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FYI Number 53: May 2, 2002

Bipartisan Move to Increase NSF Budget Needs Your Help

Before the month is out, the House VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee will draft its FY 2003 funding bill. A new bipartisan effort has been launched to increase the National Science Foundation's budget next year by $720 million to $5.5 billion. Constituent involvement will be instrumental to the success of this effort.

The initiative, in the form of a letter to two key House appropriators, is being led by Reps. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Ralph Hall (D-TX), Constance Morella (R-MD), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). They are now seeking additional signatures on their letter to appropriations subcommittee Chairman James Walsh (R-NY) and Ranking Minority Member Alan Mollohan (D-WV).

Walsh and Mollohan are well-known supporters of the National Science Foundation. During a NSF hearing last month they described the Administration's FY 2003 request as "a little deceptive," "pretty meager," and "inadequate" (see FYI #44).

The $720 million increase sought by Ehlers and his colleagues would give NSF an increase of 15% in their FY 2003 budget. The Bush Administration requested an increase of 5%, which reduces to 3.3% after adjusting for requested program transfers (see FYI #17). The Coalition for National Science Funding issued a FY 2003 funding statement calling for a 15% increase (see This statement was endorsed by AIP and three of its Member Societies: the American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Physical Society.

This letter will delivered to Walsh and Mollohan by May 17. Ehlers sent a copy of this letter today in the form of a "Dear Colleague" to all the Members of the House of Representatives. It will probably be one of many Dear Colleague letters showing up in congressional mail boxes today or tomorrow. The success of this effort will be greatly enhanced if constituents contact their representatives requesting that they sign this letter. A strong showing of support on this letter will strengthen the hand of Walsh and Mollohan as they endeavor to provide the highest possible appropriation for the National Science Foundation.

Two web sites maintained by the House of Representatives will assist you in communicating with your representative. E-mail correspondence can be sent through Telephone numbers can be obtained at Both sites use zip codes for Member identification. U.S. mail is handled slowly due to security concerns.

The letter by Ehlers and his colleagues to Reps. Walsh and Mollohan on the FY 2003 NSF appropriations follows:

"Dear Chairman Walsh and Ranking Member Mollohan:

"We are writing as longtime supporters of fundamental scientific research and education. Science and technology fuel the growth of our economy, provide the means of our national security, and inspire our children. Yet many of the benefits we reap today stem from wise investments made decades ago. We believe that we must now increase the budget of the National Science Foundation the only Federal agency devoted to supporting basic research in science, math, and engineering across all fields and science and math education at all levels in order to provide the discoveries, technologies, and workforce necessary for the future prosperity of our nation.

"As the war against terrorism has demonstrated, technology is key to America's strength. Laser-guided precision bombs exist today because of basic research performed a half-century earlier, long before the many applications of the laser were realized. As pointed out by the Hart-Rudman Commission on National Security, 'the inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S. national security over the next quarter century than any potential conventional war that we might imagine.'

"There is a growing consensus that investing in fundamental scientific research is one of the best things we can do to keep our nation economically strong. This fact has been recognized by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, NASDAQ President Alfred Berkeley, Former Speaker Gingrich, the Committee for Economic Development, and many other respected experts from across the political spectrum. Business Week cautions: 'What's needed is a serious stimulant to basic research, which has been lagging in recent years. Without continued gains in education and training and new innovations and scientific findings the raw materials of growth in the New Economy the technological dynamic will stall.'

"NSF's impact over the past half century has been monumental. Ideas first conceived in the labs of NSF-funded researchers now permeate our daily lives. These include Internet browsers, Doppler weather radar, fiber optics, earthquake hazard mitigation, even the geographic information systems used to coordinate rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. NSF-funded scientists discovered the cause of the ozone hole, found planets around other stars, created nanoscale carbon 'buckyballs', and have garnered over 100 Nobel Prizes.

"NSF is also vital to supplying our nation with scientists, engineers, and skilled technological workers. NSF provides grants to college-level scientists for cutting-edge research and technology. These scientists train students, many of whom then go into industry and become a crucial part of the knowledge transfer between universities and industry. A five-year study released in 1997 showed that technology transfer from academic research added more than $21 billion supporting 180,000 jobs to the American economy each year.

"There has never been a more critical or opportune time to bolster the education of America's children. NSF's math and science education programs work at the pre-college level to raise the scientific and technological literacy of our children, who are tomorrow's workers, teachers, consumers, and public citizens. NSF further aims to improve the skills and content knowledge of K-12 math and science teachers through innovative programs like the Math and Science Partnerships. NSF programs have become important resources for broadening the participation of under-represented groups such as minorities and women in the fields of science, math, and engineering.

"Responding to recent medical and biological breakthroughs, and new opportunities to cure disease, the Federal government this year completes a 5-year, $13.7-billion effort to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health. Yet, related technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, digital mammography, and genomic mapping could not have occurred, and cannot now improve to the next level of proficiency, without underlying knowledge from NSF-supported work in biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, and computer sciences. In comparison, funding for this complementary work of NSF has fallen dangerously out of balance. In fact, this year the proposed $3.7-billion increase to the NIH budget is larger than the total research budget of NSF.

"We ask you to address this imbalance and strengthen science and technology research, development, and education by increasing the NSF budget to $5.5 billion for FY2003 ($720 million over its FY2002 level). The increase would be used to expand core science programs, enabling NSF to begin funding highly ranked grant proposals that are turned down solely for lack of funding. It would also fully fund K-12 education programs that have been authorized by the House, as well as large facility projects that have already been approved by the National Science Board. We believe that Congress' long-term goal should be to at least double the resources currently available to NSF."

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

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