Congress is nearing completion of the FY 2015 appropriations cycle. The House and Senate are scheduled to complete action on a $1.1trillion bill providing funding through September 30, 2015 for all departments and agencies with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security that will be funded through early 2015.
The Coalition for National Science Funding and the Coalition for National Security Research have issued separate letters to Members of Congress urging the passage of funding legislation providing the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense’s basic research program with budget increases in FY 2015. It is uncertain if Members will be given an opportunity to vote on an omnibus appropriations bill with these increases before short term funding expires on December 11.
As reported in FYI FYI#130, Rep. Vern Ehlers' (R-MI) National Science Education Act (H.R. 4271) was brought to the House floor but not passed last week. The bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support, had passed the Science Committee unanimously in July, and was supported by many organizations including the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical Society, and the American Physical Society. However, in recent days a number of Members had raised concerns about the constitutionality of one provision.
The National Science Education Act (H.R. 4271), the first of Rep. Vern Ehlers' (R-MI) trio of bills to improve science education, failed to gain House passage on October 24. The bill, which would have authorized $235.3 million over three years to improve and enhance science and math education programs at the National Science Foundation, had 118 cosponsors and had enjoyed broad bipartisan support. On the House floor last week, it received 215 "yea" and 156 "no" votes, but because of the parliamentary procedure being used, it did not pass.
Today's Washington Post contains an op-ed by Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and former director of the National Institutes of Health. Varmus states that "Congress is not addressing with sufficient vigor the compelling needs of the other science agencies [besides NIH], especially the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy." The budget for each of them should be doubled over the next five years, he contends. Varmus cites the contributions of physicists to advances in medical diagnosis and treatment.
Kit" Bond (R-Missouri) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) are still looking for additional support from their colleagues to double the National Science Foundation budget over the next five years. They have the signatures of 38 senators (counting themselves) on a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D- South Dakota) that advocates doubling of the foundation's budget.
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION HEARING: NSF Director Neal Lane and National Science Board Chairman Richard Zare appeared before the House Subcommittee on Basic Research on March 5. This was a low-key hearing, lasting around 90 minutes, that was the first of three by the subcommittee on the NSF FY 1998 budget request. It started with Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), substituting for chairman Steven Schiff (R-NM) stating, "I believe the President, with this FY 1998 budget request for NSF, has presented a realistic proposal from which we on the Science Committee can work.
Request Given the constraints on Federal discretionary spending, this increase represents a strong show of support from the Administration," said NSF Director Neal Lane at a February 6 briefing, describing the 3% growth in the foundation's FY 1998 budget request. This increase of $97 million would bring the foundation's budget to $3.367 billion in the next fiscal year.