In both chambers of Congress, bills to dismantle the Department of Commerce are making the rounds (see FYI #125). The main bill in the House, H.R. 1756, sponsored by Rep. Dick Chrysler (R-MI), has been referred to 11 different committees, each of which has jurisdiction over some part of it. The House Science Committee, chaired by Robert Walker (R-PA), held a hearing on the proposal on September 12, and then on September 14 marked up the science- and technology-related portion of Chrysler's bill.
On Monday this week, The American Physical Society held a press conference to release two letters calling on Members of Congress to maintain funding for the laboratory program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Congress is now considering legislation to dismantle the Commerce Department.
The first letter was signed by twenty-five recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics. It concluded:
At this stage in the appropriations process, the House has passed a bill (H.R. 2076) funding the Department of Commerce for FY 1996 (see FYI #103, 108.) The Senate will take up the Commerce appropriations bill after returning from its August break on September 6. Although the House-passed appropriations bill funds the Department at 83 percent of its current level, its opponents have received a promise from the House leadership that legislation to eliminate the Department will be included in this fall's budget
On June 28, the NIST Advanced Technology Program (ATP) was dealt a double blow by the House, from which it is unlikely to recover. On that day, the House Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee voted to phase out the program, and the House Science Committee did not include the ATP when it passed authorizing legislation for NIST's core laboratory programs. The ATP, a program by which NIST provides cost-shared grants to industry for the early stages of technology development, is criticized by many Republicans as "corporate welfare."
Partisan squabbling highlighted yesterday's House Science Subcommittee on Technology mark-up of two authorization bills for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The American Technology Advancement Act would authorize funding for NIST's core laboratory programs and badly-needed construction. NIST's cooperative programs with industry, the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP), were addressed in a second bill, the NIST Industrial Technology
In recent weeks, the Department of Commerce's Undersecretary of Technology, Mary Good, and the director of NIST, Arati Prabhakar, have appeared together at two separate hearings to defend the Administration's civilian technology programs.
A total of $1.023 billion has been requested for Fiscal Year 1996 for the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology. This is a 19.8 percent increase over the current appropriation of $853.8 million. Consistent with President Clinton's belief in high technology's ability to create jobs and improve competitiveness, the Administration has regularly requested significant growth for NIST. Congress has complied by granting increases, although somewhat less than requested. However, some
Today and tomorrow the full House will debate H.R. 3814, the fiscal year 1996 funding bill for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State. The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill on July 16. Accompanying the bill is a committee report which, while not having the force of law, provides the committee's views and recommendations for the departments and agencies funded by H.R. 3814, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Below are selected quotations from the report (House Report