FYI THIS MONTH: FEBRUARY 2005
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
TSUNAMI LEGISLATION: A Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing demonstrated bipartisan support for efforts to strengthen the nation's tsunami warning system. Committee Chairman and Co-Chairman Ted Stevens (R- AK) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) have introduced S. 50, the Tsunami Preparedness Act of 2005, and the Bush Administration has announced plans to spend $37.5 million over two years on a warning system.

R&D FUNDING FOR FY06: "Not flat, but pretty close," is how OSTP Director John Marburger described President Bush's FY06 budget request for R&D programs. Total federal R&D funding would grow by 1.0% over the FY05 level, with non-defense R&D spending increasing by 0.75%. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) thought that R&D programs "fared relatively well" in the request, given the context, but the Science Committee's Ranking Minority Member, Bart Gordon (D-TN) said, "The priorities in this budget are not merely harmful, they push this country on a downward slide to losing our global science and technological edge."

DETAILS OF BUDGET REQUEST: Under the Administration's FY 2006 budget request, funding for DOE's Office of Science would be reduced by 3.8% from current-year levels. NSF funding would grow by 2.4%, but its science education programs would be cut by 12.4%. DOD S&T would be cut by 21.1%, and NASA would get a 2.4% increase. While NIST's core laboratories would get a 12.7% increase, its extramural programs are slated for substantial reductions or elimination. The USGS budget would remain essentially flat. Funding for the Education Department's Mathematics and Science Partnerships would be increased by 51.0%, but with restrictions on part of its budget. The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering budget would grow by 0.5%.

HEARING ON HUBBLE SERVICING: A February 2 House Science Committee hearing explored questions about the cost of a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, what impacts it might have on other NASA science programs, and whether it was worth the cost. Witnesses acknowledged the value of the Hubble, but were cautious about assigning it greater importance than new space science missions. They challenged NASA's cost estimates for a shuttle servicing mission, and suggested that the astronomy and astrophysics community might need to revisit its decadal priorities.

OFFICE OF SCIENCE BUDGET REQUEST: Discussing the FY06 budget request for the DOE Office of Science, Director Ray Orbach explained that he set budget priorities to ensure that the U.S. has state-of-the-art facilities to keep it at the forefront of world science. He spoke enthusiastically about the new facilities that will begin operations in FY06, including the Spallation Neutron Source and the Nanoscale Science Research Centers. Asked about the impact of this prioritization on existing facilities, Orbach said that "some things have to give.... That's the consequence of priorities."