Last month, Senate appropriators voted to restore funding for NIST's Advanced Technology Program in their version of the FY 2004 Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill, S. 1585. The Senate Appropriations Committee would provide more funding for NIST than what was asked for in the Administration's request and recommended in the House-passed version of the bill, H.R. 2799. Both the request and the House bill would have slashed funding for NIST's cooperative programs with industry (see FYI #98), cutting the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP) by more than 50 percent from FY 2003 funding and eliminating the Advanced Technology Program (ATP). S. 1585, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on September 4, would not only increase MEP and ATP funding over FY 2003 levels, but would create a new category of ATP competitions for technologies relating to homeland security.
According to the bill and accompanying committee report (S. Rept. 108-144), the Senate Appropriations Committee recommends a total of $835.2 million for NIST. This is $127.7 million, or 18.1 percent, more than FY 2003 funding of $707.5 million. The FY 2004 request was $496.8 million. The House recommended total NIST funding of $460.1 million. The committee's specific recommendations for NIST programs are provided below, along with selected portions of the committee report language pertaining to NIST programs. The full report can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/.
SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH AND SERVICES (STRS): Senate appropriators would provide $383.4 million for NIST's Scientific and Technical Research and Services, which includes the in-house laboratories. This is $26.3 million, or 7.4 percent, over FY 2003 funding of $357.1 million. The FY 2004 request was $387.6 million. The House recommended $357.9 million.
According to the report, the recommendation for STRS "assumes $1,000,000 in prior year unobligated balances, bringing the total amount available for this account to $384,375,000. The fiscal year 2003 enacted levels were not available at the time the fiscal year 2004 budget request was developed. Consequently, the fiscal year 2004 budget request, as presented, has no basis. The recommendation provides the maximum funding deemed prudent for this account."
INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY SERVICES: The Senate bill would provide $369.2 million for NIST's Industrial Technology Services. This amount, which includes $106.6 million for MEP and $259.6 million for ATP, is $84.4 million, or 29.6 percent, over FY 2003 funding of $284.8 million. The FY 2004 request was $39.6 million. The House recommendation was $39.6 million, equal to the request.
Manufacturing Extension Partnerships: The Administration proposed phasing out federal funding to MEP centers after six years of operation, as originally called for. However, the Senate committee report states that "The Committee recommends an appropriation of $106,623,000 to fully fund all of the MEP centers."
Advanced Technology Program: Many unsuccessful attempts have been made in the past to terminate this controversial program. The House bill would zero out ATP funding for FY 2004, while the request would provide only enough funding for expenses needed to terminate the program. According to the Senate committee report, "The Committee recommends an appropriation of $259,600,000.... This amount, when combined with approximately $8,283,000 in carryover, will fully fund ATP awards and provide $50,000,000 for the creation of focused competitions for technologies relating to homeland security. Within the amounts made available for ATP, $46,833,000 shall be used for administrative costs, internal laboratory support, and for Small Business Innovation Research Program requirements."
"Homeland Security Competition- The Committee is aware of the critical need to support research and development [R&D] into new technologies to combat terrorism. The mission of ATP--to provide an early-stage investment for the development of innovative technologies that promise both commercial and security benefits for the Nation--is ideally suited to help meet this need. There is a precedent within the ATP program for funding R&D for homeland security technologies. The `Gene Chip', for example, has enabled the creation of a less expensive and more portable means of detecting chemical and biological weapons. The Committee is aware that there are large government-wide funding increases in fiscal year 2004 for R&D into new technologies to combat terrorism. However, it is not clear yet how agencies responsible for homeland security will select and vet projects. ATP has a proven record of tapping the most promising technologies, and overseeing their rapid development and eventual commercialization. ATP awards are made on the basis of rigorous peer-reviewed competitions and include input from the National Academy of Engineering. Grant proposals are evaluated by one of several technology-specific boards staffed by experts. The recommendation therefore includes $50,000,000 for dedicated, thematic competitions for emerging homeland security technologies. The Department of Commerce is directed to report to the Committee on its plan for the initiation of these competitions within 60 days of enactment of this Act."
CONSTRUCTION OF RESEARCH FACILITIES: The Senate bill would provide $84.6 million for Construction of Research Facilities. This is $18.9 million, or 28.8 percent, over FY 2003 funding of $65.7 million. The FY 2004 request was $69.9 million. The House recommended $62.6 million.
According to the report, "The recommendation is $15,040,000 above the budget request and fully funds the highest priority safety, capacity, maintenance, and repair projects at NIST.... The Committee has been supportive of NIST's requests for additional resources to improve its aging infrastructure. With the AML [Advanced Measurement Laboratory] nearing completion, NIST must now address its remaining facility needs. In 1998, NIST published the Facilities Improvement Plan. However, much has changed since this document was prepared. The Committee therefore directs that NIST update its Facilities Improvement Plan prior to the obligation of any funds provided under this account.... The updated plan will guide the replacement, renovation, and repair of the Institute's buildings so that NIST can continue to provide U.S. industry and science with the best possible measurement system."
Now that the 2004 fiscal year has begun, Congress has passed, and the President has signed, a Continuing Resolution that would keep the programs in this bill, as well as the other unfinished appropriations bills, operating until October 31.