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FYI Number 5: January 11, 2007

Critical Timing: Support Needed for Letter on FY 2007 DOE Science Request

A letter has just been sent to members of the House of Representatives in support of President Bush’s $4.1 billion FY 2007 request for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As is true for the NSF “Dear Colleague” letter discussed in FYI #3, the deadline for signatures on this letter is the close of business tomorrow, January 12. Constituents who support the $4.1 billion request should contact their representative to urge that they sign a letter to key House appropriators that was sent by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) yesterday to all Members of the House of Representatives.

As stated in FYI #3 (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/003.html), FY 2007 funding for science programs is at a critical juncture, with decisions to be made in the next few weeks whether program budgets should be flat-funded or increased. The House passed its version of the FY 2007 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill in May by a vote of 404-20 (8 not voting) which included the full 14.1% increase requested by President Bush (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/068.html.) Senate appropriators passed their version of this bill in June, providing a 16.6% increase for the Office of Science (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/088.html.) The Senate leadership never brought this legislation to the floor. According to the Department of Energy, the $503.3 million increase sought by the administration would mean that “most research programs and facility operations are restored to near optimal levels, and there are several increases for construction projects and selected research activities."

Representatives have until the close of business on Friday, January 12, to sign the below letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI), Ranking Minority Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Peter Visclosky (D-IN), and Ranking Member David Hobson (R-OH). As noted in FYI #3, Members of Congress receive many “Dear Colleague” letters requesting their signature on letters such as this. Expressions of constituent interest are critical in getting such a letter acted upon.

The telephone number for the switchboard of the U.S. House of Representatives is 202-224-3121. The name of your representative is easily located by using the search box in the header at http://www.house.gov/

The complete text of this letter distributed by Rep. Biggert follows:

Dear Chairman Obey, Ranking Member Lewis, Chairman Visclosky, and Ranking Member Hobson:

Thank you for making basic research funding and economic competitiveness a priority by approving the requested increase for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science in the Fiscal Year 2007 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. We share your commitment to increasing federal funding for research in the physical sciences. As you complete your work on a Continuing Resolution for the remainder of fiscal year 2007, we request that you fund the DOE Office of Science at $4.1 billion, the level requested by the President and approved by the House of Representatives and by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Without this level of investment in research and scientific infrastructure, our nation risks falling behind our global economic competitors. The National Academies of Science report, “Rising above the Gathering Storm,” stated it starkly: “The scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength.” As one of its principal recommendations, this report called on the federal government to increase its investment in basic research in the physical sciences.

Supporting over 40 percent of basic research in the physical sciences - more than any other federal agency - the DOE Office of Science is the nation's primary supporter of research in the physical sciences. That is why President Bush proposed to increase funding for the DOE Office of Science to $4.1 billion in fiscal year 2007 as part of his American Competitiveness Initiative. This proposed increase received strong, bipartisan support in Congress. In April of 2006, 138 House members communicated this support in a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, who subsequently provided the funding requested. [See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/056.html]

Freezing the DOE Office of Science budget at the fiscal year 2006 level would have a significant adverse impact, since Congress essentially provided flat funding for the DOE Office of Science in fiscal year 2006 that resulted in a cut when accounting for inflation. Maintaining this level of funding in fiscal year 2007 could result in the closure of one or two national user facilities, produce sharp cutbacks in the operation and usage of other facilities, delay and thereby increase construction costs of approved new facilities, require layoffs of hundreds of scientists, necessitate sharp cutbacks in university programs, and jeopardize U.S. commitments to international projects.

We recognize that you face some significant challenges and difficult choices as you complete your work on a Continuing Resolution for the remainder of fiscal year 2007. However, funding a widely-supported increase for the DOE Office of Science would send a strong signal to the American public and to American industry that Congress has made innovation and economic growth a priority. That is why we urge you to provide the $4.1 billion requested by the Administration and approved by the House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committee for the DOE Office of Science. Please let us know if there is any way we can be of assistance.

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

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