Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the FY 2005 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations Bill. Senate appropriators refused to follow the Bush Administration's request, and an earlier vote of the House, to terminate the Advanced Technology Program, recommending instead a 14.5% budget increase for the program.
Accompanying this bill, S. 2809, is Senate report 108-344 which provides the committee's recommendations for various programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. A summary of the committee's funding recommendations and selections from the report follow. Note that there is variance in the numbers used by the House, Senate, and the Administration.
TOTAL NIST FUNDING: The Senate bill would provide far more funding than either the Bush Administration requested or the House bill recommended. The Senate bill would increase the NIST budget by 26.3% or $163.5 million to $785.0 million. The current budget is $621.5 million. The Administration requested $521.5 million for FY 2005. The House bill provided $525.0 million. The report language stated: "In light of budgetary issues and recent reductions-in-force, NIST is directed to consult the Committees on Appropriations before proceeding with further implementation of competitive outsourcing. "
SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH SERVICES (STRS): NIST LABORATORIES: The Senate bill provides greater funding than the House bill, but less than the Administration's request. The Senate bill would increase the STRS budget by 12.7% or $43.2 million to $383.9 million. The current budget is $340.7 million. The Administration requested $422.9 million. The House bill provided $375.8 million. The report language is extensive; selections follow:
Regarding the overall level of STRS funding, appropriators stated: "The recommendation provides the maximum funding deemed prudent for this account to insure that NIST meets its mission." Regarding specific STRS programs, the report stated: "Within the funds made available for Manufacturing Engineering, $2,000,000 is for the nanomanufacturing initiative enabling critical infrastructural measurements and standards for the developing nanotechnology industry." Also, "Within the funds made available for Physics, $3,000,000 is for quantum computing. The Committee strongly supports NIST's Nobel Laureates' efforts in this area. The Committee believes their leadership could provide a revolutionary breakthrough in computing technology just as the transistor did over 50 years ago." Finally, "Within the funds made available for Materials Science and Engineering, $6,000,000 is provided for upgrades to the National Center for Neutron Research in order to meet the increasing demands for this national scientific resource."
INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY SERVICES: There are two components of NIST's Industrial Technology Services:
Advanced Technology Program: As explained above, the Bush Administration requested no funding for ATP; the House bill concurred. The Senate bill takes an opposite approach, the report language stating: "The Committee recommends an appropriation of $203,000,000. This recommendation is $23,825,000 above the fiscal year 2004 funding level and $203,000,000 above the budget request. The amount, when combined with $8,500,000 in prior year deobligations and carryover, will fully fund ATP awards. Within the amounts made available $60,700,000 is to be used to fund new awards." The current "base" budget is $177.4 million. The Senate bill would provide a 14.5% increase.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program: The Administration requested $39.2 million for MEP for the new fiscal year, approximately the same as this year's budget. The House would increase the budget for this program to $106.0 million for FY 2005. The Senate would increase the budget even more; the extensive report language includes the following: "The Committee recommends an appropriation of $112,000,000 to fully fund all MEP centers. The recommendation is $72,393,000 above the fiscal year 2004 funding level and $72,900,000 above the budget request. The Committee also recommends bill language prohibiting the Secretary of Commerce from recompeting any existing Manufacturing Extension Center prior to 2007.
"The Committee is aware of recent data indicating that in 2003 alone, MEP clients who had completed projects within the prior 12 months reported increased sales of $953,000,000; retained sales of $1,840,000,000; benefitted from $681,000,000 in cost savings; and created or retained 35,028 jobs. Meanwhile, as a result of the growing loss of American manufacturing jobs in the last year, the Commerce Department has proposed, over the past several months, a hodge-podge of small new programs to assist manufacturers, yet has provided very little support to the MEP center system which has a proven record. The Committee believes that fully funding the MEP centers is the most economical and prudent means of assisting small manufacturers that want to remain in the United States hiring American workers, and also want to stay competitive in the global market place.
"Of the funds recommended, $6,000,000 is provided to ensure small and rural States receive necessary manufacturing assistance and services. The Committee has reviewed the Department of Commerce's report ‘Manufacturing in America' recommendations and is concerned that it is reorganizing the MEP program around a regional approach. The Committee recognizes that the original concept of 12 regional centers for MEP is not the best model to address the needs of small and medium-sized manufacturers. The Committee supported MEP's expansion in order to equalize services to all types of manufactures across the country. The Committee directs the Undersecretary of Technology Administration and NIST to provide the necessary coverage for small and medium-sized manufacturers. In addition, the Committee is concerned about the ability of small and rural States to provide adequate ‘matching' funds. The Committee directs MEP to develop a program which will provide additional assistance to small and rural States and report back to the Committees on Appropriations by December 31, 2004, with an implementation plan."
CONSTRUCTION OF RESEARCH FACILITIES: The Senate bill also provides more funding than either the Administration request or the House bill. The current budget is $64.3 million. The Administration requested $59.4 million; the House would provide $43.1 million. The Senate bill recommended $86.1 million to fund "the highest priority safety, capacity, maintenance, and repair projects at NIST."