H.R. 4664, the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of
2002, will probably always be known as the NSF doubling bill.
There is much more to the bill than that: only five pages of the
92-page bill set forth the authorization levels for FY 2003
through 2007. The remainder of the bill consists of important
changes in the foundation's program management, education
programs, the conduct of the National Science Board, and other
First, a brief reminder about the functions of an authorization bill
and an appropriations bill. An authorization bill, like H.R.
4664, describes what a government department or agency can do, and places
a ceiling on the amount of money it can be given each year. An appropriations
bill, such as the VA/HUD/Independent Agencies bill, provides the actual
money. In addition to setting the parameters and conduct of an agency's
programs, an authorization bill is a good roadmap guiding future spending.
H.R. 4664 fulfills both of these functions.
The first section of most authorization bill lays out the
"findings" of Congress, including, in this case, language
that NSF must be "more proactive" in sustaining the U.S.
competitive advantage. The bill also has a section on "policy
objectives," including "balancing the Nation's research portfolio
(among which are cited the physical sciences, geoscience, and
engineering), "establishing and maintaining cooperative
international relationships," and increasing overall workforce
Increases in authorization levels for each of the next five
fiscal years are specified, ranging from 13.1 to 15.5%. For FY
2003, specific allocations are made for research, broken down for
information technology research ($704 million), nanoscale science
and engineering ($301 million), education and human resources
($1,006 million), major research equipment ($172 million) and the
National Science Board ($3.5 million). These specific
allocations increase in FY 2004. In FY 2005, only the general
research, education, and equipment allocations are detailed; all
The authorization levels for FY 2006 and FY 2007 are only given
as totals. In order to win administration approval of this bill,
a provision was inserted that these levels are "contingent on a
determination by Congress that the Foundation has made successful
progress toward meeting management goals," five of which are
listed (competitive sourcing, etc.) As part of this
determination, the Office of Management and Budget must certify
that NSF "has, overall, made successful progress toward meeting
these goals." (It should be noted that only the National Science
Foundation was awarded a "green light" by OMB following its
government-wide performance management review earlier this year.)
Under this legislation, the NSF Director must submit an annual
plan about the allocation of funding for Research and Related
Activities. This report should include information on grant size
and duration, trends in research support for major fields, and
how the allocation of funding "is designed to achieve an
appropriate balance among major fields and subfields of science,
mathematics, and engineering."
H.R. 4664 combined the provisions of several S&T education bills
that were working their way through Congress. A forthcoming FYI
will detail these changes.
There are more than eight pages of bill language regarding Major
Research Instrumentation. Another report is required that will
review estimates of the needs for instrumentation by field, a
description of the awards made by field, and the impact that
these awards will have on documented needs. A prioritization
process is to be developed, and a written list submitted to the
National Science Board "for approval." A facilities' plan,
including full life cycle costs, is also to be included in the
foundation's annual budget request to Congress. Explicit
approval of the Board will be required for any project funded out
of this account.
The bill also makes the National Science Board financially
independent of the NSF, authorizes it to hire its own staff, and
requires the Board to conduct open meetings.
Also included is bill language requiring a National Science Board
report on how the foundation's increased funding should be
utilized, and the impact that this is having on the nation's
workforce, programs at institutions of higher education, the
nation's scientific infrastructure, and on grant size and
duration. An Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee is
also to be established.
The full text of H.R. 4664 can be accessed at http://thomas.loc.gov/;
under Bill Text, Version #1.