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FYI Number 92: July 14, 2006

Senate Appropriators Provide 7.4% Increase for NSF

The Senate Appropriations Committee has just released committee report language recommending a 7.4% increase in funding for the National Science Foundation for FY 2007. Senate appropriators reduced the $6,020.2 million request for the foundation by $28.3 million. The Senate Departments of Committee and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee is chaired by Richard Shelby (R-AL); the Ranking Minority Member is Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

The House-passed version of this bill, H.R. 5672, fully funds the Administration's request. The NSF is in a strong position as it heads into this fall's House-Senate conference committee which will determine the foundation's final FY 2007 budget.

Accompanying this bill is Senate Committee Report 109-280. Selections from this report follow; the full text will soon be available at http://thomas.loc.gov/ under "Other Legislative Activity - Committee Reports."

OVERALL:

The Administration requested, and the House provided, an increase of 7.9% or $439.0 million, from $5,581.2 million to $6,020.2 million.

The Senate provided an increase of 7.4% or $410.5 million to $5,991.7 million. The foundation's request for Salaries and Expenses was reduced by $24.7 million.

There is important language in the committee's report explaining the approach taken by the Senate appropriators:

"NSF is at the leading edge of the research and discoveries that will create the jobs and technologies of the future.

"The Committee has had to make difficult funding choices within the amount provided to the Foundation for the coming fiscal year. NSF plays a critical role in supporting fundamental research, education and infrastructure at colleges, universities, and other institutions throughout the country. Through these efforts, NSF provides funds for discovery in many fields, but also holds the unique stewardship within the Federal research and development enterprise of developing the next generation of scientists and engineers. In order to preserve NSF's intrinsic nature of providing basic research grants across many scientific disciplines, the Committee has chosen to concentrate the available funds to areas that will preserve the Nation's ability to lead the world in the areas of basic research. Additional funding above the amounts provided in fiscal year 2006 for both the research and education accounts reflect this emphasis, as well as the desire of the Committee to provide as much opportunity for the Nation's current and future researchers.

"The Committee is fully supportive of the American Competitiveness Initiative [ACI]. The funding levels anticipated for NSF will certainly provide the vital funding that will broaden the Nation's understanding in fundamental science disciplines. However, the Committee feels that the ACI neglects the education work NSF does in support of research across the country. Broadening participation to underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities, in the sciences will only further the goals of the ACI as proposed in the budget request. For this reason, the Committee has chosen to redistribute a portion of the funds requested as part of this new initiative."

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES:

The Administration sought, and the House provided, an increase of 7.7% or $334.5 million, from $4,331.5 million to $4,666.00 million.

The Senate bill recommended an increase of 7.3% or $314.9 million, to $4,646.4 million. This amount is $19,530,000 below the request.

The report stated:

"The Committee has provided the budget request of $386,930,000 for polar research activities. Within this amount $57,000,000 is provided for icebreaking activities.

"The Committee recommends $101,220,000 for the Plant Genome Research Program. The Committee remains a strong supporter of this important program due to its potential impact on improving economically significant crops. The Committee also recognizes its vast potential in combating hunger in poor countries.

"The Committee recommends the requested amount of $50,740,000 for the operations of the National Radio Astronomy Observatories. The operations, maintenance, and development of new instrumentation at the Very Large Array, the Very Long Baseline Array, and the Green Bank Telescope allow these world-class facilities to provide valuable research into the origins of the universe.

"NSF has been the lead agency for the National Nanotechnology Initiative, and will continue to contribute to this emerging technology. The Committee recommends the full funding level requested for nanotechnology. This level of funding will allow the Foundation to continue to be the leader for this initiative. NSF is encouraged to make sure that public misconceptions of this field are minimized.

"The Office of International Science and Engineering [OISE] has worked to ensure that U.S. researchers are involved with leading research across the globe. As research becomes more collaborative - with partnerships reaching across nations, the work of this office - identifying research opportunities around the globe - will grow. The Committee supports the fiscal year 2007 funding request for OISE in order to keep U.S. research at the forefront of global science."

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES:

The Administration requested an increase of 2.5% or $19.6 million, from $796.7million to $816.2 million.

The House bill would increase this budget by 4.5% or $35.8 million, to $832.4 million.

The Senate bill recommended an increase of 4.9% or $39.1 million, to $835.8 million. This amount is $19,530,000 above the request.

"The Committee strongly encourages NSF to continue support for undergraduate science and engineering education. At a time when enrollment in STEM fields of study continues to decline, it is important that NSF use its position to support students working towards degrees in these areas.

"NSF must play a significant role in attracting more of the best and brightest students in the Nation into the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology fields as part of the American Competitiveness Initiative [ACI]. The Committee also urges NSF to work towards increasing the number of women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups to the greatest extent possible.

"To address the importance of broadening science and technology participation is of concern to the Committee and the recommendation provides funding amounts for the following programs: $32,000,000 for Historically Black Colleges and Universities- Undergraduate Program [HBCU–UP]; $43,000,000 for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program; and $30,000,000 for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion program.

"The Committee has included $110,000,000 for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR], of which at least $65,000,000 shall be used for the Research Infrastructure Improvement [RII] component supporting research areas aligned with statewide EPSCoR science and technology priorities. By providing additional funds for the EPSCoR program, the Committee feels that the goals of the ACI to keep the Nation competitive will be accomplished as the research and development capacity of the country is expanded."

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION:

House and Senate appropriators provided all of the $237.3 million request except for $3.0 million for the Judgement Fund of the U.S. Treasury (Antarctic Program aircraft.) Current funding is $190.9 million. The Senate report language is as follows:

"The Committee recommendation includes requested funding for five continuing projects, as follows: $47,890,000 for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array [ALMA]; $27,400,000 for EarthScope; $28,650,000 for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory; $42,880,000 for the Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel; and $9,130,000 for South Pole Station Modernization. The Committee feels that the highest priorities within this account are the projects that are currently under construction. (See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/084.html for comparable House report language.)

"The Committee understands that ALMA has recently been reviewed by NSF and may require additional funding beyond the amounts requested within the fiscal year 2007 budget submission. If additional funds are required for ALMA, the Committee will consider a reprogramming of funds from within the resources provided in this account to accommodate such funding needs.

"In addition, the recommendation also includes funding for the following new projects: $56,000,000 for the Alaska Region Research Vessel, which shall be home-ported in the same location as the vessel it is replacing, the Alpha Helix; $13,500,000 for the Ocean Observatories Initiative; and $12,000,000 for the National Ecological Observatory Network."

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

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