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FYI Number 43: March 30, 2005

In Support of Science: Rep. Ehlers on FY 2006 NIST, NSF and NOAA Funding

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards of the House Science Committee (see http://www.house.gov/science/committeeinfo/members/environment/index.htm ). In this role, he recently appeared before the newly established House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, and Commerce and Related Agencies, chaired by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) (see http://appropriations.house.gov/.) This subcommittee does not have jurisdiction over the DOE Office of Science. Ehlers testified in support of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at this March 15 hearing. Selections from his remarks follow:

"I know your Subcommittee must consider many pressing national priorities as you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Appropriations bill, including the continuing war on terrorism, facilitating economic stimulus, and maintaining fiscal responsibility. Mr. Chairman, I fully support your efforts to balance these priorities and thank you for your past support of Department of Commerce programs. In choosing among the important programs in the new Science, State, Justice, and Commerce Appropriations bill, we must not overlook the fact that scientific research and development forms the foundation of increased innovation, economic vitality, and national security for our nation.

"One of our nation's most critical science organizations is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Almost every Federal agency and U.S. industry sector uses the standards, measurements, and certification services that NIST labs provide. The future of many cutting-edge technologies depends on the research and technical expertise of NIST's laboratories. Emerging fields such as nanotechnology, quantum computing, and bioengineering will not mature into U.S. job-creating industries and markets without the existence of scientifically-based industrial standards. There is no other U.S. organization, public or private, with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide these highly technical services in a non-discriminatory manner. Furthermore, the quality of NIST scientists and research is superb, as evidenced by the two Nobel prizes they have won in the past few years. NIST's expertise in this kind of cutting-edge science is crucial for U.S. industry to remain competitive in the increasingly globalized economy.

"I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that you provide the President's requested funding of $426 million in FY 2006 for the Scientific and Technical Research Services (STRS) account at NIST [see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/020.html] . This is the bare minimum level necessary for NIST laboratories to continue their vital contribution to our national economy and security. I appreciate your support in FY05 and hope we can build on that in FY06.

"Also within NIST, I would like to mention the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. This program has proven its worth over and over as an appropriate use of government funds, and it is critical to help provide the edge that U.S. manufacturers need to compete in the global economy. Without funding MEP at $106 million in FY 2006, MEP centers across the country will be forced to cut back their vital services to small and medium-sized manufacturers services that are not replicated by any other private or public organization. I urge you to fund the MEP program at $106 million in FY 2006.

"I would also like to discuss the National Science Foundation, which is new to your subcommittee. In 2002 Congress recognized NSF's role in driving scientific innovation and improving our national security, and wisely authorized a doubling of the agency's science research budget. However, we have not stayed the course on this proposed doubling path. In 2005, the budget for NSF was reduced, particularly in the area of education programs. I am particularly concerned about the trend of the current budget request that reduces the Education and Human Resources (EHR) budget at the Foundation by more than $104 million, or 12 percent [see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/022.html]. This dramatic decrease is unparalleled in other parts of the federal science and technology portfolio, and, indeed other parts of the total budget. Now more than ever, workers need a fundamental understanding of math, science and engineering as well as technical know-how to succeed. This type of education research is performed at NSF, where a merit-reviewed process is well understood due to the research experience of the Foundation. I ask that the committee restore the funding to NSF in this year's appropriations process to a level that recognizes the important role NSF plays in education, defense, homeland security, and a healthy national economy.

"Science and technology are critical to our economic prosperity as well as national security. Economists attribute more than half the economic growth in the past 50 years to technological innovation. Federally funded basic research has been responsible for groundbreaking technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), global positioning system (GPS), human genome mapping, fiber optics, lasers, and the Internet.

"I urge you to fund the National Science Foundation in FY06 at $6.1 billion [see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/017.html ]. This amount is $2.4 billion below the authorized level for 2006. Given NSF's importance to both national defense and homeland security, it is critical to provide for at least inflationary increases each year. When you consider the funding level for NSF in FY06, it is important to note the cuts that the NSF budget endured in the FY05 appropriations process. Last year, Congress only appropriated $5.47 billion for the NSF, well below the requested $5.75 billion for the Foundation, and beyond the President's recommended rate to curtail overall discretionary spending. Consequently, the FY06 request appears to be an increase, but this is only when you compare it to the enacted amount of the FY05 process. Due to the importance of NSF objectives, including support for core science research, the development of information technology, engineering research, and K-12 education programs, I believe it is necessary for us to quickly remedy these reductions. Given NSF's vital contributions to our homeland and national security missions, I respectfully request that you fund NSF at $6.1 billion for FY06 and would appreciate your consideration of any additional amounts.

"Finally, I would like to briefly express my support for the President's request of $3.6 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This level of funding will allow NOAA to maintain current services in support of its mission to understand and predict changes in the Earth's weather, marine environment, and climate, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources.

"In summary, as a scientist and a subcommittee chair, I ask you to fund NIST labs at the requested level of $426 million and NSF at $6.1 billion as a priority over any additional funding for other science agencies in this bill."

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

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