Time is of the Essence: FY 2007 NSF Budget Increase

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Publication date: 
11 January 2007

The next few weeks are crucial in determining whether the National Science Foundation will receive any budget increase this year. Now is the time for constituents who support an increase to urge their representative to sign a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Ranking Minority Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Time is of the essence: the deadline for signatures is Friday, January 12.

Yesterday, Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to all representatives urging them to sign a letter to Obey and Lewis supporting President Bush’s $6.02 billion request for the National Science Foundation. The House passed its version of the FY 2007 Science, State, Justice Commerce Appropriations Bill (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/084.html ) that would fully fund this request on June 29 by the overwhelming vote of 393-23 (16 not voting.) In July, Senate appropriators passed their version of this bill providing almost the entire request, but the Senate leadership never scheduled floor time for the consideration of the bill.

Congress adjourned in late December without taking action on this bill, providing stopgap, level funding for NSF and other affected agencies through February 15. In December, Chairman Obey and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) announced that they would support legislation continuing FY 2006 funding, in almost all instances, through September 30 (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/141.html) Under this arrangement, NSF would lose between $410 and $439 million (depending on what version of the funding bill was used.) As described in FYI last year, under the President’s budget request, “The foundation's funding rate would increase from 20% to 21%, growing from 6,190 grants to a projected 6,760 research grants. Annual award size would increase; the average duration of research grants would remain unchanged at 3.0 years. Another projection shows the total number of people involved in NSF activities, ranging from K-12 students and teachers to senior researchers would increase from an estimated 171,080 to 177,485.” (See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/023.html.)

The deadline for signatures on the Ehlers/Gordon/Holt letter to Chairman Obey and Ranking Member Lewis in support of the $6.02 billion NSF request is tomorrow, Friday, January 12. Members of Congress receive many “Dear Colleague” letters every day asking for their signature on letters such as this. Expressions of constituent interest are critical in getting such a letter acted upon.

The telephone number for the switchboard of the U.S. House of Representatives is 202-224-3121. The name of your representative is easily located by using the search box in the header at http://www.house.gov/

The complete text of this letter follows:

The Honorable David Obey
Committee on Appropriations
H-218 Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Jerry Lewis
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
H-218 Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Obey and Ranking Member Lewis:

Thank you very much for your leadership in increasing federal funding for basic science research. As supporters of scientific research and education, we respectfully ask that you single out the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a priority in your fiscal year 2007 Continuing Resolution appropriations legislation. Specifically, we request that you fund NSF at the House-passed, President's requested level of $6.02 billion in fiscal year 2007. This is essential, because the flat funding for this agency under the Continuing Resolution will directly inhibit our national competitiveness and jeopardize American innovation.

The NSF is an agency that has suffered budget stagnation in recent years and even a budget cut in fiscal year 2005. We have not managed to come close to the doubling path for NSF set out in the 2002 Authorization Act. This year, however, we were heartened that the budget request for the NSF included a substantial increase for the "high-leverage fields of physical sciences and engineering" as part of the proposed American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). This boost in funding would allow for new innovative technologies to be developed by NSF-funded scientists and engineers. The full House and Senate appropriators supported the requested increase for NSF in the FY07 appropriations bills. Our colleagues understood that the increase represented a significant down-payment toward the goal of enhancing U.S. global competitiveness by investing in basic science research.

The NSF is the major source of federal funding in many fields such as the basic sciences, mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, and it funds approximately 20 percent of all federally-supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. If Congress provides only flat funding, peer-reviewed basic science research will suffer all across the country. NSF-funded researchers have won more than 170 Nobel Prizes and pioneered innovations that have improved quality of life of all Americans. Additionally, NSF consistently earns top scores in all of the Administration's budgetary performance measures and all grants awarded undergo a rigorous peer-review process.

Completing the remaining fiscal year 2007 appropriations by way of a long-term Continuing Resolution presents significant challenges and will necessitate some difficult choices. We fully appreciate the tight budget constraints that you are operating under, but a small investment in science yields immeasurable results. By including the requested level of funding for the NSF in the Continuing Resolution you would be reflecting the overwhelmingly bipartisan will of the Congress and making a significant investment in the future of our nation. We believe NSF is one of the nation's most important policy concerns and respectfully request that you fund NSF at the House-passed, President's requested level of $6.02 billion in fiscal year 2007.