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
DOE SCIENCE FUNDING, STRATEGIC PLAN: A group of senators has signed a letter urging President Clinton, in his FY 2002 budget request for DOE's Office of Science, to seek "continued growth for these programs on par with that proposed for" NIH and NSF. To provide "measurable outcomes and accountability for the funds entrusted to us," DOE recently released a 6-year strategic plan for science as well as its other missions.
FINAL APPROPRIATIONS: Congress left town in November with several appropriations bills still to be completed, hoping that when they returned, the election results would guide them in the final budget negotiations. But the aftermath of the presidential election so far is offering them little guidance. Two of the bills still to be finalized are those funding NIST and the Department of Education.
MORALE CONCERNS AT NUCLEAR WEAPONS LABS: The new defense authorization law will require that up to 5,000 more employees at DOE's weapons labs undergo polygraph exams. In signing the bill, President Clinton expressed displeasure at the polygraph provision, and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) warned that "morale at the labs is already bad, and these provisions won't improve the situation." A report by two former congressmen finds morale and productivity at Los Alamos National Laboratory "devastated" by recent incidents, and offers some common-sense recommendations to improve security policies.
US POSITION IN MATERIALS SCIENCES: While US researchers lead, or are among the world leaders, in all subfields of materials research, a new National Academies panel also finds weaknesses and areas where the US effort is surpassed by that of other regions.
107TH CONGRESS: Although there is no definitive result to this year's presidential election, things are beginning to take shape for the 107th Congress. One known result of the elections is that new faces will be serving in Congress. There is a great need among Members, both new and old, for analysis and advice on scientific and technical issues. The AIP, APS, AGU and OSA Congressional Science Fellowship programs make it possible for scientists to provide this expertise to individual Members or congressional committees.
DEFENSE R&D: Concerned that Air Force science and technology funding has fallen by 55% since 1989, Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) introduced a bill to strengthen support for R&D by establishing within the Air Force an Office of Research, an S&T Policy Council, and a Scientific Advisory Board. In related news, a Defense Science Board task force recommended that DOD support of university research be increased by 30% over the next three years to ensure access to the latest technologies. DOD funding is the main source of support for university research in physical sciences, engineering and information technology associated with military systems, yet DOD basic research funding has declined by nearly 25% since 1991.
UPDATE: Physicist Rush Holt (D-NJ) has won reelection to the House of Representatives.