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FYI Number 87: June 13, 2005

House Appropriations Committee Recommends 3.1% Increase for NSF

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives starts its consideration of the FY 2006 Science, State, Justice, Commerce appropriations bill. The accompanying House Report 109-118 was just released, with its recommendation for a 3.1% increase in funding for the National Science Foundation over this year.

Below is the report language pertaining to the foundation, generally; the Research and Related Activities; and Major Research Equipment sections of the report. A forthcoming FYI will provide the report language on Education and Human Resources.

OVERALL NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION:

As detailed in http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/017.html, the Bush Administration requested $5,605.0 million, an increase of $132 million or 2.4% above this year's budget of $5,472.8 million. The bill written by appropriations subcommittee chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) would provide an increase of 3.1%. The report states:

"The Committee recommendation includes a total of $5,643,370,000 for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is $170,546,000 above the current year funding level and $38,370,000 above the request.

"Established in 1950, the National Science Foundation's primary purpose was to develop a national policy on science, and support and promote basic research and education in the sciences filling the void left after World War II. The Committee is committed to keeping the Foundation's current activities true to the founding purpose of supporting basic scientific research."

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES:

The Administration requested a 2.7% or $113 million increase for Research and Related Activities, from $4,220.6 million to $4,333.5 million. The FY 2006 bill would provide an increase of 3.7%. The report contains important language on polar icebreaking ships, nanoelectronics, and a new inducement award, and is as follows:

"The Committee recommends a total of $4,377,520,000 for Research and Related Activities. The recommendation is $156,964,000 above the fiscal year 2005 level and $44,030,000 above the request.

"The recommendation does not include specific funding allocations for each directorate or for individual programs and activities. The Foundation is directed to submit a proposed spending plan to the Committee for its consideration within 30 days of enactment of this Act that addresses the Foundation's highest priority research requirements. This spending plan shall be subject to the reprogramming procedures in section 605 of this Act.

"Language is included that provides up to $425,000,000 for Polar research and operations support, as requested. The recommended funding level in this account acknowledges the decision of the Administration to shift funding for polar icebreaking from the budget of the Coast Guard to that of the NSF. Language is included allowing the NSF Director to use funds under this account to reimburse the Coast Guard for services provided in support of the NSF's mission. Additional language is included requiring that any such reimbursement be treated as a reprogramming of funds under section 605. The Committee believes that burdening the NSF with the responsibility for maintenance and long-term modernization costs of the Coast Guard icebreaking fleet would irresponsibly jeopardize the nation's primary source of funding for critical basic scientific research. While using Coast Guard capabilities may be necessary to meet fiscal year 2006 requirements, the Committee expects NSF to immediately begin a concurrent pursuit of alternative, more economical, icebreaking solutions for 2006 and beyond. The Committee directs NSF to pursue the most cost-effective means of obtaining icebreaking services in the Antarctic for the 2005-2006 season, including, but not limited to, reimbursing the Coast Guard on a mutually agreed upon basis for the operations and maintenance of the U.S. polar icebreaking fleet. NSF is specifically given the flexibility to pursue alternatives to current operations. Should NSF continue to utilize the Coast Guard for icebreaking capabilities in fiscal year 2006, the Committee would expect NSF to model a reimbursement agreement with the Coast Guard on their successful Memorandum of Understanding with the Defense Department.

"The Committee is aware of studies currently underway to review the Nation's icebreaking needs and to examine options for supporting the presence the United States has maintained in the Antarctic for the past four decades. The Committee directs NSF to immediately inform the Committee when the results and recommendations from these studies become available. The Committee anticipates a preliminary report on options for meeting long-term icebreaking needs from the National Academies in September. No later than December 31, 2005, the Committee expects a report from the Office of Polar Programs advisory committee outlining options and potential costs for alternative means of providing logistical support to the McMurdo and South Pole stations in the event that icebreaking capabilities are not available.

"The Committee commends NSF for its Silicon Nanoelectronics and Beyond program which involves the sponsorship of research in the areas of information technology and electronics. The Committee encourages NSF to continue the support of such research in fiscal year 2006.

"The Committee is aware that NSF's Children Research Initiative has assisted important interdisciplinary collaborations that are making important contributions to research in child development. The Committee expects NSF to continue its research efforts in this area in FY 2006.

"The recommendation includes language that allows funds provided under this account to be available for innovation inducement prizes. The concept of inducement awards to encourage broad involvement in solving a specifically stated scientific problem has been a catalyst for scientific advancement since at least the early 18th century. In 1999, a National Academies workshop on this topic encouraged Federal agencies to make more extensive use of this mechanism to pursue particular scientific and technological objectives. The Committee expects NSF to engage the National Academies to craft a prize or categories of prizes that would be of an appropriate scale and to develop the rules and conditions for awarding prizes, and to report back to the Committee on plans to initiate a prize program in fiscal year 2006. The Committee strongly encourages NSF to use this mechanism, particularly in programs that specifically emphasize innovation, to focus on high risk/high payoff research projects. The Committee also expects NSF to encourage private sector involvement in the effort to create a prize program."

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION:

The Administration requested $250.0 million for FY 2006. The House bill does not include the requested $41.78 million for the Rare Symmetry Violating Processes; all other projects would be funded at the requested level. The report language in its entirety states:

"The Committee recommends a total of $193,350,000 for the major research equipment and facilities construction account for fiscal year 2006, an increase of $19,700,000 above the fiscal year 2005 funding level and $56,660,000 below the request. This account provides funding for the construction of major research facilities that provide unique capabilities at the cutting edge of science and engineering.

"The Committee recommendation assumes that, in addition to new fiscal year 2006 appropriations, at least $14,880,000 will be available from prior year appropriations, for a total available funding level of $208,230,000. The Committee recommendation includes funding for the following major projects: $49,240,000 for Atacama Large Millimeter Array construction; $50,620,000 for EarthScope; $50,450,000 for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory; and $57,920,000 for the Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel. The recommendation does not provide for any new project starts, as none were requested."

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

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