Earlier this week National Science Foundation Director Walter
Massey appeared before the House VA, HUD, Independent Agencies
Appropriations Subcommittee requesting an additional $207 million
for current year operations. This request is a component of a
$16.3 billion supplemental bill pending before Congress to create
500,000 new jobs. This legislation is part of a much larger,
multi-year economic package submitted to Congress by President
Clinton. Tuesday's hearing was the first chaired by the new
subcommittee chairman, Louis Stokes (D-Ohio.)
Under this request, $112 million would be used to fully fund (to
NSF's original FY 1993 request) five strategic research
initiatives. These initiatives are in the areas of advanced
manufacturing, global change research, materials research,
biotechnology, and high performance computing and communications.
Massey noted that $19 million of the high performance computing
money would be "targeted for networking and computer applications
that can help address problems in health care, education,
manufacturing, and access to library information."
In addition, NSF would provide $85 million for what Massey
described as "curiosity-driven research activities." An attachment
to his testimony noted that the requested $85 million would
"restore funding for Research and Related Activities [R&RA] to
roughly the level that was requested for FY 1993." While this
budget would increase by $197.4 million, this figure is still
$155.1 million short of the FY 1993 request. The R&RA activities
budget is now $13 million below the 1992 level.
If the supplemental request is approved by Congress, funding for
Mathematical and Physical Sciences (within the R&RA category) would
increase by $40.55 million to $660.49 million. Astronomy and
physics research money is provided under this category.
Geosciences funding would increase by $43.78 million to $445.66
million. Massey testified that "in many cases, these funds will be
used to enhance existing awards so that we can more fully enable
the conduct of the research we support."
Also requested is $4.7 million "for the development and
acquisition, on a cost-sharing basis, of major instruments needed
in university-based scientific and engineering research." No new
money is requested for Education & Human Resources, which was
questioned by Rep. Ray Thornton (D-Ark).
Congressional Democrats and the Clinton Administration are trying
to get the entire supplemental request approved by early April.
Republicans are questioning the use of this special legislative
mechanism which was intended, as they see it, for emergencies such
as hurricanes or earthquakes. Rep. Dean A. Gallo (R-NJ) asked
Massey, "where does the emergency exist?", a question Gallo said he
was asking all witnesses. He remarked that the 2,400 jobs which
NSF estimates would be created this year by their supplemental
request would be "very expensive jobs." More should be known about
the outlook for this legislation in the near future.