FYI THIS MONTH: JULY 2004
HIGHLIGHTS OF DEVELOPMENTS IN WASHINGTON IMPACTING THE PHYSICS COMMUNITY FROM FYI, THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS BULLETIN OF SCIENCE POLICY NEWS
Audrey T. Leath, Richard M. Jones
fyithismonth@aip.org
NUCLEAR WEAPONS INITIATIVES: Senate authorizers voted to support DOD research on "bunker buster" and low-yield nuclear weapons, putting them on a collision course with House appropriators. During the floor debate, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) introduced letters from Administration officials declaring that "this Administration has no current plans or requirements to conduct an underground nuclear test."

OCEAN POLICY BLUEPRINT: A presidentially-appointed commission has called for a doubling of the federal investment in ocean and coastal research over the next five years. Many of the nearly 200 specific recommendations in the commission's preliminary report deal with science and technology, including a call for a national Integrated Ocean Observing System.

NIST APPROPRIATIONS: In their FY05 Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill, House appropriators recommended a 13.5% increase over current funding for the NIST labs, a 174.4% increase for the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, and termination of the Advanced Technology Program. Previous attempts to terminate this program have failed.

COMPETITIVENESS, NANOTECHNOLOGY AND WORKFORCE: Speakers at a June 24 congressional briefing warned that other countries are actively honing their S&T capabilities, while the U.S. in recent years has not been "as focused" on scientific investment. The U.S.'s S&T competitiveness was also a focus of a two-day DOE summit on nanotechnology, where speakers discussed the practical applications and social and ethical concerns of this field. At a July 15 briefing, some speakers raised concerns about the adequacy of the future S&T workforce, while others cautioned that such concerns may be overblown.

HUBBLE REPORT: In an interim report, a National Research Council panel urged NASA to continue looking into both robotic and manned servicing missions for the Hubble Space Telescope, and to take no actions at this time that would rule out a space shuttle servicing mission.

DOD APPROPRIATIONS: A House-Senate conference committee reached agreement on an FY05 Defense Department spending bill that would raise total funding for Basic Research, Applied Research, and Advanced Technology Development by 10.3% over current-year levels.

VA/HUD APPROPRIATIONS: Appropriators in the House produced a VA/HUD spending bill that would cut funding for NASA by 1.5% and NSF by 2.0% from FY04 levels, and received a veto warning from the White House. This marks only the second time in nearly a decade when appropriators proposed reducing NSF funding. AIP and several of its Member Societies joined in a letter to House Members expressing concern that the cut would "curtail many current research efforts and inhibit new project starts."

LOS ALAMOS SECURITY LAPSES: After the disappearance from Los Alamos National Laboratory of computer hard drives containing classified material, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) warned in a letter to his constituents at Los Alamos that the lab's credibility is at stake.