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FYI Number 73: June 11, 2001

Support Sought for Increase in FY 2002 DOE Science Budget

It is likely that within the next few weeks - if not sooner - House appropriators will draft the FY 2002 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. Signatures are now being sought for a letter to key House appropriators, with copies to the House Republican and Democratic leadership, asking for a significant increase in the Office of Science budget. The Bush Administration requested a 0.1%, or $4.4 million increase in the over-all budget for programs that it identified as "Science" for FY 2002.

This kind of letter is known as a "Dear Colleague," since it was sent to every representative. Members receive many of these letters every day, and they often attract little attention unless constituents ask their representatives to sign the letter. A letter like this can be very helpful in demonstrating a wide base of support for an increase in a program budget.

This effort is being lead by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) (the letter's contact) and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA). The letter is addressed to House Appropriations Chairman Bill Young and Ranking Member David Obey, and Subcommittee Chairman Sonny Callahan and Ranking Member Peter Visclosky. The telephone number of the U.S. House of Representatives is 202-225-3121. The "Dear Colleague" was dated June 8. The letter to be sent to the leadership is as follows:

"We are writing to express our strong support for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science and the world class scientific research that it funds. To this end, we would encourage you to significantly increase fiscal year 2002 funding for the DOE Office of Science above the level appropriated in fiscal year 2001. Increased funding will allow for the fullest utilization of the tremendous scientific talent and world's best research facilities that are supported by the DOE Office of Science.

"The DOE Office of Science is the nation's primary supporter of the physical sciences, providing an important partner and key user facilities in the areas of biological sciences, physics, chemistry, environmental sciences, mathematics and computing, and engineering. This federal research and development funding goes to scientists and students not just at our national labs, but at our colleges and universities as well. Furthermore, the DOE Office of Science supports a unique system of programs based on large-scale, specialized user facilities and large teams of scientists focused on national priorities in scientific research. This makes the Office of Science unique among, and complementary to, the scientific programs of many other federal science agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

"We applaud the strong support shown for research conducted within the NIH and NSF, and ask that this level of support be extended to the DOE Office of Science. Future medical breakthroughs depend on fundamental advances in the physical sciences and other research conducted by the DOE Office of Science. One recent example is the Human Genome Project, which progressed so rapidly because of advanced computing technology and biological technology pioneered by the DOE Office of Science. Harold Varmus, former director of the NIH, said, 'Medical advances may seem like wizardry. But pull back the curtain, and sitting at the lever is a high-energy physicist, a combinational chemist, or an engineer.'

"While federally supported medical research like that conducted by NIH has skyrocketed, funding for research in the physical sciences has remained stagnant. Despite the fact that Congress increased funding for the DOE Office of Science by 13 percent in fiscal year 2001, its budget, in constant dollars, is only at its 1990 level. It is the research itself that has been most negatively impacted by this funding shortfall, since the cost of maintaining existing facilities continues to rise with inflation.

"Scientific research may not be as politically popular as health care and education right now, but science is as important to progress in these two areas as it is to America's continued economic, energy, and national security. Economic experts maintain that today's unprecedented economic growth would not have been possible were it not for the substantial investment in research made by the public and private sectors over the past several decades. Basic energy research funded by the DOE Office of Science will help address current and future energy challenges with technologies that improve the efficiency, economy, environmental acceptability, and safety in energy generation, conversion, transmission, and use.

"According to the Hart-Rudman Report on National Security, 'the U.S. government has seriously underfunded basic scientific research in recent years. The quality of the U.S. education system, too, has fallen well behind those of scores of other nations. The inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S. national security over the next quarter century than any potential conventional war that we might imagine.'

"The report goes on to recommend doubling the federal government's investment in science and technology research and development by 2010. While we understand that it may not be practical to double the federal research and development budget this year, we believe Congress should take the necessary steps to move in that direction. We ask that you help the DOE Office of Science attract the best minds, educate the next generation of scientists and engineers, support the construction and operation of modern facilities, and continue to provide the quality of scientific research that has been its trademark for so many years.

"Thank you for your consideration."

  Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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