Looking Back: Major Science Budget and Policy Developments in 2004

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Publication date: 
7 January 2005

Before turning to 2005, here is a final review of major science budget and policy developments in 2004. Readers interested in reading the full FYI from which these items were taken can do so by consulting the "FYI This Month" for the month cited at http://www.aip.org/fyi/ftm/temparch04.htm.

JANUARY: Congress passes final appropriations legislation for the fiscal year that began almost four months earlier. A National Research Council panel recommends changes in the process used for setting new NSF research facility priorities. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe releases a new space exploration vision for the agency that calls for a manned return to the moon, and eventually manned missions to Mars.

FEBRUARY: The Administration sends its FY 2005 request to Congress that includes an overall 2.5% increase for R&D, but which varies considerably by agency. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) comments that "it's impossible to view this as a good budget for science."

MARCH: Congressional hearings begin on the FY 2005 S&T request. Key authorizers and appropriators are supportive of higher budgets, but warn that fiscal constraints may not allow significant increases. The DOE Office of Science releases a strategic plan for the next two decades. Congress looks at the visa processing system and calls for changes. Congressional committees hold hearings on NASA's new space exploration vision and the President's hydrogen initiative. Participants at science education conferences question the effectiveness of mandated K-12 science assessments.

APRIL: Congressional supporters of S&T push for significant budget increases. The Administration's recommendation to phase out the NSF Math and Science Partnerships is criticized. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is briefed on U.S. technological leadership and the likely health and environmental impacts of nanomaterials. Controversy builds on Capitol Hill about the Administration's request for research funds to study the feasible of nuclear "bunker busters" weapons.

MAY: A DOE High Energy Physics advisory group releases a report examining key scientific questions. Twelve S&T organizations form a task force advocating substantial federal funding increases for basic research in physical sciences and engineering. Concern increases that NIST may have to use staff layoffs to offset budget cuts. Charges are made, and rebutted, about the Administration's manipulation of scientific advisory committees. Defense authorizing committees recommend cuts in FY 2005 DOD S&T funding.

JUNE: Action occurs on several fronts to examine the scientific advisory process. House appropriators reject the Administration's request for several nuclear weapons initiatives. Scientific, engineering, and education organizations issue a statement calling for revisions in visa processing. An interagency working group releases a strategic plan for research at the intersection of physics and astronomy. A senior-level commission endorses NASA's space exploration vision.

JULY: A presidential commission recommends the doubling of federal spending on ocean and coastal research. A National Research Council panel urges NASA to consider several alternatives for servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. House and Senate appropriators agree to increase overall FY 2005 defense S&T spending by 10.3%. House appropriators write a draft bill that would cut NSF and NASA funding in FY 2005. New concerns are voiced about security at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

AUGUST: The White House issues a veto threat against the draft House appropriations bill that would cut NASA funding. The House passes a bill recognizing 2005 as the World Year of Physics. A National Academies committee discusses how to ensure the best scientific and technical advice for federal policymakers. A congressional move to restore some of the capability of the former Office of Technology Assessment fails. A National Academies report concludes that tighter visa procedures may have "adversely affected" foreign student enrollment. The White House issues a planning memo on its FY 2006 R&D priorities.

SEPTEMBER: The Administration releases a climate change document that describes future research directions, but which includes no policy recommendations. Arden Bement Jr. is nominated to be the next director of the NSF, a position which he has held on an acting basis since February. Congress gives increased attention to finding money for NASA's shuttle fleet and the servicing of the Hubble Telescope.

OCTOBER: Representatives for the campaigns of President Bush and Senator Kerry debate science policy in Washington. The final report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy is released, with the warning that corrective action should be taken while it is still possible to reverse declines. A committee of the National Academies examines the implications of U.S. visa policy.

NOVEMBER: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the space exploration vision may cost more than $30 billion over NASA's projections. Positive numbers are reported for physics and astronomy enrollments. A huge catchall funding bill is passed, providing FY 2005 budget increases for NASA and DOE's Office of Science, while cutting the budget for the National Science Foundation. No money is provided for the Administration's nuclear weapons initiatives in FY 2005. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham resigns. An advisory committee warns of the possibility of a future shortage of nuclear science PhDs.

DECEMBER: Arden Bement is confirmed as the new NSF director. Deputy Treasury Secretary Samuel Bodman is nominated as the new Energy secretary. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe announces his resignation. A National Research Council panel recommends that a space shuttle mission service the Hubble Telescope. American students post mixed results in international comparisons of math and science. A post-election seminar features speakers who warn of tight budgets in the coming year, and recommend that the science community strengthen its efforts to reach out to the Congress and Administration.

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