"I intend to work with my colleagues on this Committee, the Budget
Committee and the Appropriations Committee, as well as the Administration,
to start building up these budgets now." - Rep. Sherwood Boehlert
As the House Science Committee met on April 25 to hear testimony on
the FY 2002 budget requests for NASA, NSF, NOAA, and DOE's Office of
Science, committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) was adamant in
his determination to get federal science funding increased above the
request for the coming year. Although somewhat mollified by indications
that the White House recognized the inadequacy of the science investment
and planned to "do better next year," Boehlert vowed that "we're going
to do our level best to convince our colleagues in Congress to pay more
attention" to issues of concern to the committee, including adequate
investment in science, a balanced research portfolio, and interagency
cooperation. He noted that it was important for agencies to collaborate
to leverage investments and avoid wasteful duplication of research efforts,
but added that "no amount of interagency coordination will make for
a robust program if its individual components are not adequately funded."
Boehlert expressed particular concern over the requests for the DOE
Office of Science and for NSF, and later commented that "NSF stands
for 'Not Sufficient Funds.'"
NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, whose
agency budget would increase 2 percent to $14.5 billion, testified that
"the Administration's FY 2002 request...is a solid and businesslike
plan," which would require deliberate prioritization to "live within
our means." He acknowledged that this would include cutting lower priority
Space and Earth science program elements in order to enhance funding
for Mars exploration and follow-on Earth Observing measurements.
NSF's budget would grow by 1.3 percent,
to $4.47 billion, under the request. According to NSF Director Rita
Colwell, the highlight of the foundation's request is the 11- percent
increase for Education and Human Resources, to increase graduate student
stipends and initiate the Math and Science Partnerships program to improve
education in those areas.
Science programs within DOE would receive
a total of $3.2 billion under the request. James Decker, Acting Director
of DOE's Office of Science, reported that funding for his office's programs
"has, in constant dollars, remained somewhat flat over the past decades
and new opportunities must be balanced against existing commitments
and stewardship of mission critical research."
NOAA Administrator Scott Gudes stated
that NOAA's budget request would decline by $60.8 million, to $3.2 billion.
Within this request, he said, "NOAA proposes essential realignments
that allow for a total of $270.0 million in program increases in critical
areas such as infrastructure, severe weather prediction, coastal conservation,
living marine resources, and climate."
All four witnesses described many diverse, productive collaborations
with other federal S&T agencies, both through formal mechanisms such
as the cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council, and at
the interpersonal level by program managers and researchers. The panel
agreed that the one-on-one interactions may be the most vital to effective
collaborations. Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) also questioned the level of
cooperation with the State Department; both Colwell and Goldin responded
that their agencies have supplied scientists to the State Department
on a temporary basis.
Smith asked about the redirection of $110 million in NSF education
money to support the President's new $200 million Math and Science Partnerships.
The question was echoed by Boehlert, who applauded the program but said
his enthusiasm was "tempered" because only $90 million for the partnerships
is new funding and the rest is taken from existing programs. Colwell
replied that the money "was not being wrenched out of" NSF K-12 and
undergraduate programs, but the partnerships fit well with the direction
of NSF's education programs and gave the foundation "an opportunity
to step back," review, and build on the best aspects of the current
Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD) inquired about the directive in the budget
for a Blue Ribbon panel to consider moving NSF's astronomy responsibilities
to NASA. Colwell and Goldin agreed that astronomy has been an area of
many fruitful collaborations between NSF and NASA. Goldin thought it
was inappropriate for the agencies to comment on the issue. "It's an
area where both agencies work so well together...that I wouldn't want
to see a degradation in the relationship," he said.
Rep. Nick Lampson (D- TX) asked Goldin whether constraining space station
costs would result in deleting or deferring content needed to make it
a productive research facility and whether research would remain a station
priority. Goldin believed that the station would "be able to have a
good solid research program," although "maybe not as much as we wanted."
He did not expect the funding constraints to result in greater taxpayer
costs later. As an aside, Boehlert remarked that "a little dose of realism
would help" in looking at long-term station costs.
Boehlert pressed the witnesses to describe what additional investments
they would make if they received additional funding in FY 2002, and
what opportunities would be lost if they did not. As representatives
of the Administration, the witnesses were reluctant to criticize the
proposed budget. In addition to NSF's priority areas of information
technology, nanoscience, biocomplexity, education and workforce issues,
and graduate and postdoctoral stipends, Colwell also listed emerging
areas of mathematics, as well as grant size and duration.
Saying that he wanted to focus on revolutionary, not evolutionary,
technologies, Goldin cited information technology, nanotechnology, and
biotechnology. He said universities were another essential area needing
increased investment, particularly in the physical sciences and engineering.
Decker noted that many DOE Office of Science programs had experienced
reductions or increases below inflation which, over decades, had "taken
a toll." He stressed the need for infrastructure investment, to improve
facilities and increase their utilization. Gudes responded that the
NOAA budget request was "investing in the right things," including infrastructure
It was obvious that most members of the Science Committee are eager
to do all they can to get science funding increased in this year's appropriations
process. It will remain to be seen what influence they, as members of
an authorizing committee, will have on the appropriators.
Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics