The House Appropriations Committee on June 20 passed its FY 2007 appropriations bill for Science, State, Justice and Commerce and Related Agencies. According to a draft version of the bill and its accompanying committee report, the committee recommended an FY 2007 funding level of $627.0 million for NIST. Although greater than President Bush's request, this level is nearly 16 percent lower than NIST's FY 2006 appropriation. While NIST's core laboratory programs would receive a double-digit increase, as called for in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative, funding would decline for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) and, once again, House appropriators have zeroed out funding for the Advanced Technology Program (ATP). Despite many efforts by the Bush Administration and House appropriators to terminate this program over the years, some funding has thus far always been restored in the House-Senate conference.
Below are highlights of the Appropriations Committee's recommendations for NIST, along with relevant text from the draft committee report:
SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL RESEARCH AND SERVICES: Up 18.3%, or $72.2 million, to $467.0 million (equal to the request).
"The Committee recommendation includes $467,002,000 for NIST's scientific and technical core programs, which is $72,240,000 above the current year and the same as the request.
"The Committee recommendation includes $395,002,000 to support the full base operating costs for core NIST programs, including the continuation of a critical infrastructure program at the fiscal year 2006 level. In addition, the Committee recommendation includes new investments of $72,000,000 to support the American Competitiveness Initiative, focusing on physical science research and standards development that will foster innovation. Specifically, funding is recommended for the following activities: (1) enhancing NIST's national research facilities (+$30,000,000), including support for the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Center for Neutron Research; (2) furthering the work of NIST's laboratories and technical programs (+$28,000,000), including support for developing a robust hydrogen economy to reduce the Nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy, creating manufacturing innovation through supply chain integration, building the infrastructure for innovation through quantum information science developments, furthering structural safety from hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes, and developing the next generation of materials; and (3) opening markets for American workers and exporters through development of international standards and innovation (+$14,000,000), including support for developments in measurement science and enhancements in bioimaging, cybersecurity, and biometric identification technologies.
"The Committee continues to support efforts to ensure that United States business interests are represented in international standards negotiations, and also expects that NIST will collaborate with the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the Department of State on innovative ways to reduce trade barriers to United States exports by ensuring that United States standards are adopted in international negotiations."
MANUFACTURING EXTENSION PARTNERSHIPS: Down 12.1%, or $12.7 million, to $92.0 million. The request was $46.3 million.
"The Committee recommendation includes $92,000,000, which...is provided solely for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP) Program. The Committee adopts the President's request to terminate funding for the Advanced Technology Program.
"MEP is a collaborative partnership program that provides United States manufacturers with access to technologies, resources, and expertise through a network of manufacturing extension centers. Federal support for the MEP program, combined with State and private sector funding, is intended to translate into more jobs, more tax revenue, more exports, and a more secure supply source of consumer and defense goods. Because the Committee recognizes the value of the continuation of these valuable partnerships, the recommendation doubles the Administration's request for the MEP program."
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM: Zeroed out, as requested. FY 2006 funding was $79.0 million.
CONSTRUCTION OF RESEARCH FACILITIES: Up 40.8%, or $19.7 million, to $68.0 million (equal to the request).
"The Committee recommendation includes $67,998,000 for construction and major renovations of NIST campuses at Boulder, CO, and Gaithersburg, MD, and at other facilities. This account supports the construction, maintenance, and repair of NIST facilities to meet the Nation's measurement and research needs.
"The recommendation fully supports the requested program increases of $32,100,000 in support of the American Competitiveness Initiative, including funds for the following: $10,100,000 for renovations of Boulder facilities; $10,000,000 for safety, capacity, maintenance and major repairs; and $12,000,000 for the NIST Center for Neutron Research."
NIST's virtues were lauded at a May 24 hearing of the House Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards. Subcommittee Chairman Vern Ehlers (R-MI) noted that NIST has produced three Nobel laureates in "less than ten years, a truly remarkable accomplishment." The three, William Phillips, Eric Cornell, and John Hall, were at the witness table to describe NIST's success in supporting cutting-edge research and to offer advise on improving U.S. competitiveness. They praised NIST management for encouraging long-term, high-risk, creative thinking, and taking a broad, long-term view of its mission. They agreed on the importance of robust federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences, and declared that the U.S. must continue to welcome the best scientific minds from around the world. Hall also advocated a tax structure that encourages industrial research, criticized the system of "just-in-time" delivery, and called for greater awareness of the impacts of offshore outsourcing on future scientists and society as a whole.