Senate Committee Approves FY 2016 NSF Appropriations

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Publication date: 
17 June 2015
Number: 
82

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s report for the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, now released to the public, recommends flat funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in FY 2016.  The committee report is the key document that details the Senate appropriators’ specific recommendations for NSF funding levels and priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. 

The language for NSF can be found on pages 108-116 of the report.

Total National Science Foundation:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $7,344.2 million
The FY 2016 request is $7,723.6 million, an increase of $379.4 million or 5.2 percent
The House bill recommends $7,394.2 million, an increase of $50.0 million or 0.7 percent
The Senate bill recommends $7,343.8 million, or essentially flat funding

Within the NSF are the following major budget accounts:

Research and Related Activities:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $5,933.6 million
The FY 2016 request is $6,186.3 million, an increase of $252.7 million or 4.3 percent
The House bill recommends $5,983.6 million, an increase of $50.0 million or 0.8 percent
The Senate bill recommends $5,933.6 million, or flat funding

In a departure from the House report, the Senate does not include language or otherwise weigh in on how NSF should allocate its Research and Related Activities account across NSF’s six research directorates.  Instead it states, “The Committee’s fiscal year 2016 recommendation renews its support for Federal long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformative to our economy and our way of life in the context of a stagnant Federal budget.

With regards to NSF-sponsored facilities, the report says, “The Committee encourages the National Science Foundation to fully fund its U.S. scientific research facilities and instruments to adequately support scientists and students engaged in ground-breaking research to maximize sustained investments in research.” In specific reference to the special importance of NSF’s astronomy facilities, it adds: “The Committee encourages NSF to sustain support for the programs and scientific facilities funded by the Astronomical Sciences division, including the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

This section of the report also includes language requesting NSF to report on recommendations from an upcoming National Research Council report on advanced computing infrastructure [p. 109]; language providing funding for domestic biomanufacturing within the Advanced Manufacturing initiative [p. 109]; language urging NSF to allow public and private non-profit technology transfer organizations to apply for grants related to the commercialization of technology [p. 110]; specific guidelines for the creation of a Vortex Southeast field project for the study of tornados in the southeastern U.S. [p. 110]; funding for cybersecurity research at its current level [p. 110]; support for the Innovation Corps program that funds innovative public-private partnerships [p. 110]; encouragement for NSF to continue hazards and disaster research through the Risk and Resiliency program, as well as research on sustainable chemistry, engineering, and materials within existing programs [p. 111]; and specific funding for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research at its current level [p. 111].

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $200.8 million
The FY 2016 request is $200.3 million, a decrease of $0.5 million or 0.2 percent
The House bill recommends $200.0 million; a decrease of $0.8 million or 0.4 percent
The Senate bill recommends $200.3 million, a decrease of $0.5 million or 0.2 percent

The committee includes the requested funding level for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, the National Ecological Observatory Network, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

Education and Human Resources:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $866.0 million
The FY 2016 request is $962.6 million, an increase of $96.6 million or 11.2 percent
The House bill recommends $866.0 million, or flat funding
The Senate bill recommends $866.0 million, or flat funding

In the report, the committee writes that this appropriation “supports a comprehensive set of programs across all levels of education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM]….Programs also seek to broaden the participation of groups underrepresented in the STEM enterprise and promote informal science education.”  It calls on NSF to work with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a plan for implementation of a “broader program of graduate and undergraduate STEM programs across the entire federal government.

This section of the report also includes language providing funding for Advanced Technology Education at a level not less than the current level [p. 113], the requested funding level for the Robert Noyce Scholarship program to help fill the need for STEM teachers in elementary and secondary schools [p. 113], and the requested level of funding for two informal science education programs: Advancing Information STEM Learning and STEM+C Partnerships [p. 113].  The committee further urges NSF to “focus on populations underrepresented in the STEM fields and encourages NSF to fund out-of-school time STEM engagement program activities.

The committee report represents the views of the Senate appropriators, but its recommendations may or may not be reflected in the Joint Explanatory Statement that will accompany the final FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.  Final outcomes on funding levels and directive language will depend on reconciliation between Senate and House bills and reports.