It was approaching midnight on June 28 when the House Science
Committee completed about 40 minutes of consideration of H.R. 1852,
the National Science Foundation Authorization Act. Already weary
from the long and sometimes difficult mark ups of the EPA, DOE,
NOAA, space station, and NIST authorization bills, the committee
went through this legislation at a more rapid pace. When they were
finished, NSF funding authorization levels remained the same as
those in the subcommittee bill (see FYI #83) although several
policy and structural changes were made.
The committee adopted by voice vote several changes in the original
bill language that were offered by House Science Committee Chairman
Robert Walker (R-PA). Among them was a requirement that NSF reduce
its seven Assistant Directors by one. This is widely viewed as
being aimed at the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
Directorate. An amendment offered by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to
give NSF more flexibility in its reorganization was defeated by
Also contained in the Walker package of changes was a requirement
that the OSTP Director "prepare a report analyzing what steps would
be needed to (1) reduce by 10 percent the proportion of Federal
assistance to institutions of higher education that are allocated
for indirect costs; and (2) reduce the variance among indirect cost
rates of different institutions of higher education."
The committee also agreed to language sponsored by Chairman Walker
to reduce the attractiveness of earmarking. The NSF director is
instructed to exclude from consideration for NSF awards "any person
who received funds...after fiscal year 1995, from any Federal
funding source for a project that was not subjected to a
competitive, merit-based award process. Any exclusion from
consideration pursuant to this section shall be effective for a
period of 5 years after the person receives such Federal funds."
Two amendments that would have directly or indirectly changed the
authorization levels in the NSF bill, similar to those offered
during the committee's consideration of earlier bills, were not
offered. Under this legislation, total NSF funding is not to
exceed $3.126 billion for FY 1996 and $3.1714 billion for FY 1997.
Current year funding is $3.264 billion. The Clinton Administration
requested $3.360 billion for fiscal year 1996.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) offered an amendment to change the name of
NSF to the National Science and Engineering Foundation. This was
rejected by a roll call vote of yes - 16, no - 22. Chairman Walker
voted no; Ranking Minority Member George Brown (D-CA) did not vote.
It is not known when this bill will go to the House floor. The
House VA, HUD, Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee,
which provides actual funding for NSF, is scheduled to mark up its
bill shortly after Congress returns from its July 4 recess.