Senators Mikulski and Hutchison on Proposed FY 2012 Funding for NSF, NASA, NIST

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Publication date: 
25 October 2011

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In an effort to get the FY  2012 appropriations bills passed, the Senate is taking a new approach by  bundling three of the twelve funding measures into a single bill.  One of those three bills is the FY 2012  Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  The Senate considered this legislation during  several days of floor debate last week, with a final vote on passage scheduled  for next week.

Senator Barbara Mikulski  (D-MD) is the chair of the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations  Subcommittee.  In remarks on the Senate  floor last week, she spoke of the bipartisan support she has received from  Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), the impacts of constrained funding,  and her opposition to a move to further reduce funding.  The following are selections from Mikulski  and Hutchison’s comments:

Mikulski on the Subcommittee’s  Funding Challenges:

“We face two very pressing  funding challenges that are critical to life and safety. One is the next  generation of weather satellites. It is our weather satellites that not only  say whether we are going to have stormy weather, but our weather operations also  give us early predictions for everything from tornadoes to hurricanes. Also, we  have a growing and explosive prison population. Together, looking at just those  two, the issue related to an exploding population in prisons, meaning more  prisoners, more density in prisons -- they require $350 million more in our  budget, and we needed almost $400 million for our weather satellites.”

Mikulski on the Impact of  Funding Constraints on Innovation Programs:

“We have worked hand in glove  with the authorizers on the America COMPETES Act. Senator Hutchison is a member  of that [Commerce, Science and Transportation] committee and one of the  promoters of that. The America COMPETES Act recommends that we increase funding  for NSF and other science agencies by 7 percent every year. Well, we would  settle for 3 percent every year. This is to come up with the new ideas for the  new jobs, for the new products. But what did we have to do? We didn't raise it  by 7 percent; we didn't raise it by the amount we want; in fact, we had to  reduce it by 3 percent.

“All those who would like to  pound their chests and go ‘hoo-ha hoo-ha’ on American exceptionalism have to  realize that cuts have consequences. But we did work to ensure the fact that we  have funded the national space agency at $17.9 billion. It is $1.5 billion  below the authorized level, which, again, Senator Hutchison is one of the lead  authorizers. We did preserve a balanced space program, human space flight,  space science, also aeronautics, and the development of a reliable space  transportation system. This means, though, that NASA will be asked once again  to do more.”

Mikulski on the James Webb and  Hubble Space Telescopes:

“We did fund the James Webb  Space Telescope, which is the successor to Hubble. By funding the James Webb  Space Telescope, we will ensure America's lead in astronomy and in physics for  the next 50 years.    I am very proud of the fact that a Marylander  at Johns Hopkins and the Space Telescope Institute, on the Hopkins campus, just  won the 2011 Nobel Prize for physics --Dr. Adam Riess. When he accepted the  Nobel Prize, do you know what he said? He said: I could not have done my Nobel  Prize without the Hubble telescope. All my research is based on the Hubble.  Then he said: I want to thank the American people for supporting the political  leadership that funded the Hubble and kept Hubble in space during very dark  times. We won that Nobel Prize. It is going to reveal secrets of the universe  and secrets of physics that are going to help us again invent new kinds of  things.”

Mikulski on China, NIH, and  the NSF:

“There are many who like to  wring their hands about China, and China is surging ahead. We can't stop China,  but we can stop ourselves. And the question is do we want to stop ourselves in  what we need to do? We need to promote commerce, trade, patents to protect our  intellectual property, make sure we have a standard-setting agency, so if you  invent it, you create the standard, so you can sell it around the world. We  need to be able to save lives so we can save them not only at NIH in finding  cures but also throughout Maryland, the Plains of the United States or in my  own community. You know when a hurricane is coming, you know when a tornado is  coming. But right now the Chinese are taking what is our National Science  Foundation and they are replicating it, and we are, unfortunately, forced to  keep it at a very modest funding level.”

Hutchison on Space Telescopes  and Innovation:

“I will just say that I  relate so much to what the chairman [Mikulski] said about the Webb telescope  and the importance of that, and that the Nobel Prize winner whom we are so  proud to have from America - in astronomy - mentioned that was how he was able  to do his research makes me so proud that we have made that kind of investment.  You will see that in other areas where our finest scientists have been  supported, and it is the kind of research that is not going to be done in the  private sector. So this is how we will be able to create something that will  provide jobs of the future. America is ahead in the world. Our economy is  vibrant not because we manufacture better but because we have the ideas for the  manufactured products that have kept our economy going for hundreds of years.”

Hutchison on NASA:

“Lastly, this bill provides  significant support for NASA. The diverse set of programs that are aimed at the  exploration of space and understanding Earth are so important for our country's  future. Senator Mikulski and I have crafted a bill that balances the needs of  science while also encouraging the vehicles that will take our astronauts to  the space station for research and making use of that very important scientific  station.

