"Given the times, we are doing quite well." -- NSF Director Neal Lane (March 20, 1996)
The National Science Foundation has requested a 4.6% increase in its budget for Fiscal Year 1997. This increase of $145 million brings the foundation's proposed budget to $3.325 billion. (The 1996 budget figure is based on the unsigned appropriations bill plus a carryover from previous years.)
The annual budget cycle for the National Science Foundation began last week at a three-hour hearing before the House VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. The hearing went well, with the only real sticking point some resistance to a foundation review of the EPSCoR program.
During the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, NSF Director Neal Lane spoke to the science community about its role in explaining the importance of science. Excerpts from his February 9 remarks, entitled "Science and the American Dream: Healthy or History?" are quoted below. The "//" indicates that selections from separate paragraphs have been combined in the interests of space.
Outlook on FY 96 Appropriations for NSF, NASA, NIST
Temporary funding expires in one month for the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. There seems to be sentiment that before then, Congress and the Clinton Administration may agree on a legislative mechanism to avoid a repeat of previous government shutdowns.
A total of eighty-eight members of the House of Representatives co-signed a letter recommending fully funding the National Science Foundation for the rest of fiscal year 1996 (see FYI #18.) The letter was written by Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston (R-LA) and House VA/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Sixty-one Republicans and 27 Democrats signed Ehlers' letter. The signatories are listed below. Sixteen are members of the House
As reported in FYI #17, the January 26 passage of another stopgap spending bill (H.R. 2880) ensures funding for the National Science Foundation through March 15. However, the uncertainty of the funding situation beyond that date has forced NSF to delay issuing many new and continuing grants, a result that is being felt in universities across the country. The science community has begun to respond, informing their Members of Congress of the disruption to America's research effort.
With only hours to spare, Congress approved short-term funding last week for a number of departments and agencies still lacking an FY 1996 appropriation. Among them are NSF, NASA, and NIST. Funding is assured through March 15. The following is the funding status for departments and agencies tracked by FYI:
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY: An full year appropriations bill was signed last fall (see 1995 FYI #154.)
Robert Schrieffer, President of The American Physical Society, sent the following letter to leaders in the House and Senate regarding the lack of an FY 1996 appropriation for the National Science Foundation:
January 19, 1996
"The budget impasse is beginning to have a dramatic--and negative--effect on the nation's scientific research enterprise. One immediate threat is to research supported by the National Science Foundation.
National Science Foundation Director Neal Lane, in a speech entitled, "Thin Ice Over Deep Water: Science and Technology in a Seven Year Downsizing," comments on the outlook for federal science funding and the role of scientists in the political process. Lane delivered his remarks at a January 15 meeting of the American Astronomical Society. See FYI #8 for Lane's description of the effect of the shutdown on NSF. FYIs #10 and 11 provide guidance on communicating with Congress.