Positive Signs in Washington for S&T The prospects for FY 2001 federal science funding received a boost last week. The House of Representatives started its budget process by approving a plan calling for a $1 billion increase in general science spending. Also last week, 47 CEOs, presidents of major universities, and prominent labor leaders sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging that they "strengthen America's science and technology enterprise."
One of the first steps in the annual budget making process is the passage of an overall spending plan that broadly defines how much money will come in, and how much will go out and how that outgo is to be distributed (although this distribution is not strictly binding.) This plan is called a budget resolution. It does not have to be signed by the president.
One of the twenty categories, or functions, of spending in the budget resolution is for "General Science, Space, and Technology." Function 250, as it is known, provides much of the funding for federally-sponsored research. The good news is that for next year, the House of Representatives agreed to a $1 billion increase in spending, over this year, for General Science, Space, and Technology. (In the language of Congress, "Budget authority" would increase 5.2% from $19.3 billion to $20.3 billion.) Report language stated that the $1 billion is for "increased funding for basic research."
This increase for General Science, Space, and Technology was the result of hard work in both the House Budget Committee, which wrote the resolution, and in the House Rules Committee, which put final touches on the resolution before it went to the full House. An advisory issued by Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) office explained that he offered an amendment in the Budget Committee to increase NSF funding. The committee approved a $100 million increase. Reports indicate that some of the other Members of Congress playing a part in the $1 billion increase include House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-OH), David Dreier (R-CA), Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Steven Kuykendall (R-CA), Dan Miller (R-FL), James Rogan (R-CA), Nick Smith (R-MI), and Dave Weldon (R-FL).
In commenting on the increase, Ehlers stated, "By increasing funding for civilian basic scientific research and development by $1 billion, Republicans are making a commitment to science and technology, the cornerstone of our thriving economy and the keystone of our national defense." Holt commented, "These proposed budget increases for NSF, NASA, and DOE will support opportunities to make new discoveries and advances in knowledge that have been left unfunded. In addition, the budget allows for construction of major research facilities needed to support leading edge basic research in astronomy, physics, and the earth and environmental sciences."
The Senate is working on its own version of a budget resolution. After passage by the full Senate, it will have to be reconciled with the House budget resolution.
Additionally, a letter from the Council on Competitiveness was sent to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO). This letter, dated March 22, states:
"As you and your colleagues shape America's budget priorities for 2001, the undersigned members of the Council on Competitiveness urge you to strengthen America's science and technology enterprise.
"Decades of bipartisan congressional investments have contributed decisively to the current U.S. economic boom. These investments created the advances in knowledge as well as the pool of technical talent that underpin America's competitive advantage in information technology, biotechnology, health science, new materials, and many other critical enablers.
"Nevertheless, public-sector investments in frontier research have declined sharply relative to the size of the economy. An additional $100 billion would have been invested if the federal share of such research had been maintained at its 1980 level. Physical sciences, math, and engineering have been particularly affected. The recent ramp up of private sector investment in R&D, while vitally important, is no substitute for the federal role in creating next generation knowledge and technology.
"We are also training fewer and fewer American scientists, engineers, and mathematicians despite soaring demand for these skills. Education and training of scientists and engineers are tied to federally sponsored research performed in the nation's laboratories and universities. When federal R&D commitments shrink, so too does the pool of technically trained talent, forcing industry and academia to look abroad for skilled knowledge workers.
"In this time of prosperity, we ask that you use this year's budget resolution, authorization and appropriations process to start America down the path toward significantly higher long-term investments in our national science and technology enterprise. Your commitment to continued U.S. technological leadership will generate high-wage jobs, economic growth, and a better quality of life for all Americans for decades to come."
The letter was signed by the CEO, Chairman of the Board, President or the equivalent of: Merck & Co.; Amalgamated Bank of New York; University of California; Intel Corporation; Johns Hopkins University; Lockheed Martin Corporation; 3 M Company; Hewlett-Packard Company; BellSouth Corporation; Corning Incorporated; California Institute of Technology; The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc.; Electronic Data Systems Corporation; Carnegie Mellon University; Polaroid Corporation; Eastman Kodak Company; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Xerox Corporation; Agilent Technologies, Inc.; University of North Carolina; Georgia Institute of Technology; The Boeing Company; American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO; IBM Corporation; TRW Inc.; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; National Association of Manufacturers; International Data Group Inc; Michael E. Porter, Professor at Harvard University; D.E. Shaw & Co., LP; Analog Devices, Inc; Washington University; W.R. Hambrecht & Co., LLC; QUALCOMM, Inc; University of Arizona; Pfizer Inc; ASC Incorporated; FDX Corporation; Motorola Inc.; John Young, Founder of the Council on Competitiveness; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company; The Proctor & Gamble Company; Lucent Technologies, Inc; Morino Group; Novell; Hughes Electronics Corporation; General Motors Corporation.
Richard M. Jones