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FYI Number 115: October 17, 2002

House Appropriators Recommend 12.8% Increase for NSF

House and Senate Appropriators have completed work on separate versions of the legislation funding the National Science Foundation for FY 2003. While final resolution of next year's budget was put off until at least the later part of November, the numbers are very good news. The House bill would boost the foundation's budget by 12.8%, while the Senate bill calls for an 11.8% increase. Of particular note in the House bill are specified 15% increases for the Physics subactivity, the Engineering Activity and the Geosciences Activity. The committee also rejected proposed program transfers to NSF, and included extensive language about the Astronomical Sciences program.

The NSF-related language in the House committee report (107-740) is extensive, and may be viewed in full at http://thomas.loc.gov/ What follows are the numbers for both the House and Senate versions of the VA/HUD/Independent Agencies Appropriations bill, and selected passages from the House report. See FYI #89 (/fyi/2002/089.html) for information on the Senate bill.

TOTAL NSF BUDGET: The House bill provides an increase of $614.4 million, or 12.8%, to $5,422.94 million. The Senate bill provides an increase of 11.8%.

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES: The House bill provides an increase of $551.7 million, or 15.3%, to $4,150.0 million. The Senate bill provides an increase of 14.8%.

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES: The House bill provides an increase of $35.6 million, or 4.1%, to $910.6 million. The Senate bill provides an increase of 8.3%.

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES: The House bill provides an increase of $20.7 million, or 14.9%, to $159.5 million. The Senate bill recommends a reduction of 42.9%.

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE REPORT LANGUAGE:

OVER-ALL NSF:

"The Committee is strongly supportive of the National Science Foundation and committed to its mission of providing national leadership and federal financial support of research as the basis for scientific and social advancement for the nation and for the entire world. This commitment is reflected in the substantial 13 percent increase provided in this bill for the NSF for FY 2003.

"As Congress, the executive branch and the American people begin to consider a multi-year build-up of financial support for the NSF, however, the Committee also believes that a review of the agency's organizational, programmatic and personnel structures is appropriate and can provide assurance to the public that the agency is positioned to maximize the opportunities which increased funding can create. The Committee has allocated $1,000,000 . . . for a contract with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to conduct such a study. The Committee expects this contract to be awarded no later than December 31, 2002.

"Without prejudicing the outcome of this NAPA review, the Committee is concerned about the following issues:

"Organizational and program structure. Over the last decade the NSF has evolved into a very complex and multi-layered system of directorates, sub-directorates and programs each with its own leadership and budget. . . ."

"The balance between field driven and NSF driven science priority setting. Second, but clearly related, the Committee believes that this review should consider whether the NSF's approach to its stewardship mission creates the proper balance between necessary and appropriate levels of agency leadership of NSF sponsored science and the need to ensure that this research remains principally investigator initiated work. A corollary question is whether the structure of NSF and management control of its priority setting methodologies have negatively influenced the balance between NSF initiatives and appropriate resource allocations for core science investments."

"The underlying principal around which NSF was founded and which the Committee believes is still the pedestal upon which the success of America's taxpayer supported research rests is that both the choice of research priorities and the choice of individual projects should flow principally from practicing scientists in the field as expressed through organized systems of advice and through external peer review. The Committee believes that it is appropriate to review whether the balance of power in setting research priorities is the appropriate one or whether NSF has become too directive in managing its research portfolios.

"Role of the National Science Board . . . . Recent Congressional action has highlighted, however, the concerns about the relationship between the Board and the agency and its Director and in particular the issue as to how independent the Board is able to operate given its dependence on the Agency for financial support and personnel . . . ."

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES:

"Except as specifically noted herein, in allocating the increases provided by the Committee, the Foundation should give the highest priority to increasing research opportunities for investigator initiated research in the core scientific disciplines . . . . "

"From within the Engineering Directorate, the Committee is concerned that researchers are reaching the physical limits of current complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) process technology and that this will have significant implications for continued productivity growth in the information economy . . . . "

"Under the Geosciences Directorate, the Committee has not recommended approval of the budget request to transfer to the NSF the [EPA] Environmental Education program . . . the [NOAA] National Sea Grant Program . . . or the [USGS] Hydrology of Toxic Substances program . . . . Each of these programs works well within its current framework and the Committee has not been convinced that such transfer as proposed in the budget submission will either enhance the individual programs or benefit the ongoing programs of the Foundation."

