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FYI Number 39: April 4, 2002

House Science Committee Recommendations on S&T Spending

One of the steps in the annual budget cycle for S&T appropriations is the document known as the "Views and Estimates" of the House Science Committee. While the Science Committee does not write the appropriations bills for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, it does influence the ultimate outcome of these budgets. Portions of the Committee's "Views and Estimates" follow. The entire document, and other additional views, including those of the committee's Democrats, can be accessed at http://www.house.gov/science/welcome.htm

PRESIDENTIAL INITIATIVES:

"The Administration's budget highlights four 'multi-agency R&D priorities' - work on anti-terrorism, networking and information technology, nanotechnology, and climate change. The Committee strongly endorses these initiatives, and agrees that they deserve priority in funding."

FEDERAL RESEARCH PORTFOLIO:

"While the Committee believes that the Administration has chosen the appropriate priorities for the federal R&D budget, it is nonetheless concerned that the biomedical sciences, in general, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in particular, are growing out of all proportion to any other element of the R&D budget. Indeed, just the increase proposed for the NIH in FY03 is larger than the entire proposed research budget for NSF. While the Committee supports the doubling of NIH, it is concerned that unless the needs of other agencies are addressed, many scientific opportunities will be missed and even health research itself will be retarded.

"Similarly, while Defense Department development programs are critical to our national security, those programs alone cannot create a stable and secure American society or even ensure our protection from enemy attacks over the long-term. Yet while the Pentagon is slated to receive a 12 percent increase, basic and applied research in the Defense Department are flat, and numerous programs in other agencies that unarguably contribute to Homeland Security receive tepid increases.

"The Committee will continue to review the balance within the federal research portfolio. The Committee looks forward to working with the Administration and our Congressional colleagues to develop ways to determine whether the current portfolio is too heavily weighted toward NIH, and, if it is, to figure out what a balanced portfolio would be."

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION:

"The FY03 budget request for NSF is $5.04 billion, $239.91 million - or 5 percent - over the FY02 appropriation. However, $76 million of the increase does not represent new spending, but rather is existing funding associated with three programs the Administration proposes to transfer to NSF the Sea Grant program, now at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); hydrology programs now at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); and certain environmental education programs, now at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"The transfers are unlikely to occur, and, in any event, none of the transferred money would be available to strengthen existing NSF programs or create new ones. After subtracting the transfers, NSF is left with an actual proposed increase of about 3.4 percent or about 1 percent above inflation. This is not a significant increase for an agency charged with ensuring the overall health of the nation's university research enterprise an agency that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has held up as a model of good management.

"The Committee believes that NSF needs an increase (exclusive of any transfers) of at least $420 million, or 8.8 percent, over FY02 levels. This request would increase funding for NSF's core science programs, enabling NSF to begin funding highly ranked grant proposals that are turned down solely for lack of funding; fully fund K-12 education programs that have been authorized by the House; and would fund large facility projects that have already been approved by the National Science Board."

Regarding the $200 million NSF request for the Mathematics and Science Partnership program, the document states that the committee "fully supports this request." Also, "The Committee fully supports the proposed increase in graduate fellowship stipends from $21,500 to $25,000 in the current budget request."

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY OFFICE OF SCIENCE PROGRAMS:

"The Committee is particularly concerned about the future of the Office of Science, which funds user facilities and academic research. In recent years, funding limitations have forced many user facilities to restrict the number of hours they are available to researchers, causing investments that have cost taxpayers billions to sit idle. In addition, many DOE facilities are deteriorating and staff are nearing retirement, producing a looming problem that the Committee believes must be addressed with increased resources.

"The Committee continues to closely monitor the construction of the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, especially in light of a recent report by DOE's Inspector General indicating that capabilities and facilities have been pared back to keep the program under budget."

"The Administration's request for the Fusion Energy Sciences Program is $257.3 million, far short of the $335 million approved by the House in H.R. 4 [energy legislation]. Fusion's potential to wean the Nation from fossil fuels is tremendous, but much research remains to be done before that potential can be realized. The Committee notes with approval that the Administration is reassessing the potential U.S. role in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which may significantly advance the science by achieving sustained-burning plasma. The Committee believes that U.S. participation in such important international research endeavors deserves serious consideration.

"Finally, the Committee supports the Administration's proposal to spend $40 million in DOE on a National Climate Change Technology Initiative. The Committee is concerned, however, that DOE has not highlighted this proposal in its budget presentations and seems unable to provide any detail on how or where it will be carried out. This important initiative needs to become a focus within DOE if it is to be successful."

NASA:

"The Administration proposes to increase funding for NASA by 0.7 percent in FY03, from $14.9 billion in FY02 to $15 billion in FY03. The Committee supports the level of the Administration's request.

"The item of greatest concern in the NASA budget is the future of the International Space Station (ISS). The Committee continues to support development of the Space Station within the $25 billion cost cap enacted during the 106th Congress (P.L 106-391). The Committee applauds the Administration for reviewing the costs of the Space Station and for its commitment to solving the financial and program management problems as outlined by the ISS Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force.

"However, many critical decisions regarding the ISS remain to be made. NASA has not yet implemented many of the management reforms the IMCE recommended, and NASA has not yet identified the criteria that will be used to evaluate the Space Station program. In addition, the Research Maximization and Prioritization (REMAP) Task Force NASA established to evaluate ISS research priorities will not announce its findings until August.

"Despite the uncertainty, the budget assumes $560 million in unspecified savings over the next five years; without those savings the three-person 'Core Complete' Space Station cannot be assembled within the $25 billion cost cap."

"The Committee appreciates the Administration's commitment to space and Earth science. The Committee, noting the cancellation of the Pluto-Kuiper mission and the deferment of the Europa mission, agrees that NASA should develop an integrated science strategy for exploring the outer planets. The Committee believes that investments in new technology, such as the Nuclear Systems Initiative, could significantly reduce spacecraft travel time and enable a more robust planetary exploration program."

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY:

"The Administration budget proposes to spend $389 million for the core NIST laboratory functions (the Scientific and Technical Research and Services account) in FY03 an increase of $68 million over FY02. The Committee is pleased with this generous request, but believes that in light of the focus on homeland security, additional funding could be provided for NIST's computer security efforts and for its investigation into the World Trade Center collapse, which could yield new ways to strengthen buildings to withstand terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

"The Committee is also pleased that the budget request provides funding to complete the construction of the Advanced Measurement Lab in Gaithersburg and to undertake much needed improvements at NIST's laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

"The Committee takes issue with the proposal to sharply reduce funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which helps smaller manufacturers modernize to remain competitive. . . ."

"The Committee looks forward to working with the Administration on its proposed reforms to the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which may at last help put the program on a path to stable funding."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3095

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