FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FY 2014 Senate Appropriations: National Science Foundation

Richard M. Jones
Number 123 - July 24, 2013  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved their versions of the FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bills.  These bills provide funding to the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The amount of money available to the committees differed, with the House committee operating with a significantly lower figure.  The House Appropriations Committee has not released a final version of its report accompanying its bill.

This FYI will excerpt selections from the Senate committee report accompanying its bill regarding the National Science Foundation on pages 119-126.  Committee report language does not have the force of law, but agencies usually adhere to it closely.  Conflicts in funding and policy between the House and Senate versions will be resolved in a conference committee.

Total National Science Foundation:

The FY 2013 budget (not including the mandatory 5 percent reduction) is $7,239.8 million
The FY 2014 request is $7,625.8 million, an increase of $386.0 million or 5.3 percent
The Senate subcommittee recommendation is $7,425.9 million, an increase of $186.1 million or 2.6 percent

The report stated:

“The Committee again supports a generous increase for the NSF because unfettered basic research selected in a merit-reviewed, competitive process generates new ideas that become new products and new companies. The unexpected consequences of a good idea can be transformational. For example, two graduate students’ NSF grant to optimize search engines has become a powerhouse of search, email, cloud computing, and online connectivity -- Google.  Not every grant becomes a company with a market capitalization of more than $300,000,000, but basic research is a key element of high growth, high value companies in the 21st century.”

 

Research and Related Activities:

The FY 2013 budget (not including the mandatory 5 percent reduction) is $5,859.2 million
The FY 2014 request is $6,212.3 million, an increase of $353.1 million or 6.0 percent
The Senate subcommittee recommendation is $6,018.3 million, an increase of $159.1 million or 2.7 percent

The report stated:

“The Committee’s fiscal year 2014 recommendation renews its support for Federal long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformative to our economy and our way of life in the context of a stagnant Federal budget. However, the Foundation continues to prioritize new initiatives while cutting support for core, merit-based science grants and for scientific infrastructure like ships and facilities. The seven ‘OneNSF’ framework priority activities continue to grow by cutting NSF’s core programs. The Committee once again directs that the $194,000,000 reduction below the fiscal year 2014 budget request level for R&RA be taken from the proposed increases in OneNSF initiatives and not from core NSF program or infrastructure funding. The Committee urges NSF to reconsider cuts to key scientific infrastructure when delivering its spending plan by further reducing proposed increases for OneNSF initiatives.

Scientific Facilities and Instrumentation. -- A critical component of the Nation’s scientific enterprise is the infrastructure that supports researchers in discovery science. Investments to advance the frontiers of research and education in science and engineering are critical to the Nation’s innovation enterprise. The Committee expects the NSF to fully fund world-class U.S. scientific research facilities and instruments to adequately support scientists and students engaged in ground-breaking research to maximize sustained investments in research.

CHESS. -- The Committee support’s the budget request for NSF’s Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source [CHESS], which is a unique multi-disciplinary user facility that supports research in medicine, physics, materials science, chemistry, biology, and engineering.

Astronomy. -- The Committee remains concerned about the continued erosion of support for NSF’s domestic national astronomy facilities, including facilities such as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory [NRAO], that have been at the forefront of science for more than 50 years. The Committee expects NSF to fully support the scientific and educational activities at the Division of Astronomical Sciences in the context of a strong NSF astronomy program with NRAO funding at fiscal 2012 levels, and fully supporting the domestic instruments and facilities that produce U.S. leadership in these fields.

“Furthermore, the Committee is aware that NSF is preparing to make a final decision on the Astronomy Portfolio Review Commission’s recommendation. At least 60 days before issuing a final decision, the Committee directs NSF to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations and the authorizing committees of jurisdiction outlining the legal authorities the agency has to dispose of real property and providing a full accounting of the multi-year costs that will be required to close these operations if efforts to identify new tenants are unsuccessful.

“The Committee welcomes the line item identification of pre-construction funds for future major MREFC projects, including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the astrophysics decadal survey’s top ranked ground-based priority in the coming decade. This joint NSF-Department of Energy project will provide unprecedented views of the changing sky and will drive key advances in cyber-infrastructure and large-volume data management. The Committee provides funding at the request level in order to make progress toward a potential new start in a subsequent year, subject to the project meeting the necessary conditions for such action.

Cybersecurity -- The Committee's recommendation includes the full request of $159,250,000 for cybersecurity research, including $57,000,000 for NSF's contribution to the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. NSF provides support for core computer science research at academic institutions. The discovery and innovation in cybersecurity supported by NSF will form the intellectual foundations for practical applications that make our information networks safer, more secure, and better able to predict, resist, repel, and recover from cyber attacks.

Experimental Program To Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR].--Within the amount provided, the Committee provides $163,580,000 for EPSCoR, an amount equal to the fiscal year 2014 request.

Ocean Science Infrastructure -- The Committee is supportive of improved funding for Ocean Science infrastructure items including the International Ocean Discovery Program and the Ocean Observing Initiative, and directs NSF to fund these items at the budget request level. However, the Committee is disappointed with the proposed funding cuts to the Academic Research Fleet and planning for the regional-class research vessels. The Committee is concerned that this budget request will mean that current research ships will either not be properly maintained or will not be adequately utilized. Both scenarios are unacceptable. The Committee directs NSF to fund the Academic Research Fleet at no less than the fiscal year 2012 level from proposed budget request increases to OneNSF initiatives. Furthermore, as these current vessels continue to age, planning for their replacements - which includes regional-class vessels - must not be derailed. The Committee directs NSF to ensure that the design and planning for these vessels will soon make them viable candidates for approval for inclusion in the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account.

Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability [SEES].--In order to develop the scientific knowledge vital to improving our ability to respond rapidly to extreme events, such as power grid disruption, floods, and dangerous weather, the Committee includes the full budget request for SEES.”

 

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction:

The FY 2013 budget (not including the mandatory 5 percent reduction) is $192.1 million
The FY 2014 request is $210.1 million, an increase of $18.0 million or 9.4 percent
The Senate subcommittee recommendation is $210.1 million, an increase of $18.0 million or 9.4 percent

The report stated:

“The Committee's recommendation includes funding at the requested level for the following ongoing projects: the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory [AdvLIGO]; the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope [ATST]; the Ocean Observatories Initiative [OOI]; and the National Ecological Observatory Network [NEON]. The Committee welcomes the start of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope [LSST] at the budget request level.”

 

Education and Human Resources:

The FY 2013 budget (not including the mandatory 5 percent reduction) is $877.0 million
The FY 2014 request is $880.3 million, an increase of $3.3 million or 0.4 percent
The Senate subcommittee recommendation is $880.3 million, an increase of $3.3 million or 0.4 percent

The report stated:

STEM Consolidation - The Committee provides overall direction under the Office of Science and Technology Policy [OSTP] section of this report with regards to the administration's Government-wide proposal to consolidate STEM education programs and a transfer of responsibilities across several agencies. Under this STEM proposal, NSF would be tasked with evaluating STEM related fellowships and other undergraduate and graduate activities across the Government. While the structures are in place for NSF to evaluate potential students for fellowships, and other related activities and programs across Government, it is unclear whether the resulting pool of successful candidates selected through these programs will accommodate the specific and varied needs of mission agencies for highly trained scientists. In order to ensure a proper distribution of candidates to fit the different requirements across Government, NSF would need to subdivide the process, and in the end, result in NSF doing the job agencies currently do for themselves.

“The Committee believes that NSF is well suited to handle undergraduate and graduate fellowships, internships, and specific grants similar to its current mission and, if there are general needs across Government, that NSF could similarly serve as a clearing house for such students. However, moving all graduate related fellowships and scholarships to NSF is not optimal to meet the long-term, specific, STEM workforce needs of the entire Government. The Committee requests that NSF work with OSTP on how NSF could implement a broader program for graduate and undergraduate programs across the entire Federal Government, and to identify which programs across Government could benefit from such a program.

Advanced Technological Education -- The Committee supports the full request level of $64,000,000 for Advanced Technological Education.

STEM-C Partnerships.--The Committee supports the full request level of $57,080,000 for STEM-C Partnerships, formally known as the Math and Science Partnership Program.

Robert Noyce Scholarship Program -- The Committee has provided the budget request level of $60,890,000 for the Robert Noyce Scholarship program. This program helps fill the critical need for STEM teachers in elementary and secondary schools by funding institutions of higher education to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers. Scholarship and stipend recipients are required to complete 2 years of teaching in a high-need school district for each year of support.

CyberCorps: Scholarships for Service -- The CyberCorps: Scholarships for Service program helps the Federal Government respond to threats to our information technology infrastructure by providing scholarships to train cybersecurity professionals. In return, scholarship recipients agree to serve in a Federal Government agency position, building the Government's capacity to understand, respond to, and prevent cyber threats. More than 900 students have completed the program, which was initiated in fiscal year 2001; 92.6 percent of students have placed with more than 120 Federal agencies. The Committee provides $45,000,000, which is $20,000,000 above the requested level, to expand the Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for Service program.

“Not less than $5,000,000 of the additional amount should be used to continue work with community colleges that have been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance 2-Year Education [CAE2Y] by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Informal Science Education -- The Committee maintains its strong support for NSF's informal science education program and rejects the proposed cut to Advancing Informal STEM Learning [AISL]. The Committee directs NSF to fund this program at the fiscal year 2012 level of $61,430,000.

Broadening Participation- The Committee continues its longstanding support for existing initiatives to broaden participation in STEM fields and recognizes these programs have different purposes and engage students in a different manner. The Committee notes support for these programs has stagnated in spite of increases to the overall NSF budget. The Committee recommends $31,940,000 for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program, $7,840,000 for the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, $45,620,000 for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, $13,500,000 for the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, and $20,240,000 for Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology. In proposal selection, the Committee encourages NSF to give priority to grant proposals that have demonstrated maturity, including previous partnerships with other Federal agencies.

“In broadening participation, NSF shall expand efforts to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of Hispanic students pursuing associate or baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields and consider a program for Hispanic Serving Institutions similar to other broadening participation programs.

“The Committee is also committed to growing the STEM workforce by attracting broader participation from all underrepresented groups in STEM fields. The Committee directs NSF to maintain Research in Disabilities Education and Research on Gender in Science and Engineering as separate programs at the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.”

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