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From the Floor: House Considers FY 2013 Bill Funding NASA, NIST and NSF

Richard M. Jones
Number 70 - May 23, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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The House of Representatives spent three days earlier this month on its consideration of H.R. 5326, the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill.  This bill provides funding for NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation.  The House passed this bill on a largely party-line vote of 247-163.

This is the first of several FYIs focusing on Member’s remarks pertaining to science, including amendments to reduce funding for the National Science Foundation by $1.2 billion, and to reduce or eliminate support for a climate change education program, political science research, and NASA’s planetary science program.

This FYI provides selections of remarks by senior Republicans and Democrats on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA):

“Since the beginning of the 112th Congress, the [House Appropriations] committee has cut $13.2 billion, reducing the total amount of the CJS bill by over 20 percent over the 3 fiscal years. We have focused limited resources on the most critical areas: fighting crime and terrorism, including a new focus of preventing and investigating cyber attacks; and boosting U.S. competitiveness and job creation by investing in science, exports, and manufacturing.”

“A primary area of focus in the bill this year is scientific research, innovation, and competitiveness.   Investments in scientific research are key to long-term economic growth and job creation.

“The bill includes $7.3 billion for the National Science Foundation, an increase of $299 million, or 4.3 percent above FY12, for basic research and science education. This funding will go toward the types of research that will keep America's economy strong by setting the groundwork for the development of new technologies.  Developing a well-educated STEM workforce is also critical to America's competitiveness. More than $1 billion is provided throughout the bill for science education, including $876 million for NSF to improve the quality of science education.
“NASA. The bill includes $17.6 billion, including funding above the aggregate request, to keep the development schedule for the Orion crew vehicle and heavy-lift rocket. Commercial crew development is funded at $500 million, consistent with the current authorization and the report accompanying the House budget resolution.
“To find the fastest, safest, and most cost-effective means of achieving a U.S. capability for access to the international space station, the bill directs NASA to winnow the commercial partners and advance the schedule for moving to traditional government procurement methods. Continuing on the current path runs a high risk of failure by one or more companies receiving government subsidies, similar to what we last saw last year with Solyndra, and leaving the taxpayer with no tangible benefits in exchange for a substantial investment. We do not need a space Solyndra. I say this to Members on both sides of the aisle. We have heard Solyndra thrown around. We do not need a space Solyndra.   We have received letters from Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and James Lovell endorsing the committee's approach to commercial crew as ‘reasonable and appropriate.’
 “According to the GAO [Government Accountability Office], we have invested $100 billion in the station, so we need to develop our own capability to get our astronauts up there to use it quickly rather than relying on the Russians and paying the Russians.
“The bill also includes $570 million - which is $18.4 million above the request - for aeronautics research. Aerospace is a pillar of the American manufacturing sector and one of the leading exports. This is an industry that creates thousands of jobs in America. This investment will boost our aviation competitiveness so America continues to be number one.  The bill includes $5.1 billion for NASA science programs, including $1.4 billion for planetary science. This amount restores cuts in the President's request that would have inhibited progress on all planetary science goals, including flagship missions to Mars and Europa.”

Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA):

“I want to start out first and foremost by thanking my colleague and the chairman of the subcommittee, Frank Wolf, for continuing to be a model chairman for the Appropriations Subcommittee. He is a professional; he's principled, and he has involved us, the minority, in every level of the distributions as we've developed this bill.”
“Now I start out in this process with a number of priorities. First and foremost in the science arena, neuroscience. And I want to thank the chairman - I will speak about it in some detail in a minute - but for his collaboration and this effort around brain research.
“Manufacturing. We will talk about the support in this bill, the hundreds of millions of dollars to continue to position our country in terms of manufacturing. We now lead the world in manufacturing, and we want to continue that, but we have real competition that we have to contend with.

“So let me start with the Department of Commerce. There are healthy funding levels for research at NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and for the NOAA satellite programs, which are so important to our weather forecasting challenges as a Nation.

“The chairman's mark in the bill, as passed from the full committee, provides a healthy increase for the National Science Foundation, the world's premiere national entity focused on basic scientific research.
 “The bill makes a strong commitment, as the chairman has noted, to NASA science and also fully funds the James Webb Space Telescope and makes a significant investment in commercial crew and in space technology. And even though I don't go as far as the chairman, I do support the idea that we need to move as rapidly as possible to this new focus on having American enterprise compete for opportunities to participate fully and at a much more cost-effective level in terms of our space exploration. The bill makes a significant increase in terms of future robotic missions to Mars, and we make a requirement in the language that this be part of a sample return mission, as the National Academy of Sciences' report indicates.
“But let me talk in some detail for a minute about some of the great initiatives that I think we were able to come to agreement on. And again, I want to thank the chairman and the staff. For our country and for my [Democratic] caucus, there's nothing more important than manufacturing. And we see that the Manufacturing Extension Partnership receives $128 million, with a special carve-out for the National Innovative Marketplace, a Web-like portal that will help our manufacturers compete for manufacturing initiatives at the Federal level. I think it's very important. The $21 million requested by the President was met in this bill for a new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program at NIST. And also, we provide $149 million to the National Science Foundation for their advanced manufacturing initiative.
 “We continue a program authorized under the America COMPETES Act that we funded last year to help small manufacturers bring technology onto the plant floor. And I would note that the chairman held, as his last hearing, a hearing on manufacturing. And I think it really brought light to the subject of what the country can and needs to do in terms of helping our manufacturers compete with competitors abroad and much larger countries that are trying to overtake us in terms of manufacturing.
“I would like to personally thank the chairman for fully funding the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House, which has taken the lead in this neuroscience initiative that has been a bipartisan agreement to really try to build a collaboration of Federal agencies focused on some of the challenges that we have in terms of brain research, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism, and addiction, which is a big issue for the chairman of our full committee, Chairman [Harold] Rogers [(R-KY)], and for many of the people that we represent. There are issues related to traumatic brain injury affecting our veterans. So this collaboration is critically important, and I want to thank the chairman for fully funding that office, which is leading this effort, and the other important work that it does.”


Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX):

“It's a very strong bill, and I want to commend the gentleman from Virginia, Chairman Wolf, for his continued passionate support for science and space issues in a challenging fiscal environment. Mr. Wolf is a true champion of science, and this bill is reflective of that. I also appreciate Chairman Wolf's work to address my concerns and priorities as chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and want to highlight a few specific areas of importance to us in this bill.
“With regards to NASA, this legislation recognizes the budget realities that we must confront by responsibly imposing measured reductions across the Agency's portfolio. Importantly, this bill maintains development of a new heavy-lift launch system and crew capsule. It maintains a healthy space science enterprise, continues to support innovative aeronautics research, and funds the administration's commercial crew program at the authorized level of $500 million. Our committee will continue to provide oversight on the commercial crew program and work with the appropriators to support a program that has the best chance to succeed on schedule, with appropriate safeguards for the crew, and with the best use of taxpayer dollars.
 “With regards to the National Science Foundation, the modest increase for the Foundation is appropriate, as basic research and development play a critical role in our economic success. I strongly encourage NSF to broadly use this funding for fundamental research which keeps the United States at the very leading edge of discovery and not to blur this essential role with other initiatives that are best left to the private sector.
“Chairman Wolf has also worked to sustain the programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST, that directly benefit our Nation's competitiveness. The critical link between fundamental measurement science and our economic success allows NIST to innovate new ways to help U.S. companies excel within a global marketplace and create high-paying jobs.
“With respect to NOAA, I thank Chairman Wolf for his continued strong support and oversight of NOAA's satellite programs and for his efforts to restore balance to NOAA's research portfolio. The bill does this, in part, by redirecting the administration's proposed significant increases for climate science to higher priority weather research that will help to protect lives and property through improved severe-weather forecasting. This topic is important to all regions of our Nation and, most recently, to northeast Texas, where an outbreak of tornadoes and severe weather in April caused significant damage to homes and property, including in my home county in Royse City. Regarding these weather research priorities, I hope to work with you as the bill moves to conference to preserve and enhance this particular NOAA priority.”


Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX):

“Mr. Chair, funding for research, innovation, and STEM education is an investment in our future, perhaps one of the most important investments we make as a nation. China, the European Union, and many other countries understand this and are poised to surpass the United States in innovation capacity and in the creation of a highly skilled 21st century workforce, if they have not already. According to an analysis carried out by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the United States ranks second to last of the 44 countries and regions analyzed in terms of progress in innovation-based competitiveness over the last decade. It used to be that the world's best and brightest flocked to our shores. Now many of our own best and brightest are finding better opportunities in other countries, and we are losing our edge in the competition for top talent from around the world.
“In 2007, and again in 2010, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation - the America COMPETES Act - that recognized the importance of increased investment in research, innovation, and STEM education. The funding trajectories we put forth in those bills were developed while our budget situation was healthier than it is today. While falling short of the authorized levels, we nevertheless have still managed to come together on a bipartisan basis with the Administration to ensure that funding for scientific research remains relatively unscathed as many other important programs and initiatives suffer deep cuts. This is particularly the case with the CJS bill before us today. I want to thank Chairman Wolf, Ranking Member Fattah, Chairman Rogers, and [Appropriations Committee] Ranking Member [Norm] Dicks [(D-WA)] and for their funding science and STEM education even as they made very difficult cuts in other worthy programs.
“In particular, I want to commend the appropriators for their enduring support for the National Science Foundation. The NSF is the only agency to fund basic research across all of science and engineering, and its support for education research has transformed the way we think about teaching and learning. . . .”
“Turning to NASA, it is clear that NASA is a critical part of the nation's research and development enterprise, as well as being a source of inspiration for our young people and a worldwide symbol of American technological prowess and good will. We need NASA to succeed. While fiscal challenges require difficult decisions, those decisions should not come at the expense of losing critical capabilities.
“I'm pleased to see that the House bill restores a portion of the 21% cut to our planetary exploration program--a program that has been a highly successful scientific undertaking that has captured the imaginations of people around the world. Planetary science has also been an increasingly international effort, especially in plans for future Mars exploration. The rationale to back out of our plans for Mars collaborations with Europe was never clear, and this restoration of planetary funding provides the opportunity to resume our engagement in that effort and sustain critical U.S. capabilities.
“Regarding the Commercial Crew development program, I have witnessed the enthusiasm from aspiring commercial crew companies testifying before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and I wish them well. But as a steward of the taxpayers' dollars, I cannot let enthusiasm override the need for hardheaded oversight.” 

“I am pleased that the House bill provides increases for the Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle - also known as Orion - over the amounts in the budget request, although even these levels are significantly below authorized amounts. It is essential that both the SLS and Orion remain on track for planned flight tests in 2014 and 2017.”
“Finally, I am very pleased that the bill before us today recognizes the important role that the National Institute of Standards and Technology plays in fostering innovation and industrial competitiveness. In this bill, NIST's research budget receives a level of funding that will allow it to continue its important work with industry to advance the nation's technology infrastructure.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics