House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is readying his subcommittee chairmen to start the writing the FY 2007 funding bills. Now is the time for constituents to contact their representatives and senators about federal science and technology funding.
As is always the case, it is difficult to predict how this year's budget cycle will turn out for science and technology funding. President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative and a number of prominent reports and books have raised the profile of the linkage between research, innovation, and competitiveness. The Administration's requested FY 2007 increases for the Department of Energy Office of Science, National Science Foundation, and the research programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology are notable, although proposed funding for other S&T programs varies.
At this stage in the budget cycle, the Senate and House write budget resolutions outlining general spending and revenue targets for FY 2007. The Senate passed a resolution that was strongly supportive of the American Competitiveness Initiative (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/040.html.) The House Budget Committee's budget resolution would not provide as much funding. The full House could not agree on this resolution for a number of reasons, and whether the House will be successful in passing a resolution, and the extent to which a final House and Senate resolution can be agreed to is very uncertain. Another large unknown is how much money each of the appropriations subcommittees will have to spend for the writing of their bills: a good allocation is key to good agency appropriations.
It is certain that funding is going to be very tight this year. Representatives and senators pay attention to what their constituents say, especially in an election year. The House appropriations bills that are to be written in the coming weeks will help set the parameters for the eventual funding bills that Congress will pass this fall.
There is an added sense of urgency about the NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST funding requests proposed by the President in the American Competitiveness Initiative. Increases of this magnitude are not often seen, and it is felt that if this effort fails, it could be a long time before such requests are made again. Additionally, the total funding resulting from the projected doubling over ten years will be reduced if the initial "baseline year" (e.g. FY 2007) funding is less than that requested. Three messages are heard repeatedly in Washington this spring: the FY 2007 appropriations bills are the most important bills to the science community, that this is just the first year in what is going to be a long effort to increase physical sciences funding, and efforts to increase federal support for science must be bipartisan.
Now is the time for constituents to make their voices heard. The AIP Science Policy website has the following information:
See http://www.aip.org/gov/commcong.html for guidance on writing to Members of Congress, and links to electronic mail systems.
See http://www.aip.org/gov/budginfo.html for information on the budget request and congressional reaction to these requests, by department or agency.