Tomorrow the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 2405, the
Omnibus Civilian Science Authorization Act of 1995. Title VI of
this bill, known as the "American Technology Advancement Act of
1995" pertains to the Department of Commerce technology programs.
As compared to other sections in this bill covering the Department
of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, this title is
notable for its brevity. In this case, the absence of bill
language is highly significant, as this translates into no
authorization for the Advanced Technology Program. Under House
rules, appropriations (the real money) are not supposed to be made
without authorization legislation, although in many instances House
members agree to override this constraint.
As stated in FYIs #138 and 139, passage of this bill is not
assured, and it only permits, but does not provide, actual program
funding. It will, however, if passed by the House, represent a
clear picture of the changing and in some cases unfriendly
sentiments of the House of Representatives to some NIST programs.
Congress is nearing completion of the Commerce Appropriations Bill
for FY 1996, which as it now stands is certain to be vetoed by the
Section 602 of H.R. 2405 authorizes $275.6 million for the
"Scientific and Technical Research and Services of the National
Institute of Standards and Technology." There are a total of ten
different categories of intramural spending under this section, the
total authorization for which is $272.18 million. The Clinton
Administration requested an FY 1996 budget for these programs of
$310.70 million. The House version of the FY 1996 Commerce
appropriations bill provides $263.0 million; the Senate bill
provides $222.74 million.
Various laboratory programs fared quite differently under the
authorization bill the House will be considering tomorrow. For
instance, both the Physics ($28.08 million) and Materials Science
and Engineering ($54.31 million) program authorization levels are
the same as that which the Administration requested. Both the
Chemical Science and Technology and Computer Systems program
authorizations are significantly below the budget request.
Construction of Research Facilities, in a different category, was
authorized at $62.06 million compared to the $69.91 million
No where in this bill is the Advanced Technology Program mentioned,
a deliberate action by the House Science Committee (see FYI #89.)
Although authorization is permitted for the Manufacturing Extension
Partnership Program under certain circumstances, no dollar figure
is given in this bill.