Below are summaries of the Fiscal Year 1996 National Science
Foundation budget requests for the Academic Research Infrastructure
Activity and the Major Research Equipment Account. See FYI #22 for
an overview of the entire NSF budget; as well as FYI #26, 28 and
forthcoming FYI #30.
ACADEMIC RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE: NSF requests a $100.00 million
budget for this activity, which is a decrease of $18.13 million or
$15.3%. This activity is separate from, and on a comparable level
to, Research and Related Activities or Education and Human
The budget document notes that the FY 1995 appropriation for
Academic Research Infrastructure was $250 million. However, the
entire appropriation was to be made available only if NSF requested
$250 million for an interagency program for FY 1996, which it
"elected not to initiate." As a result, the current available
budget for this year (FY 1995) is $118.13 million.
NSF proposes to equally divide the requested $100 million between
facilities and instrumentation. NSF contends this request will
maintain "an appropriate balance between support for research
activities and infrastructure."
MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT ACCOUNT:
NSF requests a $70.00 million budget for this account, which is a
decrease of $56.00 million or 44.4%. This account is part of the
Research and Related Activities budget. It provides construction
funding for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory
(LIGO) and the Gemini 8-Meter Optical/Infrared Telescopes.
Operations and maintenance funding is provided through the Research
and Related Activities account upon completion of construction.
LIGO funding of $70.00 million is requested. The budget document
states, "In order to maintain a timely and efficient construction
schedule, support is concentrated in FY 1995 through 1997 before
leveling off in FY 1998.... The funding level for LIGO will be $70
million in FY 1996, higher than the $55 million level specified in
December to the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on
VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies. This will enable the project to
proceed on the revised planned schedule." The document also
states: "Completion of construction is expected in FY 1998, with
interferometer installation to be completed in FY 2000. First
scientific observations will start in FY 2001. Operations costs
are estimated to be $20.00 million per year and will be funded
through the Physics Subactivity in the R&RA [Research and Related
Activities] account." NSF estimates a total construction cost of
Gemini funding is not requested for FY 1996, since the full U.S.
contribution was provided in prior year appropriations. The budget
document states: "First light on Mauna Kea is scheduled for July,
1998, with the Chilean telescope following two years later.
Operations costs are estimated at approximately $11.0 million per
year for both telescopes" of which the U.S. share is 50%. NSF
estimates a total construction cost of $176.00 million, with the
U.S. paying half.
The budget document also provides a status report on the Green Bank
Telescope, for which all $74.5 million in construction funding was
provided in a previous appropriation. The budget document states
that "despite the progress [described above], certain original FY
1996 milestones, such as completion of the feed arm, were delayed.
Therefore, completion of the telescope has stretched-out into FY
1996, primarily because of delays on the part of the prime
contractor in completing detailed engineering drawings. These
obstacles are now under control, and the project remains within its
original cost limits."