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
OSTP OFFICIAL ON FUSION, "BALANCE": Speaking to the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, an OSTP official reported that the Bush Administration was strongly supportive of fusion energy. The same official warned that calling for "balance" in the federal research portfolio was "divisive" and "just not going to help." In related news, a review of the federal research enterprise's "performance and mechanisms of accountability" is being undertaken by a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council.
APPROPRIATIONS OMNIBUS: House and Senate leaders combined the remaining unfinished FY04 appropriations bills into a single omnibus funding bill, which was passed by the House but will not be taken up by the Senate until Congress returns in January. Under the omnibus, NSF would see a single-digit percentage increase, to $5,577.9 million. The NIST labs would experience a small cut, and NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnerships would be slashed by over 60%, while its Advanced Technology Program - targeted for elimination by House appropriators - survived with essentially flat funding. The NIH's National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering would get a single-digit percentage increase, while the Education Department's Math and Science Partnership program would grow by almost 50%. NASA would receive $7,883.1 million for Science, Aeronautics and Exploration and $7,467.8 million for Space Flight Capabilities, but program content changes make direct comparison with FY03 funding difficult.
PRESIDENT SIGNS NANOTECH BILL: The bipartisan bill authorizes increased coordination and support for federal nanotechnology R&D. Although it does not provide the actual funding, it is an indicator of the importance with which the President and Congress regard this field.
SEAB REPORT: Visible support is building for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. At a December meeting of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham praised a report on the Future of Science Programs at DOE, saying it would play an important role in shaping the department's future. Representatives from scientific societies and multi-society coalitions (of which AIP and APS are members) commended the report.
CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIONS: Human activities are "altering the Earth's climate," and "it is virtually certain" that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations "will cause global surface climate to be warmer," according to an AGU statement released December 16. At about the same time, DOE released reports on federal climate change technology activities and future options.
MARINE MAMMAL PROTECTION: The FY04 Defense Authorization Act changes the definition of marine mammal harassment to give the federal government greater flexibility to use submarine-tracking sonar, conduct research, and perform other actions that might affect the sea creatures. Research continues into whether Navy sonar is causing decompression sickness in whales.
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