In a letter being circulated in the House, Representatives G.K. Butterfield and David McKinley are asking their colleagues to sign onto a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter calling on appropriators to fund the National Science Foundation at a level of $8 billion in fiscal year 2017.
A “Dear Colleague” letter by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV) calls on House appropriators to fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) at a level of $8 billion. Butterfield, whose district includes Duke University and parts of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, and McKinley, whose district includes West Virginia University, led last year’s NSF “Dear Colleague” letter as well.
An $8 billion appropriation for NSF in fiscal year 2017 would be slightly higher than the $7.964 billion that President Obama requested in his budget proposal released in early February. It would be a 7.2 percent increase above the $7.464 billion provided for the agency in fiscal year 2016.
Within his request for NSF, the president included a proposal for discretionary spending, over which appropriators have jurisdiction, as well as a novel proposal for mandatory spending, over which appropriators do not have primary jurisdiction. Republican congressional leaders have dismissed the increases in mandatory spending outright as a “gimmick,” suggesting that any plans for new mandatory spending for the science agencies are going to face long odds this year.
Looking at discretionary spending alone, an $8 billion appropriation would be 5.8 percent higher than the $7.564 billion the President requested in that category of spending for the NSF in fiscal year 2017.
Butterfield and McKinley seeking congressional signatures in support of NSF
In their correspondence, Butterfield and McKinley tout the value of NSF and ask their fellow representatives to consider signing onto the “Dear Colleague” letter, noting a March 18 due date for signatures:
The research and inventions made possible by the NSF have improved millions of Americans’ lives. We are all kept safer through advanced chemical and weapons screening technology. At the workplace we have benefitted from the ability to communicate with clients and businesses using high-definition video conferencing. At home we are able to enjoy low-cost, renewable energy through solar technology. Abroad, our military has been protected through advanced radar technology and biological weapons sensors. Those types of breakthroughs are only possible through NSF research funding as it is the only federal agency which supports essential education and research across all science and engineering fields.
Investing in the NSF is critical to our nation remaining competitive in the global economy. Our country is falling behind our competitors in key areas of education including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. We cannot afford to remain idle while our nation ranks 27th in math and 20th in science performance when compared with our peers. With a projected shortage by 2020 of five million STEM professionals, we need to prepare more Americans to succeed in high technology industries by supporting research and training through the NSF. One out of every four basic research projects at institutions of higher learning across the U.S. is supported by the NSF.
The value of NSF research transcends consumer technologies and workforce training – those discoveries also help grow American businesses and our economy. Basic research from NSF-funded projects has been spun off into new companies in areas like liquid cooling systems and more efficient batteries and has helped shape major industries like defense and renewable energy.
We respectfully request your support to ensure that the NSF receives at least $8 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. We feel this amount is the minimum level of funding needed to prepare future generations to help our nation remain a world economic leader and to reflect the rising costs of research. If you wish to sign, please contact Dennis Sills in Representative Butterfield’s office at dennis.sills [at] mail.house.gov or Blake Deeley in Representative McKinley’s office at blake.deeley [at] mail.house.gov. The deadline to sign the letter is March 18, 201 at 1:00 p.m.