FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

Efforts to Increase Current Year Funding for Science

Richard M. Jones
Number 49 - April 22, 2008  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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Efforts continue to increase current year funding for the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy's Office of Science. On April 17, thirty-one Democratic and Republican representatives sent a letter to the senior House leaders and the senior leadership of the House Appropriations Committee. "We are writing in support of including funding in the FY2008 supplemental appropriations bill for federal research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education that will help stimulate good jobs and economic growth and protect U.S. competitiveness," this letter states, which later concludes: "We recognize that you are preparing a wartime supplemental, and that you will face intense pressure to fund competing priorities. However, we would not be making this request if we did not believe the situation at our nation's laboratories and research universities and the need to improve STEM education warranted immediate attention and supplemental resources."

Corporations, scientific associations, and universities have sent similar letters to President Bush and the congressional leadership. A letter signed by 244 organizations states, "we ask that you remain open to the inclusion of funding for scientific research and STEM education in any legislation presented to you for signature."

The Democratic leadership wants to have this bill to the White House by Memorial Day. It now appears that the legislation will be on the House floor by the week of May 5. There is still no word about what domestic spending provisions may be included in the legislation, and no new speculation about whether President Bush would sign legislation that included domestic funding.

The letter to the House leadership follows:

"Dear Speaker Pelosi, Republican Leader Boehner, [Appropriations Committee] Chairman Obey, and [Appropriations Committee] Ranking Member Lewis:

"We are writing in support of including funding in the FY2008 supplemental appropriations bill for federal research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education that will help stimulate good jobs and economic growth and protect U.S. competitiveness.

"We empathize with the desire of many of our colleagues and the Administration to keep the supplemental bill focused on spending for the military. However, should the House choose to include additional funding, the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation sorely need an infusion of funds in FY2008 to prevent the permanent loss of hundreds of the nation's best scientists and engineers; leverage past U.S. investments in one-of-a-kind research faci1ities; restart research critical to American innovation and competitiveness; continue to educate the next generation of scientific talent; and restore our international credibility and commitment to the international fusion experiment, ITER.

"With supplemental funding, the DOE Office of Science would not have to furlough or lay off over 550 scientists, engineers, and technical and administrative support staff at our national laboratories, leading to the permanent loss of this expertise. While the continued employment of these scientists will stimulate the economy in the short-term, their research will contribute greatly to America's long-term economic growth, competitiveness, and job creation. Supplemental funding also will maximize the run-time of user facilities at our national laboratories, making the most of past U.S. investments in unique facilities that are critical to innovation in industry and academia, and preventing U.S. companies from having to conduct their research at overseas facilities with similar capabilities. It will renew our commitment to international scientific projects like ITER and will help the U.S. retain its leadership in a variety of energy fields, including high energy physics.

"At NSF, supplemental funding would allow awards to be made for hundreds of 'excellent'-rated proposals which have otherwise gone unfunded. These research grants would support hundreds of graduate students, undergraduates, senior personnel and post-doctorates. In addition, this funding would permit NSF to support smaller schools' instrumentation, graduate research fellowships and support the training of science, technology, engineering, and math teachers. Without these funds, we will leave on the table innovative ideas that could solve many of our nation's pressing problems. In addition, one of the most critical needs within NSF is additional funding for teacher training through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program and the Math and Science Partnership program. Last year, Congress revamped the Noyce program and significantly boosted authorization levels for MSP to ensure that existing and new K-12 STEM teachers across the country have strong content knowledge and effective teaching skills.

"Finally, supplemental funding for these agencies will send a message to young Americans pursuing - or thinking of pursing - degrees and careers in science, math, and technology that their nation recognizes how invaluable their knowledge and expertise are to the future security and competitiveness of our nation.

"We have attached a copy of a letter recently sent to President Bush by a broad coalition of companies, academic institutions, and research interests expressing support for the inclusion of this urgently needed funding. The 244 signatures on this letter clearly demonstrate the real concern that exists related to investments in research and STEM education.

"We sincerely appreciate your consideration of this request, which is consistent with the bipartisan America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69), the goals of the Democratic Innovation Agenda and the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. We recognize that you are preparing a wartime supplemental, and that you will face intense pressure to fund competing priorities. However, we would not be making this request if we did not believe the situation at our nation's laboratories and research universities and the need to improve STEM education warranted immediate attention and supplemental resources."

This letter was signed by:

Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA)
Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA)
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI)
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD)
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN)
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX)
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC)
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX)
Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA)
Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC)
Rep. George Miller (D-CA)
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI)
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI)
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)
Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA)
Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO)
Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN)
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM)
Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA)
Rep. David Wu (D-OR)

The letter to President Bush cited above was signed by 244 associations, businesses, and universities, including several of AIP's Member Societies: American Association of Physicists in Medicine, American Association of Physics Teacher, American Physical Society, and Optical Society of America. The text of this April 16 letter follows:

"Dear Mr. President:

"As leaders of America's business, academic and research communities, we are deeply concerned about the state of our country's competitive position in the world. Though there are many issues relevant to protecting our interests in the global marketplace, none is more pressing than the need for additional funding for scientific research and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

"As you work with Congress on a supplemental appropriations request for the current fiscal year, we ask that you remain open to the inclusion of funding for scientific research and STEM education in any legislation presented to you for signature.

"Such action will allow for the fulfillment of the commitments made in your American Competitiveness Initiative and in the America COMPETES Act signed into law last summer.

"As our country struggles to stabilize our economy and build for the future, an immediate commitment to research and education funding is both timely and relevant. This is an urgent and necessary step that will enhance our country's economic strength, our competitiveness and allow for continued innovation."

A list of the signatories of this letter can be viewed here. Similar letters were sent to the congressional leadership signed by many of the same organizations.

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