NSF Bill Passed: FY 2001 Budget Up 13.6% Congress has passed and sent to President Clinton the FY 2001 VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill. The National Science Foundation's budget was increased by 13.6%, an amount which NSF Director Rita Colwell said "represents the largest dollar increase the Foundation has ever received, in real or constant dollars."
For perspective on this increase, note that a year ago, Congress approved an 8.4% increase for NSF. For FY 2001, the president requested a 17.1% increase.
NSF's new budget is $4.426 billion. This is more than half a billion dollars over last year, or $529 million.
Within this total budget are several major categories of spending. The Research and Related Activities account increased by 13.2% to $3.350 billion. This is about 2/3 of the requested increase. In the conference report, specific amounts of money are provided for some programs (see below). NSF is instructed to distribute remaining funds "proportionately and equitably, consistent with the ratio of the budget request level." After allowing for the specified funding, this 2/3 figure can be very roughly applied to the original requests to suggest the final percentage increases for the subactivities tracked by FYI. With these caveats, the subactivity increases originally requested by NSF were: physics was to have increased by 18.0%, materials research by 15.4%, astronomical sciences by 13.7%, engineering by 19.6%, and geosciences by 19.5%. The final subactivity budgets will be determined by NSF and approved by Congress in the FY 2001 operating plan.
For some programs, a calculation is not necessary because Congress specified the funding. These programs are: $65 million for plant genome research, $215 million for the information technology initiative, $75 million for the biocomplexity initiative, $75 million for major research instrumentation, $1 million toward a new research vessel, and $5 million for a Children's Research Initiative. Of particular interest to physicists and astronomers is $150 million designated for the new nanotechnology initiative and $94.9 million for facilities within the astronomical sciences activity. Regarding the latter, the conference report cites the Arecibo Observatory, the Green Bank Telescope, the Very large Array, the Very Long Baseline Array, "and other facilities in need of such attention on a priority basis."
Besides Research and Related Activities, there is another budget for Major Research Equipment. There is both good news and bad news. First the good news: "The conference agreement provides the budget request level for all ongoing projects," including $45 million for the development and construction of a second teraflop computing facility and $12.5 million for the continued production of the High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research. The bad news: "Budget constraints have forced the conferees to not approve funding for two new starts for fiscal year 2001 . . . the U.S. Array and San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth, and the National Ecological Observatory Network. This decision was made without prejudice and does not reflect on the quality of research proposed to be developed through these two programs."
Another major budget is that for Education and Human Resources. Congress approved an increase of 13.9%, as compared to the 5.0% requested by NSF. The new budget is $787.4 million, up by $96.5 million. As was done with the Research and Related Activities budget, funding was specified for some programs, including $75 million for EPSCoR, $10 million for the Office of Innovative Partnerships, and specified amounts for a variety of other programs and initiatives. Remaining funding is to be distributed proportionately and equitably, consistent with the original budget request.
Also specified is funding for Polar Programs. NSF had requested an increase of 12.8%; the final bill provides 8.9%. This increase of $22.6 million brings FY 2001 funding to $275.6 million.
NSF Director Colwell released a statement expressing her appreciation to all of those involved in supporting the new budget. She stated: "This increase also puts us on the path towards doubling the NSF budget in five years, a goal championed by Senate VA-HUD Chairman Kit Bond, Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and more than 40 members of the Senate."
Colwell continued, "This historic achievement validates the Administration's commitment to investing in fundamental research and education - and I thank President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Science Advisor Neal Lane, OMB Director Jack Lew and his staff for their leadership in helping to achieve such a great result. It was truly a team effort. While the VA-HUD agreement did not reach the President's request for NSF, the funding level provided is extraordinary and demonstrates how support for fundamental research and education is truly bipartisan.
"Along with Senators Bond and Mikulski, I personally thank House Subcommittee Chairman Jim Walsh and Ranking Member Allan Mollohan for their constant, steadfast support of NSF. I also thank all the VA-HUD subcommittee members in both the Senate and the House, House Full Committee Chairman Bill Young, Ranking Member David Obey along with Senate Full Committee Chairman Ted Stevens and Ranking Member Robert Byrd for their excellent leadership and consistent support of the Foundation's investments in research and education. They are true champions for these critical investments in the nation's future investments that will help improve the health, prosperity and well-being of all citizens in the 21st century.
"I also recognize the extraordinary efforts of leaders in the science and engineering community, as well as those in industry and academia on behalf of the Foundation's budget request. This result is due to the exceptional contributions of so many individuals, both at the National Science Foundation and in the broader community. I am grateful to all those individuals and organizations that have helped make this budget a reality."
Richard M. Jones