On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an FY 2005 VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill that would increase the budget for the National Science Foundation by 3.0% next year. Under this bill, S. 2825, the foundation's budget would increase from $5,577.9 million to $5,744.7 million, which was what the Bush Administration requested. The House version of this bill recommended a cut of 2.0% in NSF's budget to $5,467.0 million (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/099.html).
Senate Report 108-353 accompanies this bill and provides the recommendations of the Senate appropriators. Selections from this report, as well as the funding levels, follow:
GENERAL DESCRIPTION, COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION:
"The Committee continues to be supportive of the efforts achieved in the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-368) and the pursuit of a doubling path for NSF funding. However, due to funding constraints, the Committee is not able to provide such funding at this time, but will continue to pursue these efforts in the future.
"The Committee notes that productivity growth, powered by new knowledge and technological innovation, makes the economic benefits of a comprehensive, fundamental research and education enterprise abundantly clear. New products, processes, entire new industries, and the employment opportunities that result, depend upon rapid advances in research and their equally rapid movement into the marketplace. In today's global economy, continued progress in science and engineering and the transfer of the knowledge developed is vital if the United States is to maintain its competitiveness. NSF is at the leading edge of the research and discoveries that will create the jobs and technologies of the future."
RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES:
The current budget is $4,251.4 million. The Administration requested $4,452.0 million. The Senate bill provides an increase of 3.6%, or $150.9 million, to $4,402.3 million over this year. The House bill would cut the current budget by 2.3% or $99.6 million to $4,151.8 million.
Senate appropriators provided the Administration's requested increases in Engineering: +1.9%; Geosciences: +2.2%; and Polar Research Programs: +2.8%. The Senate bill would increase Mathematical and Physical Sciences funding by 2.8%, or $31.6 million; the Administration requested a 2.2% increase.
The committee's report contains guidance on programs "to assist minorities, and women and schools that have not received significant Federal support," plant genome research, Information Technology Research, infrastructure needs at smaller institutions, NSF's role in international science leadership, arctic research, human and social dynamics, and new S&T centers; see http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app05.html . Regarding the nanotechnology research program and radio astronomy, the report recommended the following:
"NSF has been the lead agency for the National Nanotechnology Initiative, and will continue to provide critical and fundamental understanding to this emerging technology. The Committee fully supports the funding level requested for nanotechnology within the fiscal year 2005 budget request. The Committee believes that the recommended level of funding will allow the Foundation to continue to be the leader for this initiative in a field that is still in its beginning stages. In the past, novel technologies have suffered because of misconceptions of the public. This has led to mistrust and confusion over the benefits that such research can provide. NSF is encouraged to make sure such difficulties are minimized so that this technology can continue to provide the potential breakthroughs needed by materials research and health researchers."
"The Committee is concerned that NSF continues to underfund the operations for radio astronomy. The operations, maintenance, and development of new instrumentation at the Very Large Array, the Very Long Baseline Array, and the Green Bank Telescope, allows these world-class facilities to provide valuable research into the origins of the universe. The Committee provides the National Radio Astronomy Observatories $55,000,000 for annual operations."
MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION:
The current budget is $155.0 million. The Administration requested $213.3 million. The Senate bill would cut the current budget by 15.9%, or $24.6 million, to $130.4 million. The House bill would increase this budget to $208.2 million, an increase of 34.3%. Selections from the report follow:
"The Committee has provided $49,670,000 for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array [ALMA] [the same as the House], $47,350,000 for EarthScope [the same as the House], and $33,400,000 [the House provided $30.0 million] for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. Due to budgetary constraints, no funding is provided for new starts within this account for fiscal year 2005.
"The Committee has received the results of the National Academy of Sciences work on developing a set of criteria that can be used to rank and prioritize the Foundation's large research facilities. The Committee commends the Academy for its work and expects this report will lead to a priority-setting process that is transparent, fair, and rational. The Committee expects NSF, the National Science Board and the Academy to work together to ensure that the recommendations of the Academy are fully implemented for the fiscal year 2006 budget submission.
"Consistent with the implementation of the recommendations from the National Research Council's January 14, 2004 report on Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by the National Science Foundation, the Committee urges NSF to consider the inclusion of funding in its fiscal year 2006 budget request to begin construction of a new research vessel to replace the R/V Alpha Helix."
EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES:
The current budget is $939.0 million. The Administration requested $771.4 million. The Senate bill would reduce the budget by 1.0%, or $9.8 million, to $929.2 million. The House bill would cut the current budget by 10.2% or $96.0 million to $843.0 million.
The committee's report discusses EPSCoR (stating that it is "deeply disappointed by the administration's lack of support" for the program), the tech talent program, Advanced Technology Education program, support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, tribal colleges program, and informal science education program. The complete language may be viewed at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app05.html . See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/126.html for the language rejecting the Administration's request to transfer NSF's Math and Science Partnership program. In addition, the report states:
"The Committee recognizes and is supportive of the request by the administration for an additional 500 fellowships within the Foundation's graduate research education programs. The request will allow for 5,550 fellowships to be funded at $30,000 per award. The Committee believes that this funding will allow NSF to attract more of the best and brightest students into the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology fields. The Committee also urges NSF to work towards increasing the number of women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups within these programs to the greatest extent possible.
"Without prejudice, and reflecting the difficult funding constraints within which the Committee has been given to operate, the Committee has chosen to provide no funding for the new Workforce for the 21st Century program at NSF."