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Senators Mikulski and Hutchison on Proposed FY 2012 Funding for NSF, NASA, NIST

Richard M. Jones
Number 129 - October 25, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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In an effort to get the FY 2012 appropriations bills passed, the Senate is taking a new approach by bundling three of the twelve funding measures into a single bill.  One of those three bills is the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  The Senate considered this legislation during several days of floor debate last week, with a final vote on passage scheduled for next week.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is the chair of the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.  In remarks on the Senate floor last week, she spoke of the bipartisan support she has received from Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), the impacts of constrained funding, and her opposition to a move to further reduce funding.  The following are selections from Mikulski and Hutchison’s comments:

Mikulski on the Subcommittee’s Funding Challenges:

“We face two very pressing funding challenges that are critical to life and safety. One is the next generation of weather satellites. It is our weather satellites that not only say whether we are going to have stormy weather, but our weather operations also give us early predictions for everything from tornadoes to hurricanes. Also, we have a growing and explosive prison population. Together, looking at just those two, the issue related to an exploding population in prisons, meaning more prisoners, more density in prisons -- they require $350 million more in our budget, and we needed almost $400 million for our weather satellites.”

Mikulski on the Impact of Funding Constraints on Innovation Programs:

“We have worked hand in glove with the authorizers on the America COMPETES Act. Senator Hutchison is a member of that [Commerce, Science and Transportation] committee and one of the promoters of that. The America COMPETES Act recommends that we increase funding for NSF and other science agencies by 7 percent every year. Well, we would settle for 3 percent every year. This is to come up with the new ideas for the new jobs, for the new products. But what did we have to do? We didn't raise it by 7 percent; we didn't raise it by the amount we want; in fact, we had to reduce it by 3 percent.

“All those who would like to pound their chests and go ‘hoo-ha hoo-ha’ on American exceptionalism have to realize that cuts have consequences. But we did work to ensure the fact that we have funded the national space agency at $17.9 billion. It is $1.5 billion below the authorized level, which, again, Senator Hutchison is one of the lead authorizers. We did preserve a balanced space program, human space flight, space science, also aeronautics, and the development of a reliable space transportation system. This means, though, that NASA will be asked once again to do more.”

Mikulski on the James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes:

“We did fund the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the successor to Hubble. By funding the James Webb Space Telescope, we will ensure America's lead in astronomy and in physics for the next 50 years.    I am very proud of the fact that a Marylander at Johns Hopkins and the Space Telescope Institute, on the Hopkins campus, just won the 2011 Nobel Prize for physics --Dr. Adam Riess. When he accepted the Nobel Prize, do you know what he said? He said: I could not have done my Nobel Prize without the Hubble telescope. All my research is based on the Hubble. Then he said: I want to thank the American people for supporting the political leadership that funded the Hubble and kept Hubble in space during very dark times. We won that Nobel Prize. It is going to reveal secrets of the universe and secrets of physics that are going to help us again invent new kinds of things.”

Mikulski on China, NIH, and the NSF:

“There are many who like to wring their hands about China, and China is surging ahead. We can't stop China, but we can stop ourselves. And the question is do we want to stop ourselves in what we need to do? We need to promote commerce, trade, patents to protect our intellectual property, make sure we have a standard-setting agency, so if you invent it, you create the standard, so you can sell it around the world. We need to be able to save lives so we can save them not only at NIH in finding cures but also throughout Maryland, the Plains of the United States or in my own community. You know when a hurricane is coming, you know when a tornado is coming. But right now the Chinese are taking what is our National Science Foundation and they are replicating it, and we are, unfortunately, forced to keep it at a very modest funding level.”

Hutchison on Space Telescopes and Innovation:

“I will just say that I relate so much to what the chairman [Mikulski] said about the Webb telescope and the importance of that, and that the Nobel Prize winner whom we are so proud to have from America - in astronomy - mentioned that was how he was able to do his research makes me so proud that we have made that kind of investment. You will see that in other areas where our finest scientists have been supported, and it is the kind of research that is not going to be done in the private sector. So this is how we will be able to create something that will provide jobs of the future. America is ahead in the world. Our economy is vibrant not because we manufacture better but because we have the ideas for the manufactured products that have kept our economy going for hundreds of years.”

Hutchison on NASA:

“Lastly, this bill provides significant support for NASA. The diverse set of programs that are aimed at the exploration of space and understanding Earth are so important for our country's future. Senator Mikulski and I have crafted a bill that balances the needs of science while also encouraging the vehicles that will take our astronauts to the space station for research and making use of that very important scientific station.

