House Appropriators Eliminate NIST ATP Program House appropriators zeroed out NIST's Advanced Technology Program (ATP) in their FY 2001 appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State. The bill, H.R. 4690, was passed by the Appropriations Committee on June 14 and is currently under consideration on the House floor. It cuts funding for NIST by almost 35 percent from the current budget, mainly by terminating the controversial ATP. Funding for NIST's in-house labs would be increased slightly over FY 2000, while the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) would remain at its FY 2000 level. Construction and renovation funding would drop by more than NIST intended. Details of the House Appropriations Committee's recommendations follow, along with selected quotes from the committee report, H. Report 106-680, accompanying the bill:
The Committee recommends a total of $422.9 million for NIST. This represents a decrease of 33.8 percent from FY 2000 funding of $639.0 million, and a decrease of 40.7 percent from the Administration's FY 2001 request of $713.0 million.
SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH AND SERVICES (STRS): This account includes NIST's core, intramural laboratories and its Malcolm Baldrige quality awards program. STRS would receive $292.1 million under the bill. Within this account, the labs would receive $286.1 million, 3.2 percent more than FY 2000 funding of $277.2 million, but 13.9 percent less than the request of $332.3 million. The report notes that "in an era of declining budgets, the core programs of NIST have enjoyed significant support, receiving continued program increases. Overall funding for these programs has grown from $240,000,000 in fiscal year 1995 to $283,000,000 in fiscal year 2000. The Committee understands the importance of the research done by this agency, and recommends funding to maintain the current level of operations."
The report continues: "The recommendation provides funding for all activities at the requested fiscal year 2001 base level. This includes the current year level of funding to continue the disaster research program on effects of windstorms. The recommendation does not include any program increases."
INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY SERVICES (ITS): This account includes NIST's extramural programs for industry.
Advanced Technology Program: The bill would zero out the ATP, which is currently funded at $142.6 million. The report states: "The advocates for the ATP program have always had to answer a number of fundamental questions, such as whether the program achieved results that could not be achieved through the private marketplace; whether it funded technology development and commercialization that would not be undertaken but for the existence of the program; and whether the Federal government should play a role in picking technologies to be developed and then funding that development at substantial government expense, for example.
"After many years in existence, the program has not produced a body of evidence to overcome those fundamental questions about whether the program should exist in the first place. Given the tremendous financial constraints under which the Committee is operating, the question becomes whether it is worthwhile to continue to fund a program of questionable value, particularly one that costs $200,000,000 a year.
"With many other priorities facing the Committee and funding constraints as they are, the Committee concludes that funding would be better spent on higher priority programs and recommends that the ATP program be terminated." It is worth noting that appropriators in the House have attempted to eliminate ATP in the past, but it has always ultimately been funded at some level.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership: The Committee recommends $104.8 million for MEP, equal to the current funding level. According to the report, "This recommendation includes the expectation that funding is provided for the centers and not for new initiatives."
Institute for Information Infrastructure: The Committee would provide no funding for, and the report makes no mention of, this program which the Administration had proposed as a new initiative for FY 2001, and for which it requested $50.0 million.
CONSTRUCTION OF RESEARCH FACILITIES: This account covers renovation and maintenance of aging facilities as well as new construction, such as the Advanced Measurement Laboratory (AML), for which ground was broken on June 9 in Maryland. The bill would provide $26.0 million for this account. Having received the full amount necessary for AML construction, the Administration requested a decrease in funding from $106.9 million in FY 2000 to $35.9 million in FY 2001.
"In the current year [FY 2000]," the report says, "the Committee approved the final construction plan for the Advanced Measurement Laboratory and has provided the full request for the construction of the laboratory. In addition, the Committee has provided a level of funding comparable to the current year level for NIST to address the backlog of safety, capacity, maintenance, and major repair projects in the Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Boulder, Colorado, sites. The recommendation does not provide program increases under the Safety, Capacity, Maintenance, and Major Repair heading." The report adds, "Should construction requirements change, the Committee would entertain a reprogramming request.... Bill language requiring submission of a financial plan is deleted.
"This account supports all NIST activities by providing the facilities necessary to carry out the NIST mission. The Institute has proposed a multiyear effort to renovate NIST's current buildings and laboratory facilities in compliance with more stringent science and engineering program requirements."
A NIST press release on the June 9 AML ground-breaking explains that the new laboratory, which is expected to be completed in 2004 at a total cost of $235.2 million, "will give NIST...and its partners in U.S. industry access to research and development capabilities not available anywhere else in the world." The facility "will feature stringent controls on particulate matter, temperature, vibration and humidity" that will "help industry/ government collaborators achieve higher quality reference materials, improved measurements and standards, and more rapidly developed research advances."
Audrey T. Leath