Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) will send a letter
to key appropriators later this month in support of a FY 2006 budget
of $6.1 billion for the National Science Foundation. Holt and Ehlers
have invited their colleagues to sign this letter. The number of representatives
who sign this letter will depend heavily on the extent to which constituents
express their support for this effort. The deadline for signatures is
"We need to get back on track after the cuts of FY 2005,"
states this letter to Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce and Ranking Member
Alan Mollohan (D-WV). Wolf and Mollohan will play a critical role in
determining the FY 2006 funding for NSF. Last fall, the foundation's
budget was cut by $105 million for the current year. The Bush Administration
requested an increase of $132 million for next year for a total budget
of $5.605 billion. Even if this request was funded in full, it would
be less than what the NSF received in FY 2004. A similar letter in support
of NSF was signed by 162 representatives last year.
The mailboxes of Members of Congress are filled with "Dear Colleague"
letters requesting their support for a program evidence that
these letters can be effective. Members are far more likely to sign
such a letter if constituents take the time to alert their representatives
to these letters and indicate their support for the effort. The telephone
number for the U.S. House of Representatives is 202-225-3121.
"Dear Chairman Wolf and Ranking Member Mollohan:
"As supporters of fundamental scientific research and
education, we respectively ask that you make the National Science
Foundation (NSF) funding a priority and provide $6.1 billion in your
Fiscal Year 2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce Subcommittee
"Innovation is the engine that drives our economy. Economists
estimate that more than half the economic growth in the past 50 years
can be attributed to technological innovation. As other nations are
significantly increasing their funding of basic research, the U.S.
leadership in science and technology is endangered and cannot be indefinitely
taken for granted.
"Clearly the government plans a role in innovation,
as two-thirds of U.S. patents cite federal funding as their source
of support. Federally funded basic research has cultivated groundbreaking
technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), global positioning
systems (GPS), human genome mapping, lasers, fiber optics and many,
many more. NSF research supports technologies that are later applied
by other agencies, ranging from Doppler radar, which has saved many
lives through accurate weather forecasts, to laser-guided weapons,
which have revolutionized combat. Recently, NSF has pioneered the
developing field of nanotechnology, with innumerable applications
to the defense of our nation, improvements in healthcare, and quality
of life. Though NSF receives only 4 percent of the total federal research
and development budget, it is the bedrock of our scientific strength
and provides the basis for innovation and development throughout our
"NSF has also been praised as a model of administrative
efficiency for its low overhead costs and efficient use of tax dollars
over 95 percent of its funds go directly to support education
and research programs.
"NSF is a key supporter of Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics (STEM) education. In 2004, it supported more than
200,000 students, teachers and researchers providing essential
development for the current and future generations of scientists,
engineers and technical workers. This year that number will drop to
168,000 as NSF budget reductions cut support for undergraduates and
K-12 teachers and students. Now, more than ever, we must invest in
our children's education to develop their talent, ensure their success,
and maintain the quality of our workforce and economic strength. NSF,
with its expertise in merit-review awards, is uniquely positioned
to contribute to math and science education. NSF education endeavors
are complementary to those of the Department of Education, as NSF
research provides the foundation for much of the applications promoted
by the Department of Education. We should continue to strongly support
the educational mission of the NSF.
"In the FY 2005 Omnibus Spending Bill (P.L. 108-447),
the NSF budget was cut by $180 million, or $272 million below the
President's request of $5.75 billion. We must act to restore this
cut as well as provide an increase consistent with previous NSF budgets.
In 2002, Congress recognized the importance of an investment in basic
research by overwhelmingly passing the National Science Foundation
Authorization Act (P.L.107-368) which authorizes doubling the budget
of NSF over five years. We realize that budget realities may not allow
Congress to fully fund NSF at the FY 2006 authorized level of $8.5
billion. However, we need to get back on track after the cuts of FY
2005. Therefore, we believe than an increase above the FY 2005 $5.75
billion request is warranted.
"We are mindful that you will be faced with very difficult
choices this year. But we must recognize the unique role that NSF
funding plays in increasing economic growth in our nation and providing
a means to compete successfully against other countries. We respectfully
request that you fund NSF at $6.1 billion for FY 2006. We cannot afford
to shortchange the fundamental sciences on which our future and our
children's future depend."