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FYI Number 93: August 5, 2002

Congressional Efforts to Boost DOE Office of Science Budget

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 of Science.

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 funding levels.)

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/.

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

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