In a replay of last year's budget cycle, disagreements over spending are blocking the enactment of "must pass" appropriations bills. Federal agencies are approaching the second month of this new fiscal year operating under budgets that in many cases date to FY 2005, with no end in sight to a $22 billion impasse between what the President and Congress want to spend in this year.
As was true last year, Congress and the President largely agree on the amount of funding that the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's core research program should receive. These budgets are, however, intertwined in much larger budget battles that raise the specter of each agency receiving significantly less than the President, and Democratic and Republican Members of Congress, have agreed to. Under Secretary for Science Ray Orbach discussed the damage that such a reduction would have on the programs of the Office of Science. Orbach warned of the damage of such a reduction earlier this year; see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/097.html
The American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and thirty-four associations, universities, and corporations have written to President Bush, and the senior leadership of the House and Senate, urging that they work together "to fund the science agencies at the necessary levels." The letter states:
"We recognize that there are disagreements between Congress and the President over other budget issues. But there is a consensus on federal investment in the physical sciences and engineering. Congress and the White House should not hold America's innovation and competitiveness agenda captive to disputes over other issues."
The text of the letters, written on the letterhead of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation follows. The letters, including a complete list of their signatories, can be viewed at http://futureofinnovation.org/media/ under "Task Force Correspondence."
"On behalf of industry, colleges and universities, and the science and engineering communities, we urge Congress and the Administration to resolve their budgetary differences and quickly enact the proposed Fiscal Year 2008 increases for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy Office of Science. The increases have strong White House support and strong bipartisan, bicameral backing in Congress.
"The America COMPETES Act, passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate and recently signed into law by the President, demonstrates the extraordinary depth and breadth of support for increased federal commitments to basic research and science education. We welcome this progress. This authorizing legislation represents a landmark for science. As a nation we can ill afford the damage that would be caused by delaying funding of the programs that it highlights.
"Funding for these agencies is an essential element of the nation’s efforts to sustain its economic competitiveness, national security and quality of life in the 21st century. Past investments in basic research have spurred economic growth and created entirely new technologies, such as the Internet, lasers, high-speed computers, MRI’s, and the World Wide Web, that have become vital to our daily lives. We expect no less from future investments.
"We recognize that there are disagreements between Congress and the President over other budget issues. But there is a consensus on federal investment in the physical sciences and engineering. Congress and the White House should not hold America's innovation and competitiveness agenda captive to disputes over other issues.
"Therefore, we urge Congress and the Administration to work together now to fund the science agencies at the necessary levels."
UPDATE TO FYI #112
A reader alerted us to the following FY 2008 conference report language (H.R. 3043) pertaining to the Department of Education:
"The conference agreement includes $3,000,000 for programs for baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or critical foreign languages with concurrent teacher certification, and $2,000,000 for programs for master's degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or critical foreign language education authorized in Public Law 110-69, the America COMPETES Act. The Senate bill proposed $6,000,000 and $4,000,000 for these programs, respectively, and the House bill did not include these provisions."