Congressional colleagues to try to develop ways to determine whether the current portfolio is too heavily weighted toward NIH, and, if it is, to figure out what a balanced portfolio would be."

In discussing NSF, the report notes that President Ronald Reagan called for a doubling of its budget, and then states:

"The Committee is concerned that the Budget Blueprint calls for only a minuscule increase in the NSF budget for FY 2002, and appears to cut funding for research grants and/or research equipment (even in current dollars.) While the Committee understands that macroeconomic constraints may prevent NSF from increasing at last year's unprecedented rate, NSF should continue to grow in FY 2002 and future years. The Committee looks forward to working with the Administration, which has expressed support for NSF's mission and programs, to ensure that its funding is commensurate with its importance."

While gratified that the Administration recognizes NSF's math and science education work, the committee "believes that greater funding may be necessary to carry out that mission." The committee is pleased that the Administration will be examining grant size and duration, and large project management.

Regarding the Department of Energy, the report states:

"The Committee is concerned that the Budget Blueprint contains a 3 percent cut in DOE's budget from FY 2001 levels. However, it is impossible to analyze the implications of this proposal without further details." The report continues: "The Committee is particularly concerned about the future of the Office of Science, which funds user facilities and academic research. In recent years, many user facilities have had to cut back their hours because of funding limitations, idling investments that have cost taxpayers billions. In addition, the Committee believes that money must be budgeted now to address the aging of many DOE facilities and staff. The Committee continues to closely monitor the construction of the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to ensure that it remains on schedule and budget."

In the section on NASA, the report declares:

"The Budget Blueprint includes a 2 percent increase for NASA for FY 2002, but it is difficult to assess the adequacy of that request without further details." It continues, "Of greatest concern is the future of the International Space Station. The Committee continues to support development of the Space Station within the $25 billion development cap enacted into law last year (P.L. 106-391). The Committee applauds the Administration for reviewing the costs of the Space Station and for its commitment to solving the Space Station's funding problems . . . . However, the Committee remains concerned that the proposed steps to contain the Space Station's cost growth may prove inadequate to addressing a $4 billion problem." Regarding space science, the report states, "The Committee appreciates the Administration's commitment to space and earth science, particularly its decision to ensure that the Mars exploration program and the second generation of Earth Observing Satellites are adequately funded. The Committee, noting the cancellation of the Pluto-Kuiper Express, believes that NASA should develop an integrated science strategy for exploring the outer planets."

Elsewhere, the report discusses the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, declaring:

"First priority must be given to enhancing the Scientific and Technical Research and Services account of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. As NIST celebrates its 100th anniversary, its laboratory programs, which help industry compete at home and abroad, are more important than ever. The Committee also continues to support the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps smaller manufacturers modernize to remain competitive. Finally, the Committee looks forward to working with the Administration as it reviews the Advanced Technology Program (ATP). The Committee hopes that ways can be found to structure ATP so it can continue to be a catalyst for innovation without being an ideological lightning rod. One possible approach would be to increase the role of the states in ATP."

Democratic committee members issued "Minority Additional Views" critical of the Budget Blueprint:

"What we know of the new Administration's budget concerns us," they caution. "We want to clearly state that we believe - along with such diverse sources as Allan Bromley, Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan, Andy Grove of INTEL, and the Hart-Rudman Commission on National Security - that Federal funding for research is a necessary precondition for continued economic success and security in our high technology economy. We also believe that funding for our science agencies - all of our agencies, not just a select set - must be increased."

The Democrats project that Bush's request, after inflation, will necessitate a 3 to 4% decline in NSF's budget for competitive research grants, question the lack of a rationale for the elimination of two NASA space science projects, and express concern about the budgets for other science agencies.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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