APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE: With the new fiscal year beginning on October 1, Congress has not yet completed its FY 2008 spending bills, so Congress has passed a continuing resolution to keep government programs operating. While the House has completed all of its appropriations bills, with substantial increases for physical sciences research, the Senate has yet to act on some of those bills. DOE's Under Secretary for Science, Ray Orbach, recently warned an advisory panel that DOE's Office of Science had "mortgaged" its future by shifting tight funds from construction to researchers in FY 2007, in the hope that a strong FY 2008 appropriation would assuage the tight funding situation. So far, the President, the House, and appropriators in the Senate have been supportive of increasing Office of Science funding, but failure to enact a DOE funding bill could result in lower funding than either the President or Congress desire.
FUNDING FOR DOD S&T: The Senate Appropriations Committee recently completed work on its FY 2008 Defense Appropriations bill. Senate appropriators would cut total spending for DOD S&T by 12.6 percent, a greater reduction than proposed by the House, but still a higher funding level than requested by the Administration. An August memo to Defense Secretary Robert Gates by John Young, Director of Defense Research and Engineering, warns that "DOD's Science and Technology investment may be inadequate to meet the imposing security threats that challenge our Nation." For the FY 2009 request, Young proposed that DOD basic research be increased by 21 percent over the FY 2008 request.
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: The chairman and ranking minority member of the House Education and Labor Committee have declared their intentions to make improvements to the controversial No Child Left Behind law when they reauthorize it. Recently they released, for public comment, a discussion draft of their proposed legislation, which would give states greater flexibility in how their progress in closing education gaps is measured. But it is not clear whether consensus can be reached to pass a reauthorization this year.
FUNDING FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY INITIATIVE: House and Senate appropriators are generally supportive of nuclear energy, but neither chamber is willing to provide the full amount requested by the Administration for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership's Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative. In their committee report, House appropriators also cited major concerns with DOE's approach to new projects, commenting that "The Department has established a pattern of rushing into the latest new initiative with unbridled enthusiasm, neglecting the completion of on-going work, and letting haste make waste."