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
ESEA REAUTHORIZATION: Prior to the August recess, both the House and Senate passed bills reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Much work on resolving differences in the two bills remains to be done by conferees. AIP, APS, AAPT and AAS were among 21 organizations that signed a letter to the conferees, urging support for proposed Math and Science Partnerships. The ultimate fate of programs such as the partnerships will depend largely on the funding provided by appropriators.
NASA APPROPRIATIONS: Also before recess, the House and Senate passed their versions of the FY 2002 VA/HUD appropriations bill. In report language on NASA, members of both chambers raised concerns about cost overruns to the space station and the impact on crew size and research capacity. NASA Administrator Dan Goldin has set up an independent panel to review and make recommendations on the program's financial management.
HOUSE PASSES ENERGY BILL: On August 1, the House passed a broad energy policy bill. Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) helped lead efforts, without success, to significantly increase fuel economy standards and prevent oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The House bill also authorized funding levels for DOE's Office of Science. The Senate will work on its bill this fall, and may include language to raise the status of DOE's Office of Science. In Senate testimony, APS Physics Policy Council chair Robert Richardson recommended creation of a DOE Under Secretary for S&T.
NRC REPORT ON AIR FORCE S&T: A new report by the National Research Council finds that while other DOD S&T spending rose in recent years, the Air Force S&T investment has fallen to levels "too low to meet...new and emerging threats." It recommends increasing Air Force S&T funding by "one-and-a-half to two times" the FY 2001 level.
ITAR SATELLITE REGULATIONS: Many in Congress and in the science community are concerned that research satellite technologies are now regulated by the State Department's International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and are asking the White House to reaffirm a Reagan-era exemption of research satellites from ITAR.
FY02 BUDGET OUTLOOK: With projections for the federal budget surplus much lower than earlier in the year, Congress will feel pressure to cut funding in many places as it tries to complete the FY 2002 appropriations process. Across-the-board reductions or selective cuts may impact science agency budgets. Already many appropriators feel science has been shortchanged. Senate appropriators would provide more money for DOE's Office of Science than either the House bill or the Administration's request, but still acknowledge that "the relatively small funding increases provided to the Office of Science are inadequate." Senate VA/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), a strong supporter of doubling the NSF budget, was only able to provide a 5.6 percent increase for the foundation. "While I wish the subcommittee had more resources for science," she commented, "we did the best we could do given our allocation."