Congress returns to Washington next week. House and Senate appropriators will then begin drafting the FY 2004 appropriations bills. In many cases the House version of these thirteen bills will likely have the lower budget figure in this fall's House and Senate conference committees. Getting the highest possible number in the House bills for S&T budgets will be important. That is why the April 2 letter sent by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) to House VA, HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman James Walsh (R-NY) is of great interest.
Walsh and Boehlert, both Republicans from adjoining districts in upstate New York, are strong supporters of the National Science Foundation. Where sometimes the relationship between authorizers and appropriators is not as smooth as civics textbooks describe, these two key chairmen work well together. In his letter, Chairman Boehlert expresses disappointment in the calculated 3% requested budget increase for NSF and recommends an increase of 20.4%, or $1,081 million in the foundation's budget. Boehlert's letter highlights the importance of the Mathematics and Science Education Partnership Program, Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, the STEP Program, cyber security, and nanotechnology. The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Chairman Walsh,
Over the course of the last month, I have been reviewing the President's fiscal year 2004 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF). I know that you share my disappointment that the Administration requested only a 3 percent increase for NSF.
I recommend that Congress increase NSF's total budget to $6,390,832,000, the amount authorized by the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-368). This appropriation would increase funding for NSF's core science programs, such as information technology and nanotechnology, and it would enable the Foundation to begin fully funding K-12 and undergraduate education programs, and the large facility projects that have already been approved by the National Science Board.
Funding the authorization of appropriations included in P.L. 107-368 would enable the third year of funding for the Mathematics and Science Education Partnership Program, helping to assure that math and science education reforms undertaken in the context of the President's No Child Left Behind initiative will be grounded in sound science. I strongly support this initiative and I request that you fund it at the level requested by the President, $200 million.
Likewise, I ask that you fund the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program at the authorized level of $20 million. This university-based program will provide one- or two-year scholarships to undergraduate mathematics and science majors who commit to teach elementary or secondary mathematics math or science for two years for each year that they receive a scholarship.
I also ask that you fund the Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Talent Expansion Program (STEP) at the authorized level of $30 million. STEP will fund innovative programs at institutions of higher education to increase the number of students enrolled in undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and technology degree programs, particularly in fields that have faced declining enrollment in recent years. Together with the Math and Science Education Partnership Program and the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, STEP will help the reverse the decline in the number of American students pursuing careers that require a high level of scientific and technical skill.
There are two areas of research at NSF that I believe deserve special attention: cyber security and nanotechnology. Cyber security research has assumed greater importance as the threats posed by cyber terrorism and cyber crime have grown more rapidly than our capability to counter them. Last year's Cyber Security Research and Development Act (P.L. 107-305) authorized $105 million for cyber security research at NSF in fiscal year 2004, including a cyber security research grants program, a program to establish multidisciplinary Centers for Computer and Network Security Research, and a program of capacity building grants to establish or improve undergraduate and master's degree programs in computer and network security. I believe cyber security research should be among the Foundation's highest priorities and I urge you to fund this research at the authorized level.
Nanotechnology is one of the most exciting and promising scientific research endeavors underway today with widespread potential benefits in information technology, medical improvements, military systems, and energy production and distribution. NSF is the lead agency in the President's multi-agency National Nanotechnology Initiative and, as such, helps assure U.S. scientific leadership in an area that is expected to underpin our future industrial competitiveness. Congress authorized $350 million for nanoscale science and engineering (nanotechnology) research at NSF. I request that you fund this activity at the authorized level.
Thank you for your consideration of my recommendations. I look forward to working closely with you and with the Administration to ensure that our nation makes the investments in education, research, and development required to maintain America's scientific and engineering leadership
Sherwood L. Boehlert,