Everyone in Washington knows that additional funding for some federal programs for this budget year is a certainty. No one knows or is even prepared to speculate whether the coming bill will include funding to offset the disappointing outcome of the FY 2008 budget cycle for the DOE Office of Science or the National Science Foundation.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act passed last December was not the final word in the FY 2008 appropriations cycle. Congress almost always finds it necessary to pass additional funding legislation called a supplemental appropriations bill, and this year will be no different.
When Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act it provided less than one-half the $196.4 billion that the Administration requested for "the global war on terrorism." The $70 billion in this bill would last until this April, with additional money to be contained in a supplemental appropriations bill.
The chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, John Murtha (D-PA), has stated that his subcommittee will have completed its work on a supplemental funding bill by the end of next week. He did not know when this bill would be considered by the full House, saying that was a leadership decision. When the decision is made to take up this bill, it is apt to move quickly.
Calls have been made to include $500 million in additional funding for the DOE Office of Science and the National Science Foundation in this supplemental bill. Last week, approximately a dozen industry and university leaders met with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD.) This effort, coordinated by the Association of American Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, called upon Congress to provide $300 million for the DOE Office of Science and $200 million for the National Science Foundation in the supplemental bill. Said AAU chair (and president of The Pennsylvania State University) Graham Spanier, "During the last budget cycle, we experienced a setback for the United States. We're not here to assess blame, it was a systematic failure of the appropriation process to fund the American competitiveness initiatives and higher education and the sciences were the victims."
Late last year, Bingaman wrote to Secretary Bodman, stating "Congress may consider supplemental appropriations bills next year. The timing and content of those bills are uncertain at this point. " Earlier this month, Bingaman's staff issued a release explaining, "For the record, Sen. Bingaman is joined in his concern about these [Office of Science] cuts by several of his colleagues, and hopes to find a bipartisan opportunity to work with other Senate advocates of DOE science programs [to] try to ameliorate these cuts."
Energy Under Secretary for Science Ray Orbach was asked during a meeting last week of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel whether additional funding for the Office of Science was being considered in the upcoming supplemental bill. Orbach replied that he "literally doesn't know" the answer to that question, adding that supplementals are very tricky. Congressional staff note that other federal programs received insufficient funding, and supporters of these programs are also making the case that supplemental money should be provided to those programs. If the resulting supplemental bill has too high a price tag, it could become untenable and subject to a veto.