Signatures Sought For Letter to Appropriators on FY 2001 Science Funding Congress is now working on the bills that will fund basic scientific research in FY 2001. As part of that process, decisions have to be made about how much money each appropriations subcommittee will have to spend. This money is known as the 302(b) allocation, and is vital to what kind of bill a subcommittee can produce. The higher the 302(b), the better. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has often remarked that the subcommittee funding NSF and NASA lives or dies by its 302(b) allocation.
Although the economy is booming, the federal budget is tight. Last week, the chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of Energy predicted that his allocation would probably be flat, although there could be a minor increase or decrease.
Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) is heading up an effort to get his fellow representatives to sign a letter to the chairman and senior Democratic member of the full House Appropriations Committee urging that they "assign a high priority to basic scientific research in the FY 2001 appropriations process." Earlier this week, Ehlers sent a "Dear Colleague" letter asking fellow representatives to sign this letter to the House appropriators.
Representatives receive many Dear Colleague letters every week. They are more likely to respond to such a letter if they hear from their constituents. The text of the letter to be sent to Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) and Ranking Minority Member David R. Obey (D-WI), with a copy to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), follows. This letter will be sent Monday, March 27.
The main telephone number for the House of Representatives is 202-224-3121. Reference can be made to the Dear Colleague from Rep. Ehlers regarding the letter to Young and Obey on funding for basic scientific research.
The Honorable C. W. Bill Young
The Honorable David R. Obey
We ask you, in the strongest words possible, to assign a high priority to basic scientific research in the FY 2001 appropriations process. In particular, we ask you to ensure that the appropriations subcommittees funding key agencies are provided with sufficient 302b allocations to allow adequate funding for both national priorities and science. We are particularly concerned that the research conducted by the National Science Foundation, NASA, NOAA, NIST, the Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health is adequately supported.
As you know, within the appropriations subcommittees, science competes with other high priority items such as veteran's health care, housing, and education programs such as headstart. If faced with limited budget allocations, we are concerned that funding for science may take a back seat to these other important congressional priorities. As stated in "Unlocking Our Future: Toward a New National Science Policy," a report adopted by the full House, "To maintain our nation's economic strength and international competitiveness, Congress should make stable and substantial federal funding for fundamental scientific research a high priority."
Shortchanging science in this year's appropriations process would be particularly worrisome given that much of our current economic success results from past federal investment made in basic research. In June of last year, Alan Greenspan noted that: "Something special is happening in the U.S. Economy's remarkable run of economic growth that appears to have its roots in ongoing advances in technology." Just last month, Alfred R. Berkeley, III, President of the NASDAQ Stock Market, Inc., stated that "Historically, we have seen that discoveries made in science and engineering arenas have propelled our economy forward by paving the way for breakthroughs in technology that in turn spawn entirely new industries."
We must also work to ensure balanced growth in research support across all scientific disciplines. This is particularly important because breakthroughs in one area of science often lead to unexpected breakthroughs in other areas. For example, many recent advances in biomedical research would not have possible were it not for knowledge obtained first through advances in the physical sciences and engineering.
Mr. Speaker, we understand the limitations facing you in this year's appropriations process. However, we have a responsibility to ensure our nation's continued prosperity and the most sensible way to do this is by investment in basic scientific research. Failure to do so is the equivalent of eating the seed corn necessary for our future economic success. With this in mind, we urge your consideration of our request.
CC: The Honorable Dennis Hastert, Speaker
Richard M. Jones