Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) have asked their colleagues to join them in signing a letter requesting the "highest possible level" of funding for the National Science Foundation in FY 2005. Holt and Ehlers, both physicists, sent an April 2 letter to fellow representatives asking for their support of this effort.
The letter is addressed to VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman James Walsh (R-NY), with a copy to be sent to Ranking Minority Member Alan Mollohan (D-WV). Walsh's subcommittee funds the National Science Foundation. Only last week, this subcommittee held an afternoon hearing on the FY 2005 NSF request (see http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2004/045.html .) At this hearing, Walsh and Mollohan spoke of their strong support for NSF. The Bush Administration requested a 3% or $167 million increase for the foundation.
The amount of money that Walsh and his subcommittee colleagues will have to allocate in this bill is expected to be very tight. These appropriators will have to balance a diverse portfolio of programs including veterans' health care, EPA, NASA, HUD, and NSF. The bill they will craft will fund everything from sewer treatment plants to the President's Moon-Mars initiative to veterans hospitals to new housing to cutting-edge NSF research. One of the factors that will go into the subcommittee's decision-making process are expressions of support from Members of Congress for different programs, through letters such as that which Holt and Ehlers are soliciting signatures for.
As noted in previous issues of FYI, many such letters are now in circulation on Capitol Hill. One of the most effective ways to ensure that one of these letters is noticed is if constituents bring it to the attention of their representative.
Last year, a similar letter was signed by 150 representatives. Holt and Ehlers hope to meet or exceed this number in the new letter to Chairman Walsh. Currently, the following representatives have signed this letter: Burgess (R-TX), Ehlers (R-MI), Hall (R-TX), Holt (D-NJ), Honda (D-CA), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Johnson (R-IL), Rogers (R-MI), Schiff (D-CA), Smith (R-MI), and Van Hollen (D-MD).
The deadline for signatures is May 15. Readers wishing contact information on their Members of Congress may consult http://www.aip.org/gov/commcong.html
The text of the Ehlers/Holt letter that is to be sent to Chairman Walsh on the FY 2005 National Science Foundation budget follows:
"Dear Chairman Walsh:
"As supporters of fundamental scientific research and education, we are writing to urge you to make the National Science Foundation (NSF) a priority and fund it at the highest possible level in the Fiscal Year 2005 budget.
"Congress recognized the importance of this investment by overwhelmingly passing the National Science Foundation Authorization Act (P.L. 107-368) which authorizes doubling the budget of NSF over five years. We realize that budget realities may not allow Congress to fund NSF at the FY 2005 authorized level of $7.4 billion. However, we believe that significant increases in NSF's overall budget are warranted.
"NSF funds all disciplines of science and engineering. It is the primary source of federal funding for non-medical basic research at colleges and universities. NSF-funded research has made tremendous contributions to our economic vitality and national security over the past 50 years. Internet browsers, microelectronics, lasers, communication systems and fiber optics, computer programs to predict weather, design buildings and direct pilots have all begun as NSF- funded projects. NSF plays a leading role in nanotechnology research, preserving the world's biocomplexity, and in developing new information technologies and cybersecurity methods.
"NSF is also a key supporter of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education. It supports more than 200,000 students, teachers and researchers essentially underwriting the development of the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technical workers.
"Math and science education is an enormous and pressing need. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that new jobs requiring science, engineering and technical training will increase four times faster than the average national job growth rate. Workers will need a fundamental understanding of math, science and engineering as well as technical know-how to succeed. Unfortunately, a full third of our students are performing below basic levels on assessment tests in math and science areas. Now, more than ever, we must invest in our children to develop their talent, ensure their success and to develop the nation's full talent to maintain the quality of our workforce and our economic strength.
"NSF has also been praised as a model of administrative efficiency over 95% of its funds go directly to support education and research programs. NSF has accomplished its research and educational goals with only 4% of the total federal research and development budget.
"We are mindful that you will be faced with very difficult choices this year. We respectfully request your support to fund NSF at the highest possible level--we cannot afford to sacrifice the research and education which current and future generations need to ensure their economic prosperity and domestic security.