Commerce Funding Bill Passes Senate Floor

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Publication date: 
4 October 1995
Number: 
136

While various proposals to dismantle the Department of Commerce
make their way through Congress, the FY 1996 funding bill for the
Department, H.R. 2076, has now passed the Senate and is ready to go
to a House-Senate conference.  The appropriations bill was approved
by the Senate Appropriations Committee on September 12, and the
full Senate on September 29.  During discussion on the Senate
floor, funds were added to increase the total NIST budget.  Below
are highlights of the Appropriations Committee's actions and
changes made on the floor. 

An amendment approved on the Senate floor, sponsored by Mark
Hatfield (R-OR), raised the total appropriation for NIST by $28.0
million above what the Senate Appropriations Committee had
recommended.  The committee recommendation totaled $323.3 million;
Hatfield's amendment increased the NIST budget to $351.3 million.
This amount is $671.7 million (or 65.7 percent) less than the
Administration's budget request, $349.2 million (or 49.9 percent)
less than fiscal year 1995 funding, and $52.8 million less than the
House version of the bill.

Three separate accounts are funded within NIST: Scientific and
Technical Research and Services, which encompasses NIST's
intramural laboratory research, measurement and standards work;
Industrial Technology Services, which comprises the Advanced
Technology Program (ATP) and the Manufacturing Extension
Partnership (MEP); and Construction of Facilities. 

SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH AND SERVICES
1995 Budget                   $247,486,000
1996 Request                     310,679,000
House Appropriation            263,000,000
Senate Appropriation           222,737,000

The Senate Appropriations Committee's report (S. Report 104-139)
notes that NIST has unspent "end-of-year carryover balances" and
"directs that these carryover balances should be utilized to
support these core NIST programs so that total budgetary resources
provided for this account will exceed fiscal year 1994 levels,
ensure continued funding of NIST's basic research programs, and
provide continued support of the reimbursable program where NIST
performs technical work for other Federal agencies, State and local
governments, and the private sector."

INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY SERVICES
1995 Budget                   $418,373,000
1996 Request                    642,458,000
House Appropriation             81,100,000
Senate Appropriation           101,600,000

Again, the committee report directs NIST to use unspent end-of-year
balances to supplement new fiscal 1996 funding.  It also chastises
NIST for violating language in the House Appropriations Committee
report by granting new ATP awards, warning that "In doing so, NIST
has jeopardized funding for the continuation of ATP grants awarded
in fiscal year 1994 and prior years."

Hatfield's successful floor amendment specified that an additional
$25.0 million in new funding go to NIST's Industrial Technology
Services.  A later amendment by Phil Gramm (R-TX), clarified that
the $25.0 million was to be used only for the MEP program.  There
was no floor debate over the merits of ATP and MEP, but Ernest
Hollings (D-SC) discussed the effects of the Hatfield and Gramm
amendments.  He noted that of the $25.0 million, "$22 million is
provided to support new centers that are now close to be[ing]
chosen, under an ongoing centers competition.  The amendment
restores funding that had been provided in the fiscal year 1995
Appropriations Act for new centers but which the present bill would
shift to other purposes.  This amendment therefore overrides the
committee report language which says that no funds can be used to
open a new center during the coming year."

The remaining $3.0 million, Hollings added, was for "support
services for the existing 42 manufacturing extension
centers...including the eligible centers originally supported by
the Defense Department's Technology Reinvestment Project."  In
summary, he said, "the amount of new appropriations for the MEP
program now totals $76.3 million," instead of the $51.3 million
recommended by the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The
Administration's FY 1996 request for MEP is $146.6 million;
current-year funding is $90.6 million; and the House version of
this bill provides $81.1 million.

Under the Senate version of H.R. 2076, the ATP would receive $25.3
million in new appropriations, in addition to some carryover
funding.  The Administration's FY 1996 request is $490.9 million;
current-year funding is $430.4 million; and the House version of
this bill provides no new funding for ATP.

CONSTRUCTION OF RESEARCH FACILITIES
1995 Budget                     $34,639,000
1996 Request                     69,913,000
House Appropriation            60,000,000
Senate Appropriation           27,000,000

The committee report provided $24.0 million for "maintenance and
necessary fire and safety upgrades for existing facilities," and no
funds "for new construction for this unauthorized program in fiscal
year 1996."  However, Hatfield's amendment provided an additional
$3.0 million for the construction account, bringing the Senate
total to $27.0 million.