NIST REAUTHORIZATION: As in previous years, the Bush Administration's intention to eliminate NIST's Advanced Technology Program and cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships has drawn congressional opposition. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez testified that "it really goes back to our priorities," and the Administration's priority was to increase the funding for NIST's basic research programs.
FY08 S&T APPROPRIATIONS: As House and Senate appropriators begin crafting their spending bills for FY08, there is strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for increasing S&T funding, particularly within NSF, NIST, and DOE's Office of Science, the agencies that are targeted by the Administration's American Competitiveness Initiative. Appropriators in both the House and Senate are also concerned that NASA has insufficient resources. House appropriations subcommittee chairman Alan Mollohan (D-WV) declared that NASA has "too many responsibilities and not enough resources." His Senate counterpart, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), said "there is simply too much pressure on NASA's budget."
SCIENCE EDUCATION: The No Child Left Behind Act that provides federal funding for K-12 education is due for reauthorization, and an independent commission has released a report identifying shortcomings in the law and suggesting improvements. Additionally, a number of bills have been introduced this year that focus on the improvement of K-12 science teaching, teacher preparation, standards and assessment.
ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION POLICY: House committees have held several hearings questioning whether federal employees have been improperly hindered by the Bush Administration in the discussion and dissemination of scientific issues such as climate change. Witnesses representing the Administration have denied such charges.
BROAD SENATE COMPETITIVENESS BILL: On April 25, the Senate, by an 88-8 margin, passed a comprehensive bill to enhance America's S&T competitiveness. S. 761, the "America COMPETES Act," would authorize programs and resources to increase physical sciences R&D, support research infrastructure, and improve science and math education. As an authorization bill, S. 761 can set policy and offer funding guidelines but not provide the actual funding. It remains to be seen how the Senate will reconcile its bill with related bills in the House of very different size and scope.