Senate Appropriations Committee Report Recommendations on NSF

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Publication date: 
19 September 1995
Number: 
130

When a congressional committee sends a bill to the floor of the
House or Senate, it is usually accompanied by a report providing
the committee's rationale or recommendations.  While this does not
have the force of law, report language can be very important in the
guidance its gives to a federal agency, as well as providing
indications of congressional concern.  Accompanying H.R. 2099, the
VA, HUD, Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill for FY 1996, is
a Senate Appropriations Committee report (104-140) with language on
the National Science Foundation.  Selected portions of this
language follow.  See FYI #131 for report language on the U.S.
Antarctic Program.

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES:  "The [$160 million] reduction
[from the President's request] recommended by the Committee is a
general reduction to be applied at the Foundation's discretion,
subject to normal reprogramming guidelines.  The Committee urges
NSF to consider actions it might take to enhance the linkages
between research and education at both the graduate and
undergraduate level.

     "NSF-Supported Centers. - NSF currently manages a multitude of
centers including the science and technology centers, engineering
research centers, materials research centers, and so on.  The
Committee recommends an independent review to determine NSF's
effectiveness in managing these various center programs.  The
review should build on the review completed by the National Academy
of Public Administration and examine methods used for evaluating
performance, discontinuing weak centers, and encouraging centers to
seek financial independence where appropriate.  The review should
also recommend ways to strengthen coordination between programs and
opportunities for restructuring or consolidating programs.

     "Optical and Infrared Astronomy. - The report from the
National Academy of Sciences on ground-based optical and infrared
astronomy recommends that a modest level of Federal funds for
facilities instrumentation be allocated only to independent
observatories that agree to provide national access to their
facilities in proportion to the funds provided.  Although current
budget restraints make funding this activity difficult, the
Committee believes that the Foundation should explore other sources
to initiative this innovative concept.  One possibility is the
`Academic research infrastructure' account.  In that connection,
the Committee strongly urges that the NSF modify current
programmatic guidelines as necessary to enable astronomy facility
proposals to compete for an increased share of the academic
research infrastructure funds.

     "Opportunity Fund. - Last year the Committee provided the
Foundation with encouragement to create an opportunity fund to
assist the Foundation in responding quickly to emerging or unique
opportunities in science and engineering.  The Committee also
supported the Foundation's proposal to create an office of
multidisciplinary activities within the mathematical and physical
sciences activity.  This office was created, in part, as a way to
more strategically leverage the directorate's resources.  The
Committee reiterates its support for the use of these management
tools and expects the Foundation to provide an update as part of
its current plan submission, and include a description of the use
of these authorities in the justification accompanying the NSF
budget request."  [The current plan is a more detailed plan NSF
submits to Congress for its approval, after final passage of the
appropriations bill, outlining spending in the new fiscal year.]

     Arctic Research Vessel - The report asks for NSF to respond to
a forthcoming National Academy of Sciences study and a General
Accounting Office report on Arctic research vessels, and "determine
the need for an Arctic research vessel given scientific and
budgetary considerations."

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT: "Projects supported by this appropriation
will push the boundaries of technological design and will offer
significant expansion of opportunities, often in new directions,
for the science and engineering community."  The Senate report
recommends providing the full request for LIGO (which is the only
project for which funding is requested), as did the House bill.

ACADEMIC RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE: Also funded in full by the
committee, which states: "The Committee expects these funds to
continue to apply to both facilities and instrumentation
modernization."

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES: The appropriations committee also
provides the full request for a variety of programs funded by this
account.  The report make specific recommendations about two
programs, stating (in part): "The EPSCoR is vital in providing
research dollars to a broad array of capable institutions in a more
equitable geographical distribution.  In order to ensure that NSF
continue to support nationally competitive academic research,
maintaining funds for EPSCoR is critical.  The Committee strongly
urges the National Science Foundation to continue the competitive,
merit-based program to support the efforts of States to develop
electronic libraries.  These libraries shall provide delivery of
and access to a variety of data bases, computer programs, and
interactive multimedia presentations, including educational
materials, research information, statistics, and reports developed
by Federal, State and local governments, and other information and
information services which can be carried over computer networks."

U.S. ANTARCTIC PROGRAM:  See FYI #131.

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