American Institute of Physics
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FYI THIS MONTH: August 2000


Richard M. Jones, Audrey T. Leath

STATUS OF NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE: At a July 25 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary William Cohen discussed the status of a national missile defense system and how a decision to proceed might impact international relations and the ABM Treaty. In a letter sent the following day, 31 Democratic senators urged President Clinton to "resist pressure to deploy a national missile defense system at this time."

ADMINISTRATION CRITICIZES SCIENCE FUNDING BILLS: In anticipation of upcoming clashes with Congress to get the appropriations bills signed before October 1, the Administration has released several statements on the status of science-related funding bills. One statement warns that the Senate's appropriations bill for DOE, awaiting floor action, would "cripple basic research" in many of DOE's science programs. A "Mid- summer Status Report highlights programs in DOE, NSF, NASA, NIST, DOD, and other agencies that, so far, have been funded at lower levels than Clinton's request, and urges the science community to spread the word: "Although our window of opportunity is small, there is still time to ensure that these important investments in our future are enacted into law."

REPORT REVIEWS UNIVERSITY OVERHEAD COSTS: Counter to concerns that the government has been paying universities too much for certain costs associated with federally- sponsored research, a new report instead finds that reimbursement rates for university overhead costs have remained constant for over a decade, university overhead costs are lower than those at federal or private labs, universities voluntarily share a portion of those costs, and the imposition of more limitations on reimbursement might have damaging consequences.

NANOTECHNOLOGY IMPLEMENTATION PLAN: With his FY 2001 budget request, Clinton included $495 million for a new multiagency initiative in nanotechnology. Now the Administration has submitted to Congress an implementation plan which describes goals, agency roles, a timeline, and a coordinating body.

NSF DOUBLING EFFORT GAINS MOMENTUM: A number of influential senators are getting involved in an effort to double funding for NSF over five years. Prompted by key Senate VA/HUD appropriators, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has signed onto a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) which concludes that the five-year doubling "is a laudable goal and we urge your support for NSF funding at levels sufficient to achieve this goal."

GAO REPORT ON NIF MISMANAGEMENT: Cost and schedule overruns at DOE's National Ignition Facility (NIF) were caused by poor management, weak oversight, and faulty original cost estimates, according to a new General Accounting Office report. It concludes that total costs for the project "could reach at least $3.9 billion," approximately double DOE's original estimate, and that NIF will not be completed until 2008, six years later than first estimated.