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FYI Number 47: April 5, 2005

Senators Looking for Signatures on Letter Supporting DOE Science Funding

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) have launched an effort to increase funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science next year. The success of their effort directly depends upon the extent to which constituents contact their senators in the coming ten days.

One of the best methods to demonstrate support for a program is through a joint letter signed by many Members of Congress. Approximately two weeks ago, Alexander and Bingaman asked their colleagues to sign a letter which will be sent to Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Ranking Member Harry Reid (D-NV). This letter requests their "support for an inflation-adjusted increase of 3.2 percent over FY05 budget levels for this Office, a 7 percent increase above the Administration's FY06 request."

The following 26 senators have agreed to sign the letter: Alexander (TN), Allen (VA), Baucus (MT), Bayh (IN), Bingaman (NM), Boxer (CA), Cantwell (WA), Dodd (CT), Dorgan (ND), Durbin (IL), Harkin (IA), Inouye (HI), Kennedy (MA), Kerry (MA), Lautenberg (NJ), Levin (MI), Lieberman (CT), Mikulski (MD), Murray (WA), Nelson (FL), Obama (IL), Pryor (AR), Salazar (CO), Specter (PA), Stabenow (MI) and Warner (VA).

A similar letter last year was signed by these 55 senators: Akaka (HI), Alexander (TN), Baucus (MT), Bayh (IN), Biden (DE), Bingaman (NM), Breaux (LA)*, Boxer (CA), Cantwell (WA), Clinton (NY), Coleman (MN), Cornyn (TX), Corzine (NJ), Daschle (SD)*, Dayton (MN), DeWine (OH), Dodd (CT), Dorgan (ND), Durbin (IL), Edwards (SC)*, Feinstein (CA), Fitzgerald (IL)*, Graham (FL)*, Graham (SC), Harkin (IA), Hollings (SC)*, Hutchinson (TX), Inouye (HI), Kennedy (MA), Kerry (MA), Kohl (WI), Landrieu (LA), Lautenberg (NJ), Leahy (VT), Levin (MI), Lieberman (CT), Lincoln (AR), Lugar (IN), Mikulski (MD), Murray (WA), Nelson (FL), Pryor (AR), Reed (RI), Roberts (KS), Rockefeller (WV), Santorum (PA), Sarbanes (MD), Schumer (NY), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), Specter (PA), Stabenow (MI), Voinovich (OH), Warner (VA) and Wyden (OR) [*no longer seated]

Members of Congress receive many "Dear Colleague" letters requesting their signature on letters expressing support for a program. The probability that a letter will be signed by a Member greatly increases if constituents inform their senator or representative of the letter and request that the Member sign it. Members who have previously signed a similar letter are more likely to do so again. The Capitol telephone number is 202-224-3121.

The following is the text of the letter from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that is to be spent to Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) requesting a 7% increase in the DOE Office of Science FY 2006 budget. This letter is scheduled to be sent the middle of April.

"Dear Chairman Domenici and Ranking Member Reid:

"There is no room for complacency about maintaining the United States' current scientific strength and technological leadership. That is why we are writing to bring your attention our bipartisan support for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science (the ‘Office') which faces significant cuts (3.8 percent) in the proposed FY06 budget. We request your support for an inflation-adjusted increase of 3.2 percent over FY05 budget levels for this Office, a 7 percent increase about the Administration's FY06 request.

"This Office, the largest funding source for research in the physical sciences, keeps the United States at the leading edge of discovery in high performance computing, nanotechnology, and in basic energy research and related biosciences.

"The Administration's FY06 budget request contains much good news for the U.S. scientific enterprise. The Spallation Neutron Source, which will restore U.S. leadership in neutron scattering science, is fully funded for start-up operations. The Office will begin operations at four Nanoscale Science Research Centers, ensuring that the U.S. stays well ahead of our international competitors in this emerging new scientific discipline. Additionally, construction and planning expenses for a number of major new facilities and ITER (a major international research collaboration in fusion energy) are supported.

"But this encouraging news comes at a high price. To support these critical new initiatives - and ensure the long-term vitality of DOE's scientific infrastructure - the Office of Science is forced to cuts its core research funding to individual researchers. It is not unrealistic to expect that 25 percent reductions in existing scientific personnel and operations at scientific facilities will be needed if the Administration's budget request is approved without consideration of existing programs. As many as 2,000 highly qualified scientific personnel, including our best and brightest graduate students and post doctoral fellows searching for breakthroughs discoveries, may have to be taken off of promising projects. Major scientific research facilities that still have significant productive years ahead of them may have to run at wasteful levels far below their maximum operating capacity, or close down.

"Such a major loss of intellectual capital would mean a nationwide decrease in our scientific capability and economic competitiveness. America's physical sciences' research infrastructure, yet again, would be particularly hard hit, coming at a time when our international competitors in Asia and Europe are increasing their investments in these critical disciplines that underpin virtually ever facet of our lives and economy. We ignore at our peril the unprecedented competitive challenges from abroad. Other countries are investing heavily in research that produces talented, highly-educated workers and cutting-edge companies. For example, China graduates almost four times as many engineers as the United States. India is pouring money into technology parks to lure back native talent and build world-class advanced technology companies. South Korea has leveraged rapid global technology diffusion to ‘leapfrog' into the global economy.

"Our edge in science and technology is at risk, and the Administration's proposed out-year budget projections to FY2010 offer no relief. In fact, the situation worsens. The budget for the Office not only fails to keep pace with inflation, but actually declines for the next five years. Unless we stop this slide and restore the budget to a reasonable level, our entire U.S. scientific enterprise is in danger of eroding. Sustained investment in science and technology must be at the core of America's strategy to successfully compete.

"We are acutely aware of the tight constraints on the available budgetary resources. Still we believe we must reaffirm the centrality and importance of our basic research investments. We urge you to increase the funding for the Office of Science to ensure that America remains at the forefront of scientific capability, thereby enhancing our ability to shape and improve our nation's and the world's future."

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

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