NUCLEAR WEAPONS LEGISLATION: House and Senate authorizers agreed to the Administration's proposal to fund studies into a "bunker buster" and some - but not all - additional nuclear weapons research in their FY05 Defense Authorization bills, but House appropriators did not provide funding for these programs in their FY05 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. Also in the Defense Authorization bill, Senate authorizers proposed a program of scholarships that would enable students to pursue math, science and engineering degrees in return for working at DOD.
DATA ON R&D SUPPORT: With its biennial "Science and Engineering Indicators," the National Science Board puts out important information on trends in the funding for, and conduct of, R&D in the U.S. and internationally. One highlight of this year's report: The annual federal obligation for physics research dropped 0.5% in constant dollars between 1982 and 2001. Accompanying the "Indicators" was an NSB statement on the S&T workforce. A separate report analyzes federal R&D spending at U.S. colleges and universities.
APPROPRIATIONS BILLS: FY 2005 appropriations bills are beginning to move in both chambers. Both the House and the Senate have passed their versions of the DOD appropriations bill. The House has also now passed its versions of bills funding USGS, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Energy (FYIs #74, 80, 81, and 82). The Senate Homeland Security funding bill has gone to the floor.
VISA PROCESSING: Twenty-five science, engineering and education organizations issued a statement calling on the federal government to revise its visa policies for foreign students, scientists and scholars. Several House Science Committee members have requested that GAO review how the State and Homeland Security Departments are implementing reforms of the visa processing system.
"PHYSICS OF THE UNIVERSE" PLAN: Basing its work on a 2002 National Research Council report, an interagency working group has developed a prioritized strategic plan for federal efforts to address key scientific questions at the intersection of physics and astronomy.
MOON/MARS EXPLORATION REPORT: The report of a presidentially-appointed commission unanimously endorses President Bush's space exploration vision, but warns that for it to be successful, NASA must be transformed, long-term public and governmental support must be maintained, and a robust private space industry must be nurtured.