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
EFFORTS TO INCREASE FUNDING FOR OFFICE OF SCIENCE, NSF: Bills have been introduced in Congress that would authorize increases to the budgets of NSF and DOE's Office of Science. Both the House and Senate versions of the energy policy bill would authorize increases for the Office of Science, and a separate bill introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) would authorize between 8- 15 percent annual increases for the office over the next three years. In the Senate, the "National Science Foundation Doubling Act" would go further than the comparable House bill by authorizing funds to more than double the NSF budget over five years. However, the final outcomes for both DOE and NSF are in the hands of the appropriators.
SCIENCE EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS: Senate appropriators completed all 13 of their FY 2003 appropriations bills before departing for the August recess. Within the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, funding for the Education Department's Mathematics and Science Partnerships to improve K-12 science and math education would be increased 100 percent, to $25 million, doubling last year's minimal funding of $12.5 million but still not sufficient to reach needy school districts in all states. In the VA/HUD appropriations bill, NSF's Mathematics and Science Partnerships program (intended to develop model programs) would receive $120 million under the Senate bill. The bill would provide a total of $947.7 million for all the programs within NSF's Education and Human Resources Activity.
NASA WORKFORCE CONCERNS: NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe shared with Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee members his concerns that in the near future, NASA will not have enough highly-trained S&T workers to fulfill its mission. To deal with the encroaching retirement age of nearly one-quarter of NASA's scientists and engineers, and the difficulty in hiring replacements, O'Keefe is seeking reform of the agency's hiring practices.
SATELLITE DATA ISSUES: As NOAA prepares to lead a joint NOAA-DOD system of polar-orbiting weather and climate monitoring satellites, a House subcommittee examined whether the agency will be capable of handling the vast amounts of data expected. The subcommittee also reviewed NOAA's current difficulties in providing information to the National Weather Service and DOD in a timely manner. Conrad Lautenbacher, Commerce Department Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, testified that funding is planned for FY 2003 and future years to address these challenges.
SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING INDICATORS: The National Science Board has released its latest compendium of data on science and engineering in the nation. "Science and Engineering Indicators - 2002," shows historical and emerging R&D-related trends in the U.S. As an example, the data show that while total U.S. R&D expenditures have increased 300 percent between 1960 and 2000 in inflation-adjusted dollars, federal spending on R&D declined 8.6 percent in the last decade.
STATUS OF APPROPRIATIONS: As Congress returns to work after the August recess, there will be less than one month until the start of the new fiscal year. While appropriators in the Senate have passed their FY 2003 funding bills, House appropriators have not yet completed theirs, and many factors point to this year being a contentious one for the appropriations process.