Letter Urges Sustained Investment for the National Science Foundation

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Publication date: 
20 March 2009

Members of the House of Representatives were urged yesterday to sign a letter to the senior leadership of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the NSF to provide the Administration’s request of $7.0 billion for the foundation in FY 2010.  The letter states, “In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, we must make sustained investments in the physical sciences and engineering through the National Science Foundation.”

The deadline for signatures on this letter is Friday, March 27.

Members of Congress receive many of these “Dear Colleague” letters every day.  They are an effective way of demonstrating Members’ support for a bill, other action, or, as in this case, funding for a department or agency.  With a steady, and often overwhelming stream of correspondence in the form of US mail, email, and faxes, and the constant ringing of telephones, a “Dear Colleague” letter is more likely to be acted upon if a constituent contacts their representative.

The Obama Administration released an FY 2010 budget overview last month with a brief description of its forthcoming request for NSF.  It now appears that the full budget request may not be sent to Congress until late April or early May.  The overview section on the FY 2010 request for NSF can be viewed here.

The letter is addressed to Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV), the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, and the subcommittee’s Ranking Republican, Frank Wolf (R-VA).  Both Mollohan and Wolf are strong supporters of the NSF, and science.  A letter signed by many of Members of the House, from both parties, is an effective way of demonstrating widespread support for the foundation.  The bill Mollohan, Wolf and the subcommittee members will write later this year contains funding for hundreds of programs that will be competing for the same money.

This March 19 letter was sent by five representatives: Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL), and Bob Inglis (R-SC).  The telephone number for the main switchboard of the House of Representatives is 202-225-3121.  Guidance on writing to a Member of Congress, with links to email forms, is here.   Due to time and security constraints, regular mail is not recommended.

The letter follows:

“Dear Chairman Mollohan and Ranking Member Wolf:

“We are writing to thank you for your consistent support for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and to urge you to continue that support in the fiscal year 2010 (FY10) appropriations bill. We ask that you uphold the Administration’s FY10 funding level request of $7.0 billion for the National Science Foundation.

“The NSF funds investigator-initiated, peer-reviewed, competitively selected awards, state-of-the-art tools, instrumentation, facilities, and educational programs. In 2007, an esteemed panel at the National Academies issued an urgent warning that we may be losing our economic edge in science and technology. The panel’s Rising Above the Gathering Storm report served as a catalyst for Congress and the Administration to pass the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69), which  authorizes doubling the funding for the physical sciences over a seven-year period. The COMPETES Act authorizes $8.1 billion for NSF in FY10.

“Despite mounting evidence that we are continuing to lose our position as worldwide leaders in science and technology and overwhelming support for the COMPETES Act, funding for the NSF fell short of the doubling path in the FY07, FY08 and FY09 regular appropriations cycles. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1) included a lump sum of $3.0 billion for the NSF which will help, but the NSF needs sustained annual funding to maintain our competitive edge in science and technology.

“A renewed commitment to core basic research and educational programs at the NSF is an essential part of meeting the multidisciplinary challenges we face in areas such as energy, health care, and nanotechnology. In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, we must make sustained investments in the physical sciences and engineering through the National Science Foundation.

“Past investments in the NSF have resulted in technological advances that have driven our economic growth and bolstered our national defense. We respectfully request that you continue to support such advances by funding the NSF at $7.0 billion in the FY10 appropriations bill.

“Thank you for considering our request.



[House Appropriations Committee] Chairman David R. Obey     [House Appropriations Committee] Ranking Member Jerry Lewis”

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