"Within the additional funds made available for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences directorate, the Committee expects the Foundation to allocate funds on a basis which provides a high priority for astronomy, including individual investigator grants, and sufficient resources to begin development of important new projects recommended in a recent National Academy of Sciences 10-year plan for astronomical science activities. In addition, the Committee's recommendation for the Astronomical Sciences activity includes $5,000,000 above the budget request for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) program, $4,300,000 above the budget request for the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO), $2,000,000 above the budget request for the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), and no less than the budget request of $4,000,000 for the Telescope Systems Instrumentation Program (TSIP). The Foundation is expected to aggressively continue its program, begun in fiscal 2001, of upgrading on a priority basis its astronomical facilities and equipment.

"Also within Mathematical and Physical Sciences, the Committee's recommendation includes the budget request of $181,870,000 for Mathematical Sciences and not less than $225,000,000, a 15% increase over the fiscal year 2002 funding level, for Physics programs."

"For the Office of Polar Programs (OPP), an increase of $18,260,000 above the budget request has been provided to enhance the ongoing research effort as well as to provide additional necessary resources for operations, research support and logistics, and science and research grant support . . . . "

MAJOR RESEARCH FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION AND EQUIPMENT (MREFC):

"The Committee's recommendation includes the budget requests of $9,720,000 for the Large Hadron Collider, $13,560,000 for the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, $30,000,000 for construction funding of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) aperture-synthesis radio telescope, and $6,000,000 for additional construction requirements necessary to meet enhanced capacity needs at the new South Pole Station.

"In addition the Committee is recommending $25,530,000 as the final installment necessary to complete development of the High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER), and $24,700,000 for continued research and development of the IceCube Neutrino Detector Observatory in Antarctica. This project, building on the successful AMANDA demonstration, is designed to more fully develop knowledge of the origins of the universe as well as the fundamental nature of physical matter using its unique polar telescope. This device will allow scientists to measure, quantify and analyze neutrino particles and their role in these basic questions of science. The amount provided for fiscal 2003 will support continued development, acquisition, pre-construction, testing and logistics support necessary to facilitate IceCube's large-scale construction and deployment.

"Finally, the Committee has provided $40,000,000 for first year funding for the new EarthScope project instead of $35,000,000 as requested in the budget submission, and $10,000,000 for support of the Terascale Computing System and the Distributed Terascale Facility (also known as ``Teragrid''), instead of $20,000,000 as proposed in the budget request.

"With regard to EarthScope, the five-year budget projections of this important project initially called for lesser funding requirements in the first, fourth, and fifth years of the project and dramatically increased funding in years two and three. In an attempt to provide a relatively level funding profile for the life of the project, the project's sponsors have developed an alternative request which provides $40,000,000 in year one, $42,000,000 in year two, $40,000,000 in year three, $39,000,000 in year four, and $37,000,000 in year five. In addition to the obvious benefits such level funding will bring to the annual appropriations process, the sponsors have suggested this new approach brings the added benefits of achieving significant cost savings over the long-term operation and maintenance of the facility, and providing higher quality data through the acquisition of instrumentation with uniform technical characteristics.

"With regard to support of the two new terascale facilities . . . $10,000,000 in fiscal 2003 and $10,000,000 in fiscal year 2004."

"The Committee's recommendation does not include funding for the new National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project as requested in the budget submission. This decision, made without prejudice to the NEON project, allows the Committee to use its limited MREFC resources to fully fund ongoing projects as well as begin funding for one new research effort, the EarthScope project."

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES:

"The Committee's recommendation includes the following program levels: Math and Science Partnership, $160,000,000; Educational System Reform, $40,250,000; EPSCoR, $86,000,000; Elementary, Secondary and Informal Education, $177,440,000; Undergraduate Education, $155,600,000; Graduate Education, $128,380,000; Human Resource Development, $95,710,000; and Research, Evaluation and Communication, $67,200,000. . . . "

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

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