Funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science has
remained at the same level as that of 1990 (constant dollars.)
While budgets for the National Institutes of Health and the
National Science Foundation have dramatically increased over
the last few years, the Office of Science has been at or below
the rate of inflation during the last decade. Efforts are
underway to change that funding situation on Capitol Hill.
Congress hopes to enact sweeping energy legislation before it
goes home this fall. This is a complex undertaking involving
many contentious issues such as oil exploration in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge. The energy bill, H.R. 4, serves as
a vehicle for those supporting a larger budget for the Office
When the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4 one year ago,
it authorized a single 15% increase in the FY 2002 Office of
Science budget. The more recent Senate version of this
legislation authorized increases ranging from 9 to 15% in
Fiscal Years 2003 through 2006.
Conferees will be working this fall on a compromise version of
the energy bill acceptable to both chambers and President
Bush. In order to demonstrate House support for the kind of
authorization levels that are in the Senate version of the
bill, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) just introduced H.R. 5270.
Biggert's bill authorizes an 8% increase in the budget for the
Office of Science in FY 2003. Fiscal Years 2004 through 2006
would receive authorization increases of 15% per year. H.R.
5270 and the Senate energy bill would provide a roughly
comparable increase in the authorization levels by FY 2006.
(Authorization legislation guides, but does not set, actual
H.R. 5270 has 17 cosponsors: Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Leonard
Boswell (D-IA), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Michael Capuano (D-MA),
Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Felix Grucci (R-NY), Doc Hastings (R-
WA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Honda (D-CA), Amo Houghton (R-
NY), Timothy Johnson (R-IL), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Lynn
Rivers (D-MI), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Ellen Tausher (D-CA), Zach
Wamp (R-TN), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
Supporters of a larger budget for the Office of Science in
coming years are focusing their attention on increasing the
number of cosponsors of H.R. 5270 before this section of the
energy bill comes before House and Senate conferees. There
will be three dozen conferees from the House alone in this
conference. Those representing the House when this section of
the bill is considered are Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Ralph
Hall (D-TX), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and
Jerry Costello (D-IL). All of these members of the House
Science Committee are strong supporters of science, but they
will need to be able to point to the list of cosponsors on
H.R. 5270 to strengthen their case. (As noted above, the
House version of this bill was silent on authorization except
for the current year.)
The House Science Committee's Energy Subcommittee held a
hearing on the Office of Science budget on July 25.
Subcommittee chairman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) began by stating,
"While I welcome the additional funding being made available
in support of science through NIH and NSF, I am concerned that
flat funding for the Office of Science raises serious
questions as to the future of basic research in the physical
sciences in the U.S. and the impact this has on national
economic and technological competitiveness. It also affects
our ability to educate the next generation of scientists and
engineers in these disciplines." Office of Science Director
Raymond Orbach, Dr. Jerome Friedman, and Dr. Richard Smalley
testified at this hearing, all of them noting the many
research opportunities that would be afforded through higher
levels of funding.
Congress will be very busy when it returns in September. It will have
all thirteen appropriations bills to pass before October 1, as well
as the consideration of major legislation on topics ranging from homeland
security to prescription drug coverage. Constituents will need to call
their representatives' attention to H.R. 5270. The House of Representatives
maintains a web site for email communication at http://www.house.gov/writerep/.