“Our part is part of a national lab, and it was designated as such, and then, in the future beyond, it will include the supporting of emerging commercial space companies to bring cargo and astronauts to the space station, supporting our investment, taking advantage of the opportunities for discovery on the space station, and ensuring that NASA will provide for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

“So many of us watched the last shuttle return. Knowing we had no vehicle that would take Americans into space under American control for at least the foreseeable future was not well regarded in our country, and we need to make this commitment. We have made the commitment today with appropriations to ensure that we are going to continue our preeminence in space, that we are going to go through low Earth orbit and we are going to see what is beyond the Moon in an asteroid or Mars, see if there is life there and what we can learn from life that might be enhanced on Earth. So it is important that now we have the heavy lift launch vehicle design NASA released last month. It will carry our astronauts in the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle to the Moon, the asteroids, and beyond.

“Now that this decision has finally been made, we can focus on the future, and I think Americans expect that from us. NASA has announced its commitment to the path Congress has authorized, and now we can provide the funds to accomplish the development of that rocket.”

Hutchison on COMPETES:

“I am certainly a supporter of America COMPETES. I would like to do much more in the science area, the hard science, because I think that is our future. It is how we create jobs and keep our economy vibrant, having the new products and the new ways to secure more jobs and more economic vitality in the technical sector in our country.

“I am very pleased. I thank the Senator from Maryland and her staff so much for helping and working with us. They have been great partners. I could not ask for any better. I think we have done a job that was hard to do with the lower levels of spending that we all expect and accept, but I think we have been able to cover the priorities well.”

Mikulski on a Motion to Reduce the Bill’s Total Funding to the FY 2011 Level:

“I wish to rise in opposition to his [Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)] motion. This is all about budget-speak. It is really hard to follow between budget authority and expenditures, et cetera. But let me just say this in plain English.

“This bill is $500 million less than we spent in 2011 -- $500 million less than we spent in 2011. Now, this is not the chairperson of the CJS [Commerce, Justice, and Science] bill kind of making up numbers. This is confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office. It has been certified by the chairman of the Budget Committee. The CJS bill is nearly $500 million less than last year.

“Now, am I doing fuzzy math? No. I do not do fuzzy math. The CJS bill is consistent with something called the Budget Control Act [enacted this summer.] The Budget Control Act requires appropriations to cut $7 billion for our fiscal year 2012. When we got our allocation, the CJS subcommittee allocation was $500 million below 2011. I am going to say it again--$500 million below what we spent in 2011.

“This allocation required the CJS subcommittee to take stern and even drastic measures. I eliminated thirty programs. Yes, Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democratic, a liberal, I cut and eliminated thirty programs: four in Commerce--I think you objected to one; twenty in Justice; one in Space; four in the National Science Foundation. I could not believe it, but that is what we had to do. . . . ”

“So that is for 2011. Now let's look at 2012. I mean, the President came to Congress and gave a dynamic State of the Union speech. It touched America deeply when he said: I want to out-build, out-educate, out-innovate anyone in the world. And he proposed his budget.

“We are $5 billion below what the President said he needed in Commerce-Justice-Science, technology, the innovation subcommittee, to help out-educate and out-innovate anybody else in the world. So I am $5 billion less than what the President of the United States said he needed to have to accomplish national goals.

“Now, we talk a lot about that we want America to be exceptional. Well, you have to spend money to be exceptional, and when you put your money in science, technology, and education, we can come up with new ideas, new products that we can make and sell around the world, and our children know they have a future in this new global economy.

“I do not want to be nickel-and-dimed here. I have already been nickel-and-dimed to be able to comply with this bill. You know, I am back to where Obama was in January, that cold day, and now here we are. So when we talk about cutting, we have cut. We have absolutely cut. We cut discretionary spending at an incredible level. And do you think it is has helped create one job? Do you think the market is going ‘hoorah, hoorah, look at what they are doing’? No. Do you know why? Because the private sector knows that if we are going to be a 21st-century nation, if we are going to be America the exceptional, we must educate.

“We also must invest in scientific research so that the private sector can take that basic research we do, value add to it, and with the genius that is America, the ability -- that intellectual property you can own and be protected, that you are going to develop a product, and you have the National Institute of Standards to come and help you develop the standards so that you will be able to sell it in America in every State and sell it around the world in every nation.

“So come on. If we want to be America the exceptional, stop nickel-and-diming. One of the ways you deal with debt is a growing economy, restoring consumer confidence, restoring citizen confidence, No. 1, that we can govern ourselves and that we can govern ourselves in a smart fashion. Yes, we do need to be frugal, but we sure do not need to be stupid.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics