FYI THIS MONTH: JUNE 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
DOE SCIENCE FUNDING: The House's recommendation to increase funding for DOE's Office of Science by 1.8% pleased the office's director, Ray Orbach. Senate appropriators, noting that "the foundations for the future of the physical sciences are eroding," recommended a 2.9% increase. In related DOE news, on June 28 it was announced that the ITER fusion reactor will be built in France, ending a long-running stalemate; House members have raised concerns about how U.S. participation in ITER might affect the domestic fusion program.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS INITIATIVES: While a National Academies report on nuclear earth penetrating weapons found that some "deeply buried targets" of potential U.S. adversaries "can be held at risk of destruction only with nuclear weapons," it also estimated that such weapons cannot penetrate deep enough to fully contain the effects of a nuclear explosion and might cause thousands or millions of casualties. Senate authorizers and appropriators both supported funding for a DOE study of a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, putting them at odds with their House counterparts. Senate appropriators also differed from their House colleagues on disposition of spent commercial nuclear fuel and construction funding for the National Ignition Facility.

SCIENCE EDUCATION: Witnesses at a House hearing on U.S. competitiveness questioned what it would take to reinvigorate national efforts in science and math education and innovation. The House voted to increase funds for the Education Department's Math and Science Partnership program by 6.4% but recommended a 4.1% cut to NSF's Education and Human Resources program. It also applauded National Science Board plans for a commission on science education, a concept supported by AIP and several of its Member Societies.

NSF FUNDING: House appropriators would give NSF a 3.1% increase, while Senate appropriators recommended growth of 1.1%. In the House, an amendment to shift some funds from NSF to the hiring of police officers was defeated by a vote of 31-396.

NASA SCIENCE PROGRAMS: Appropriators in both the House and Senate recommended increasing NASA funding and cautioned against harming NASA's science and aeronautics programs in order to fund exploration to the Moon, Mars and beyond. A new American Geophysical Union statement warns that Earth and space science funding are being threatened by other NASA initiatives.

OTHER APPROPRIATIONS: House appropriators would boost NIST funding by 6.5%, while Senate appropriators would increase its budget by 20.8% and restore the Advanced Technology Program. The Senate Appropriations Committee would increase USGS funding by 2.8%. House appropriators would bump the budget for NIBIB by 0.5% and trim DOD S&T by 0.6%, while Senate authorizers expressed concern "about the overall funding level for defense science and research."