Late last week, the House and Senate completed work on the
Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Bill for FY 2002. The
budgets for the physics-related in-house laboratories at the
National Institute of Standards and Technology did not
increase significantly. The Manufacturing Extension
Partnership program received a somewhat higher boost, while
the Advanced Technology Program budget rose by almost 27%.
The Bush Administration sought an increase of 11.3% to $347.3
million in the NIST Scientific and Technical Research and
Services (STRS) budget that provides funding for the in-house
laboratories and Baldrige National Quality Program. The House
and Senate differed in their response to the Administration's
request. House appropriators provided $1.3 million more than
the request, while the Senate reduced it by approximately $4
million. The final conference report settled on a $9.2
million, or 2.9% increase above the previous budget to $321.1
Within the STRS account, the Physics lab budget increased 1.1%
or $359,000 to $33,054,000. The Material Sciences and
Engineering budget increased 0.24% or $135,000 to $56,532,000.
The budget for the Electronics and Electrical Engineering lab
increased 1.2% or $489,000 to $41,286,000.
The Senate diverged significantly from the Administration and
House in how it treated the FY 2002 budget for the Advanced
Technology Program (ATP). ATP was started during the
administration of the first President Bush, and has been an
on-and-off target for downsizing or elimination since then.
The Administration requested an almost 92% cut in ATP, and
would have suspended new awards in FY 2002 while the Commerce
Department reevaluated the program. House appropriators
concurred, stating in their mid-July report that the program
had "not produced a body of evidence to overcome . . .
fundamental questions about whether the program should exist
in the first place."
This could have been the beginning of the end for ATP if it
had not been for the change in the majority party in the
Senate. Following Senator James Jeffords' (I-VT) decision to
leave the Republican Party, control of the Senate Commerce,
Justice, State Appropriations Subcommittee went to Senator
Fritz Hollings (D-SC). Hollings was a founder of ATP, and
while he was successful in preventing attempts to kill the
program when the Democrats were in the minority, he also had
the support of a Democratic president who favored ATP. The
situation earlier this year was much less promising for ATP.
Hollings' appropriations subcommittee released its own bill
shortly after that of the House, and it fully funded the
program. Last week, Congress voted its approval of the FY
2002 conference report, which increased the ATP budget by
26.9%, or $39.1 million to $184.5 million. With a carryover
from last year, ATP funding will total $217.6 million. There
is bill language designating $60.7 million of that amount "for
new ATP awards."
The Manufacturing Extension Partnership program budget
increases 2.2% or $2.3 million to $106.5 million, with
conference report language regarding agreements with nonprofit
organizations. The final bill provides the full $20.9 million
"for safety, capacity, maintenance, and repair projects at
NIST," as well as $41.5 million for earmarked facilities.
Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics