HIGHLIGHTS OF DEVELOPMENTS IN WASHINGTON IMPACTING THE PHYSICS COMMUNITY FROM FYI, THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS BULLETIN OF SCIENCE POLICY NEWS
Richard M. Jones, Audrey T. Leath
CLINTON ON NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE: On September 1, President Clinton issued a statement explaining his decision not to deploy a National Missile Defense system at this time. "I simply cannot conclude," he stated, "with the information I have today, that we have enough confidence in the technology and the operational effectiveness...to move forward to deployment." He instead directed DOD to continue development and testing of the system.
EFFORTS MADE TO INCREASE DOE SCIENCE FUNDING: In both the House and the Senate, concerned Members urged congressional leaders to find more FY 2001 funding for DOE's science programs, and 37 university presidents and chancellors signed a supporting letter. Although appropriators headed to conference with much lower numbers for these programs than requested, additional money was eventually found to bring the budgets of most of the physics programs close to, or above, the requested levels.
ATTENTION FOCUSED ON SCIENCE EDUCATION: A new National Research Council report finds that math and science teachers do not get the respect, preparation and support they need to boost student achievement in these disciplines. On September 21, Federal Reserve System Chairman Alan Greenspan testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on the importance of good science and math education for a skilled workforce in today's high-tech economy.
PROGRESS ON SENATE APPROPRIATIONS BILLS: Appropriators in the Senate recommended greater FY 2001 funding than did their House counterparts for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, and NASA. In general, the Senate levels are still less than what was sought by the White House. Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) continue to gain support among their colleagues for an effort to double the NSF budget over five years.
HOUSE PANEL SUPPORTIVE OF SPACE SCIENCE: Even after several highly- publicized mishaps, NASA's Office of Space Science was lauded at a September 13 hearing of a House Science subcommittee. Members remained supportive even after a NASA official testified that more realistic budgeting would result in cost escalation for many space science missions.
NIF REBASELINING REPORT: After revelations last year of cost and schedule overruns for construction of DOE's National Ignition Facility, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson submitted to Congress a final baseline cost and schedule report. This key element of DOE's nuclear weapons stewardship program is now expected to have a total project-related cost of $3.5 billion and be completed by 2008. An independent review determined that despite technical challenges, the project can be completed within the proposed cost and schedule using current technologies.
HOUSE BILL ON BIOMEDICAL IMAGING AND BIOENGINEERING: The House passed a bill to establish, within NIH, a biomedical imaging and bioengineering institute, which would combine in one place the physics, engineering, computer science and other research necessary for biomedical applications. This legislation is supported by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate.