NEW COMPETITIVENESS REPORT: A new National Academies report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," cites a list of "worrisome indicators" that the U.S.'s scientific, technological and economic preeminence is declining and offers a series of steps the federal government should take to restore and maintain the nation's global competitiveness. The report has attracted significant media coverage and congressional attention, including hearings in both the House and Senate.
FY06 APPROPRIATIONS NEWS: NSF received a 3.0% increase for FY06, with a 3.7% increase for Research and Related Activities but a 4.4% cut for Education and Human Resources. NASA's budget will grow by about 2.0% under its FY06 funding bill, although at a recent hearing, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin told committee members that NASA would likely experience a shortfall of $3-5 billion in shuttle funding through FY 2010. NIST got an 8.7% increase and its Advanced Technology Program was saved from elimination although drastically reduced. The FY06 DOD spending bill is not yet completed, but a bipartisan group of 12 senators wrote a letter to key appropriators in support of strong defense basic research (6.1) funding.
DOE APPROPRIATIONS: DOE's Office of Science made out better than the Administration requested, with a just-under-one-percent increase for FY06 in the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. Its High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics programs will experience cuts, with drastic reductions planned in the run times at the two major nuclear physics facilities. Senators from the states in which those facilities are located took to the floor during debate on the bill to voice concerns, and received assurances that appropriations leaders would "work with the Department and other Congressional leaders to help resolve this issue." During the House debate on the DOE bill, Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), an ITER supporter, declared that he would rather "kill the ITER project" than allow the U.S. to enter into an international commitment without "a consensus on how we will find that money." Other provisions of interest in the Energy and Water Development spending bill address nuclear waste and nuclear weapons issues.
PHYSICS DECADAL SURVEYS: The National Academies' Board on Physics and Astronomy is soliciting views from the physics community on the most compelling physics opportunities of the next decade.