Next week the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 2405, the
Omnibus Civilian Science Authorization Act of 1995. Title I of this
bill, known as the "National Science Foundation Authorization Act
of 1995" provides a number of important indicators of the direction
and level of NSF's future science and technology programs. As
stated in FYI #138, 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 attitudes of the House of Representatives toward the National
Science Foundation. Congress is nearing completion of the VA, HUD,
and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill for FY 1996, which
provides the actual money (see FYIs #127, 130, and 131.) See FYI
#138 for further information on the relative importance of this
Unlike other programs authorized by this bill, H.R. 2405 authorizes
the National Science Foundation for both FY 1996 and FY 1997. For
FY 1996, this bill authorizes a total of $3,126.0 million. The
Administration requested $3,360.0 million. The House version of
the FY 1996 NSF appropriation is $3,160.0 million, the Senate
appropriated $3,200.0 million. In the fiscal year just completed,
NSF's budget was $3,263.7 million.
Looking ahead to FY 1997, H.R. 2405 authorizes a 1.5%, or $45.4
million increase, in the total NSF budget to $3,171.4 million.
Despite this increase, the FY 1997 authorization level will be less
than the FY 1995 budget.
An important component of NSF's total budget is spending for
Research and Related Activities. H.R. 2405 authorizes $2,226.3
million in FY 1996, increasing 2.7%, or $59.9 million, to $2,286.2
million in FY 1997. The FY 1995 Research and Related Activities
budget was $2,280.0 million; the Administration requested $2,454.0
million for FY 1996. The House and Senate versions of the NSF
appropriations bill cut $200 million and $160 million
(respectively) from the Administration's FY 1996 request.
If enacted, this bill would put the above ceilings on NSF
appropriations in FY 1996 and FY 1997.
Section 111 of this bill states: "The Congress finds that...the
primary mission of the Foundation continues to be the support of
basic scientific research and science education and the support of
research fundamental to the engineering process and engineering
education; and the Foundation's efforts to contribute to the
economic competitiveness of the United States should be in accord
with that primary mission."
Section 131: "The Congress finds that-- (1) Federal research funds
made available to institutions of higher education often create
incentives for such institutions to emphasize research over
undergraduate teaching and to narrow the focus of their graduate
programs; and (2) National Science Foundation funds for Research
and Related Activities should be spent in the manner most likely to
improve the quality of undergraduate and graduate education in
institutions of higher education."
"The impact that a grant or cooperative agreement by the National
Science Foundation would have on undergraduate and graduate
education at an institution of higher education shall be a factor
in any decision whether to award such grant or agreement to that
institution." This bill gives the NSF director until the end of
this year to submit an implementation plan of this policy to
ACADEMIC RESEARCH FACILITIES MODERNIZATION:
Section 203: "The Director shall give priority to institutions or
consortia that have not received such funds in the preceding 5
years, except that this sentence shall not apply to previous
funding received for the same multiyear project."
Section 134: "The Director shall exclude from consideration for
awards of financial assistance made by the Foundation after fiscal
year 1995 any person who received funds...from any Federal funding
source for a project that was not subjected to a competitive,
merit-based award process. Any exclusion from
consideration...shall be effective for a period of 5 years after
the person receives such Federal funds."
Section 125: "The Director of the Office of Science and Technology
Policy, in consultation with other relevant agencies, shall 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, including an evaluation of the
relative benefits and burdens of each option on institutions of
higher education." The report is to be sent to Congress, assuming
the bill is signed into law, by December 31, 1995.
The bill directs the NSF director to eliminate one of NSF's
Assistant Directors and thereby one of its seven divisions.
Section 121 calls for the NSF director, at the time of the annual
budget submission, to provide a report to the president and the
Congress. This report will "contain a strategic plan, or an update
to a previous strategic plan, which -- (A) defines for a three-year
period the overall goals for the Foundation and specific goals for
each major activity of the Foundation... (B) describe how the
identified goals relate to national needs and will exploit new
opportunities in science and technology." Criteria for assessing
progress in meeting these goals is required. "Particular emphasis"
is to be given "to major multi-agency research and education