Last week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) postponed the Senate's scheduled consideration of H.R. 2862, the FY 2006 Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. The House and Senate are both responding to the devastation along the Gulf Coast, throwing this month's tight schedule for a number of important bills into disarray. The Senate will be considering H.R. 2862 today and into this week. The House passed its version of this bill almost three months ago.
From time-to-time, the Office of Management and Budget sends to Capitol Hill a formal position on pending legislation. Known as a "Statement of Administration Policy," these documents outline areas of agreement and disagreement. OMB has issued around 50 such statements this year.
On September 8, OMB sent a Statement of Administration Policy to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Ranking Member Robert Byrd (D-WV). This statement was far more critical of the Senate's bill than a similar statement on June 14 for the House version of the bill. It is unlikely that the new statement will result in changes in the Senate bill being considered this week, but it does lay down some markers as to what the Administration will be working toward in the final conference bill.
The following are excerpts from the OMB statements commenting on both versions of H.R. 2862:
NASA - SENATE VERSION:
"The Administration appreciates the Committee's strong support for the President's priorities by fully funding the original request for Constellation Systems including the Crew Exploration Vehicle, as well as the request for the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS). The Administration seeks modification of the bill consistent with the President's FY 2006 budget amendment, which identified additional resources within Exploration Systems for the Crew Exploration Vehicle and Crew Launch Vehicle and reallocates funding within the Science Directorate to focus resources on near-term requirements, including the option for a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission with the Shuttle. The Administration strongly objects to the elimination of funding for key priorities, including the Space Station Cargo/Crew Services and Centennial Challenges programs, and urges the Senate to shift funding from lower-priority programs in the bill to restore the Administration's request.
"The Administration also strongly objects to a total of nearly $600 million in earmarked funding for unrequested activities, including $220 million above the President's request for a possible Hubble servicing mission, which would significantly reduce the resources needed for critical ongoing and planned science and technology efforts. The Administration also urges the Senate to include requested flexibility in the bill for the transfer of funds, which may be necessary for important program adjustments."
NASA - HOUSE VERSION:
"The Administration appreciates the Committee's strong support for NASA, demonstrated by its fully funding the President's Vision for Space Exploration and endorsing the agency's efforts to restructure Project Prometheus. The Administration supports the Committee's call for the development of a national aeronautics policy. Additionally, the Committee is commended for limiting the number of Congressional interest items that would, if implemented divert necessary resources for ongoing and planned science and technology efforts, and for once again providing the necessary flexibility to transfer funding as necessary for important program adjustments."
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY - SENATE VERSION:
"The Administration urges the Senate to base its science and technology funding on national needs and competitive merit, especially by including the requested increases within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) labs for nanotechnology research and other priority foundational innovation research. However, the bill provides significant unrequested NIST funding for unrelated, non-competitive construction earmarks totaling $115 million.
"The Administration is disappointed that the bill adopts none of the proposed terminations and reductions of programs that duplicate or overlap other efforts, have weak performance measures, show few demonstrated results, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The Administration is also concerned that the bill reinstates funding for programs that were terminated last year or are on a path toward termination. For example, the bill provides unrequested funding for the Advanced Technology Program and requires that $60 million be devoted to new awards in FY 2006, which creates expectations for continuing awards in FY 2007 and beyond. The 2005 appropriations act had no new awards and was on a path that would justifiably facilitate a phase out. Given the growth of venture capital and other sources of funding for quality high-tech projects, the Administration believes this program is an inappropriate use of Federal funds and strongly objects to the ATP's continuation."
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY - HOUSE VERSION:
"The Administration strongly supports the Committee's action to terminate, as requested, the Advanced Technology Program . . . . "
"The Administration strongly urges the House to fully fund the President's research request for key measurement and innovation initiatives and laboratory renovation work within the National Institute of Standards and Technology."
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION - SENATE VERSION:
"The Administration shares the priority the Senate Committee affords basic research and fundamental science and education at NSF, but is concerned that the bill does not fully support the President's request. The Committee has identified areas, such as facilities oversight, that need increased investment to maintain NSF's efficient operations, and yet does not provide the full request for salaries and expenses that would allow NSF to continue to perform to high standards.
"The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the transfer of $48 million from the Coast Guard to NSF for polar icebreaking services. The Administration requests, however, that the bill not limit total funding for these services to $58 million."
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION - HOUSE VERSION:
"The Administration appreciates the Committee's strong support for NSF. The Administration also appreciates the Committee's endorsement of the President's proposal to shift funding for polar icebreaking to NSF, and looks forward to working with the Committee to ensure that the Nation's icebreaking capabilities will support NSF's mission and other national needs."