“Our part is part of a  national lab, and it was designated as such, and then, in the future beyond, it  will include the supporting of emerging commercial space companies to bring  cargo and astronauts to the space station, supporting our investment, taking  advantage of the opportunities for discovery on the space station, and ensuring  that NASA will provide for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

“So many of us watched the  last shuttle return. Knowing we had no vehicle that would take Americans into  space under American control for at least the foreseeable future was not well  regarded in our country, and we need to make this commitment. We have made the  commitment today with appropriations to ensure that we are going to continue  our preeminence in space, that we are going to go through low Earth orbit and  we are going to see what is beyond the Moon in an asteroid or Mars, see if  there is life there and what we can learn from life that might be enhanced on  Earth. So it is important that now we have the heavy lift launch vehicle design  NASA released last month. It will carry our astronauts in the Orion  Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle to the Moon, the asteroids, and beyond.

“Now that this decision has  finally been made, we can focus on the future, and I think Americans expect  that from us. NASA has announced its commitment to the path Congress has  authorized, and now we can provide the funds to accomplish the development of  that rocket.”

Hutchison on COMPETES:

“I am certainly a supporter  of America COMPETES. I would like to do much more in the science area, the hard  science, because I think that is our future. It is how we create jobs and keep  our economy vibrant, having the new products and the new ways to secure more  jobs and more economic vitality in the technical sector in our country.

“I am very pleased. I thank  the Senator from Maryland and her staff so much for helping and working with  us. They have been great partners. I could not ask for any better. I think we  have done a job that was hard to do with the lower levels of spending that we  all expect and accept, but I think we have been able to cover the priorities  well.”

Mikulski on a Motion to  Reduce the Bill’s Total Funding to the FY 2011 Level:

“I wish to rise in opposition  to his [Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)] motion. This is all about budget-speak. It is  really hard to follow between budget authority and expenditures, et cetera. But  let me just say this in plain English.

“This bill is $500 million  less than we spent in 2011 -- $500 million less than we spent in 2011. Now,  this is not the chairperson of the CJS [Commerce, Justice, and Science] bill  kind of making up numbers. This is confirmed by the Congressional Budget  Office. It has been certified by the chairman of the Budget Committee. The CJS  bill is nearly $500 million less than last year.

“Now, am I doing fuzzy math?  No. I do not do fuzzy math. The CJS bill is consistent with something called  the Budget Control Act [enacted this summer.] The Budget Control Act requires  appropriations to cut $7 billion for our fiscal year 2012. When we got our  allocation, the CJS subcommittee allocation was $500 million below 2011. I am going  to say it again--$500 million below what we spent in 2011.

“This allocation required the  CJS subcommittee to take stern and even drastic measures. I eliminated thirty  programs. Yes, Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democratic, a liberal, I cut and  eliminated thirty programs: four in Commerce--I think you objected to one; twenty  in Justice; one in Space; four in the National Science Foundation. I could not  believe it, but that is what we had to do. . . . ”

“So that is for 2011. Now  let's look at 2012. I mean, the President came to Congress and gave a dynamic  State of the Union speech. It touched America deeply when he said: I want to  out-build, out-educate, out-innovate anyone in the world. And he proposed his  budget.

“We are $5 billion below what  the President said he needed in Commerce-Justice-Science, technology, the  innovation subcommittee, to help out-educate and out-innovate anybody else in  the world. So I am $5 billion less than what the President of the United States  said he needed to have to accomplish national goals.

“Now, we talk a lot about  that we want America to be exceptional. Well, you have to spend money to be  exceptional, and when you put your money in science, technology, and education,  we can come up with new ideas, new products that we can make and sell around  the world, and our children know they have a future in this new global economy.

“I do not want to be  nickel-and-dimed here. I have already been nickel-and-dimed to be able to  comply with this bill. You know, I am back to where Obama was in January, that  cold day, and now here we are. So when we talk about cutting, we have cut. We  have absolutely cut. We cut discretionary spending at an incredible level. And  do you think it is has helped create one job? Do you think the market is going ‘hoorah,  hoorah, look at what they are doing’? No. Do you know why? Because the private  sector knows that if we are going to be a 21st-century nation, if we are going  to be America the exceptional, we must educate.

“We also must invest in  scientific research so that the private sector can take that basic research we  do, value add to it, and with the genius that is America, the ability -- that  intellectual property you can own and be protected, that you are going to  develop a product, and you have the National Institute of Standards to come and  help you develop the standards so that you will be able to sell it in America  in every State and sell it around the world in every nation.

“So come on. If we want to be  America the exceptional, stop nickel-and-diming. One of the ways you deal with  debt is a growing economy, restoring consumer confidence, restoring citizen  confidence, No. 1, that we can govern ourselves and that we can govern  ourselves in a smart fashion. Yes, we do need to be frugal, but we sure do not  need to be stupid.”