Earlier this month, David Goldston, Chief of Majority Staff for the
House Science Committee, offered his views on several issues of interest
to the physical sciences community. They included:
Goldston commented that some in the fusion community see U.S. expenditures
for ITER (estimated to be $1 billion+) as being in addition to the current
level of funding for DOE's fusion energy sciences program. "That's
just not affordable," Goldson said. DOE is correct in prioritizing
future fusion research, he stated. Goldston emphasized that the fusion
community must agree on how research funding should be shifted to accommodate
ITER. The U.S. should not commit to ITER funding without a clear strategy
as to how to pay for it, he said, adding, "I don't see some big
bump-in in Office of Science funding." The Fusion Energy Sciences
Advisory Committee will play a major role in reaching a consensus about
the dimensions of the future program.
Goldston's words reiterate those that his boss, House Science Committee
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), made on the House floor in May during
consideration of the FY 2006 funding bill for the Office of Science
Boehlert told his colleagues: "But the fusion community and apparently
the appropriators seem to be saying that the domestic fusion program
has to be held harmless for ITER to move forward. That's simply not
realistic, and we cannot move forward with ITER with that presumption.
So we need to decide before we commit to ITER whether we're willing
to make the necessary sacrifices to pay for it." He later said,
"I will do all I can to prevent the U.S. from entering into an
agreement if no one is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to pay
Echoing his chairman, Goldston concluded his remarks by calling for
the prioritization of future research. "If not, we will try and
kill that project," he warned.
Goldston is confident that differences between the House and Senate
versions of the NASA reauthorization bill can be resolved (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/113.html).
Regarding the Administration's vision for NASA to return man to the
moon, send manned missions to Mars, and beyond, Goldston commented that
it is "this [plan] or nothing." He said that the main issue
will be timing.
FUTURE FUNDING FOR SCIENCE:
Previous double digit increases in some science budgets should not
be expected in the near future, Goldston said. He contends that funding
increases covering inflation will be seen as a pretty good outcome.
One indicator to watch is the extent to which science funding is treated
the same as other areas of the budget. A "good signal" will
be increases above that prevailing level.
CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION:
Legislation limiting green house gases will occur in the longer-term,
with action to be expected first in the Senate, Goldston predicted.