Congressional Effort Underway to Increase DOE Science Funding for FY 2002 An effort is now underway in the U.S. Senate to boost funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science in the FY 2002 budget request. While major appropriations bills for the current year are still not complete on Capitol Hill, a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue work is underway at the Office of Management and Budget on the request that will be sent to Congress early next year. While the Clinton budget request will be changed by the new president, it is important for the budget which is now being drafted to have a strong DOE science number.
Earlier this fall, 36 senators sent a letter to their leadership advocating a substantial funding increase in the DOE Office of Science budget for FY 2001. Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the committee's Ranking Minority Member, Jeff Bingaman (D- NM), authors of the fall letter, recently asked these 36 senators to sign a new letter that is to be sent to President Clinton. Support from other senators is also to be sought. The new letter to be sent follows:
"Dear Mr. President:
"Thank you for joining us in providing strong support for the Department of Energy's Office of Science in this year's appropriation process. Together we have made great progress in advancing recognition of these critical scientific programs. Yet there remains much more that can be accomplished. Continued growth for these programs on par with that proposed for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) is vital to continued advances in the fields DOE supports and to the training of future scientists and engineers to continue the tremendous advances that America brings to basic science and to the marketplace.
"You are aware that the Department of Energy (DOE) is the leading source of federal support for the physical sciences in the nation. In the life sciences, the DOE initiated the Human Genome Program and co-manages this enormously important and promising effort with the National Institutes of Health. It also plays a leading role in supporting other biological sciences, environmental sciences, physics, chemistry, materials science, computer science, mathematics, and engineering. As a consequence, the DOE is responsible for a significant portion of federal R&D funding for scientists and students at our colleges and universities.
"One of the primary responsibilities of DOE's Office of Science is to support large-scale specialized user facilities and large teams of scientists focused on national scientific priorities. This makes the Office of Science unique among, and complementary to, the scientific programs of other federal science agencies, including NIH and NSF. Each year over 15,000 sponsored scientists and students from academe, industry, and government many funded by agencies other than the DOE conduct cutting edge experiments at the Department's research facilities. DOE's investments in major facilities, smaller-scale user facilities, and in university-based laboratories not only sets it apart from other federal science agencies, but helps ensure that the nation maintains its world leadership across a broad range of scientific disciplines.
"Economic experts maintain that today's unprecedented economic growth would not have been realized but for the substantial research investments by the public and private sectors over the past several decades. To maintain the tremendous advances that America brings to basic scientific research and into the marketplace, we need to continue to provide strong support for basic research across the scientific disciplines. Sound science policy also demands a balance between support of individual investigator driven science such as that conducted by the NIH and NSF and the maintenance and operation of major facilities, smaller specialized facilities, university based research facilities, and scientific teams such as those supported by DOE's Office of Science.
"The appropriation of $3.19 billion for FY 2001 is only a start at addressing these challenges. Annual increases similar to NIH and NSF are needed and merited by the important and unique work being conducted by the DOE Office of Science. They would also build on the spirit of the Senate's passage of the Federal Research Investment Act (S. 296) which calls for doubling investment in civilian research and development efforts.
"Support for increases in funding the for DOE Office of Science is critical if we are to attract and retain the best minds, support the construction and operation of modern scientific facilities, and continue to capitalize on the scientific vision that has been the trademark of the Office of Science for so many years. The budget request for FY 2002 is the logical place to continue this effort. We trust you agree and look forward to strengthening our scientific and technological capabilities in FY 2002 and beyond."
The 36 senators who signed the previous letter were:
Alaska: Frank Murkowski (R)
Congress will be wrapping up its session soon after the election. Senators will be most likely to respond to the Murkowski-Bingaman letter if requested to do so by their constituents. The telephone number for the U.S. Senate is 202-224-3121.
Richard M. Jones