Success: President Signs Bill Providing Additional Science Funding

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Publication date: 
1 July 2008

Two notable successes occurred yesterday.  President Bush signed the supplemental appropriations bill providing $337.5 million in additional science funding for this year.  Later in the day,  the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation announced that the U.S. contribution to the Large Hadron Collider was complete (to be covered in a forthcoming FYI.).

It has been about six months since President George Bush signed the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Bill that provided considerably less money for the DOE Office of Science and National Science Foundation than anticipated.  Yesterday the President signed a supplemental appropriations bill that included additional current year funding for the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health.

After months-long negotiations on Capitol Hill, and between Congress and the White House, all sides came to an agreement about the make-up of a $162 billion war supplemental funding bill.  Of this, almost $3.6 billion is for non war funding.  The House leadership and the White House agreed on additional current year science funding to be distributed as follows: DOE Office of Science - $62.5 million, National Science Foundation - $62.5 million, NASA - $62.5 million, and National Institutes of Health - $150 million.  See FYI #68   for the language specifying how this money is to be spent.

It was unclear if the Senate would accept the House bill as passed, or attach additional funding – a step that might have incurred a presidential veto.  The Senate agreed to the bill as written, and on last Thursday night passed it by a vote of 92-6.  The President signed the bill yesterday in the Oval Office, thanking Congress for its cooperation in passing the bill.

The new money for these science agencies can be viewed from several perspectives.  On  the one hand,  NSF's new total FY 2008 appropriation (the consolidated appropriations bill and the supplemental appropriations bill) rose 3.6 percent over last year; the Administration requested an 8.7 percent increase.   For the Office of Science, the total FY 2008 appropriation increased by 4.2 percent (after subtracting earmarked funds); the Administration sought a 15.8 percent increase.   Both "new" appropriations are considerably less than the levels authorized in the America COMPETES law.  On the other hand, almost no federal department or agency saw significant increases in the final appropriations bill passed last December, and fewer still were included in the supplemental appropriations bill.

  Looking ahead to the wrap-up of the FY 2009 appropriations cycle, a dialogue from last week's Senate floor deliberation is of note.  Just before the Senate voted to pass the supplemental bill, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) engaged in a brief planned dialogue of interest to users of DOE's science facilities:

"MR. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I rise today to ask my colleague, the chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, about a matter that may become an issue if we do not pass the fiscal year 2009 appropriations bills in a timely manner. As you know, there are several critically important projects in the Department of Energy's Office of Science budget in various stages of development. One of the projects is the National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This project is in the design phase and is expected to begin construction in the early part of 2009.

"The fiscal year 2008 Omnibus appropriations bill provided approximately $20 million less than the budget request, and the fiscal year 2009 budget request has a substantial increase, which is consistent with the funding profile. I am concerned about the impact a continuing resolution for several months may have on the schedule and overall cost for the National Synchrotron Light Source II project. One issue is that under a continuing resolution less money would be available than if the budget request were enacted. A more pressing issue is that under some previous continuing resolution rules construction would not be allowed to begin as that would be a new activity.

"Could my colleague please comment on these matters?"

"MR. DORGAN. I thank the gentleman from New York for the question. There are several projects in the Office of Science and in the Department of Energy that are in various stages of planning, design, and construction. Like the National Synchrotron Light Source II project, these other projects may also be impacted if a long-term [FY 2009] continuing resolution is enacted."

"I very much appreciate my colleague's concern about the project at Brookhaven National Laboratory and will work with him to attempt to address these issues if a long-term continuing resolution becomes a reality."