Reaction From Capitol Hill to FY 2008 S&T Funding Levels
Reaction to the recently-enacted FY 2008 budgets for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's research program has been, with few exceptions, strongly negative. As reviewed in FYI #124, The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, Association of American Universities, and the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America have expressed sharp disagreement with the funding outcome (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/124.html .) In addition, the American Physical Society released a critical statement that notes:
"While other nations are aggressively challenging American leadership in physical sciences and technology, the omnibus bill sets our country on the wrong course. It fails to provide the necessary resources for long-term research in the physical sciences and engineering. It fails to provide the requisite resources for developing new cutting-edge scientific laboratories and even for operating existing national user facilities. It fails to provide adequate funding for university-based research that is so essential for educating the next generation of scientists and engineers. It also fails to provide the appropriate incentives for American industry to innovate at an accelerated pace." (The entire APS statement may be read at http://www.aps.org/about/pressreleases/funding-fy08.cfm .)
There has been sharp reaction from Capitol Hill. Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) criticized the outcome (see http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/mi03_ehlers/omnibus_statement.html for his entire statement):
"I am gravely disappointed with the funding levels provided for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy (DOE) in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2008. This bill fell dramatically short. Though modest increases were provided for NSF, NIST and the Office of Science, these increases essentially evaporate when Congressionally-directed funds, rescissions and inflation are considered. In light of the strong support requested by the President in his budget proposal, and the additional increases provided by both houses of Congress in their separate appropriations bills, the final numbers were an unanticipated blow. The original intent was to double the budgets of these agencies starting with the baseline of enacted funding from fiscal year 2006. Two years later, we are not even close to starting on that pathway. Furthermore, there is no way to sugarcoat the funding level for science and math education at the NSF, which has dropped to the lowest it has been since 2000 and a full twenty percent below the amount authorized in the COMPETES Act.
"The scientific agencies and community are scrambling to understand the impacts of the omnibus funding. It is already apparent that several Department of Energy projects and facilities may immediately have to be shut down. It may be years until the real impacts emerge as the repercussions of these funding decisions are felt in our international scientific stature as well as the career decisions of students considering teaching or other science-related fields. We are eating our technological 'seed corn' and subsequently sacrificing the pipeline for future discovery and economic development. Despite the research community's best efforts to explain to Members of Congress why these pressing problems can only be solved by consistent basic research, innovation remains a low priority for those who hold the purse strings.
"I realize that many, many programs did not receive the funding that was hoped for in this bill. Difficult decisions were necessary and ultimately some programs had to be reduced below House or Senate-passed levels more than others. Unfortunately, this year’s budget showed that fundamental science and innovation are not a high priority to the Congress. I will continue to work with my colleagues to change this position. The adopted budget is untenable for our nation, if we are to maintain any hope of providing world leadership in science and technology and remaining economically competitive."
As previously reviewed in http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/121.html, the final funding bill made very significant cuts to the request for the High Energy Physics program at the DOE Office of Science. The International Linear Collider received only 25 percent of the request, and Congress included no funding for the NOvA activity at the Tevatron. Fermilab Director Pier Oddone told the lab's employees on December 20 that the $320 million that the lab will receive for FY 2008 is $52 million less than what it expected. This will cause an "immediate stop of ILC [http://ilc.fnal.gov/] and SCRF [ http://ilc.fnal.gov/accelerators/cavity_program.html], and NoVA [ http://www-nova.fnal.gov/]. Oddone described the need to "re-size the laboratory . . . the size of the problem is about 200 FTEs," and a "rolling furlough" of approximately two days a month.
In response to these cuts, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) are meeting with the appropriations and authorization committees and the Department of Energy "to address the current funding situation and avoid potential layoffs during fiscal year 2008." They sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle urging that the Administration "increase the [FY 2009] funding request for the Office of Science, particularly for the HEP program." Their entire letter, and the accompanying press release, can be read at http://durbin.senate.gov/showRelease.cfm?releaseId=289862
On December 19, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a letter on "The Innovation Agenda and the Omnibus." In this letter, the Speaker states:
"As the first session of the 110th Congress comes to a close, I wanted to provide an update on the funding for the Innovation Agenda. This week, Congress passed an Omnibus Appropriations Bill that rejects the President's misguided budget cuts in key initiatives and begins to reinvest in the American people's priorities. The Omnibus also makes key investments in innovation. However, due to the President's insistence that we cut over $20 billion from the budget, these investments fall short of what House Democrats had provided in earlier House-passed bills, especially in the areas of research and development.
"I want to assure you all that my commitment to the Innovation Agenda remains strong and steadfast. House Democrats believe that American economic leadership is fueled by national investments in an educated and skilled workforce, groundbreaking federal research, and a steadfast commitment to being the most competitive and innovative nation in the word.
"As I travel the country hearing leadership in the high-technology, venture capital, academic, biotech and telecommunications sectors, I hear a strong message that our commitment to research and development must be a sustained commitment. That is why our Innovation Agenda pledges to double this funding within 10 years. Despite a big victory on the COMPETES Act, we didn't get all the research funding we hoped for this year. But rest assured, we will be back fighting next year and for years to come to ensure that we meet this goal and sustain it."
A statement accompanying this letter explains that the House Democrats' Innovation Agenda proposes to double funding for NSF, NIST, and the DOE Office of Science within 10 years, requiring funding increases of 7 percent annually. It then states: "The National Institute of Standards and Technology (received an 11% increase) is on track to meet the Innovation Agenda's goal to double in 10 years. The Department of Energy's Office of Science (received a 6% increase) is very close to meeting that goal. Unfortunately, the National Science Foundation (funded at a 2.5% increase) falls short of the 7% goal to be on track for doubling within 10 years."
As explained in http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/121.html, the FY 2008 budget for the Office of Science contained many earmarks. Subtracting these earmarks results in a budget increase of 2.6 percent for the Office of Science. In addition, the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democrats' Innovation Agenda set different "doubling" goals for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. A 2007 Office of Management and Budget document on the American Competitiveness Initiative refers to "the President's commitment to begin doubling basic research in the key physical sciences agencies" and later refers to "the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology labs, in accord with the ACI doubling commitment." In contrast, the Innovation Agenda states: "Double funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science within the next 10 years and make a long-term, sustained commitment to these crucial investments in basic research and development and those at other agencies that serve as the building blocks of technological advancement." Note that the Innovation Agenda does not limit the NIST doubling to basic research or its labs. The total NIST budget rose by 11.7 percent in the FY 2008 appropriations bill. However, NIST's Scientific and Technical Research Services budget - which funds its labs conducting basic research - rose by 1.4 percent (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/123.html .)