House Appropriators Fund FY 2009 NSF Request

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Publication date: 
17 December 2008

The House Appropriations Committee has released the committee report accompanying its version of the FY 2009 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. House Report 110-919 accompanying H.R. 7322 provides the appropriators' recommendations for, among other programs, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and NASA.

The following are excerpts from the committee report regarding NSF. The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed its version of this legislation. Both the House and Senate committees provided the full NSF request, but differ in their funding recommendations for Research and Related Activities, and Education and Human Resources. These bills will be reconciled, and then made a part of the omnibus bill that will be presented to President-Elect Obama after his inauguration.

There is considerable NSF language in House Committee report 110-919; see this site for the full text.


Both the House and Senate bills recommend the full $6,854.1 million request for NSF, an increase of 13.0 percent or $789.1 million from the current budget of $6,065.0 million.

The House report states:

"NSF investments in research and education have returned exceptional dividends to the American people. At the same time, new opportunities exist to make progress in meeting pressing national needs in energy, health, security and the environment, as well as to resolve longstanding dilemmas of global scope. Continued excellence in fundamental research and education is important to sustain innovation and sharpen the Nation's competitive edge." The report later states: "This recommendation represents an increase of 13 percent over last year and further represents the Congress' commitment to robust investments in science and technology."

Research and Related Activities:

Senate appropriators provided the Administration's request of $5,594.0 million, an increase of 16.0 percent or $772.5 million.

House appropriators reduced the Administration's request to $5,544.1 million, an increase of 15.0 percent or $722.7 million. The report explained the reduction as follows:

"The Committee notes that the reduction from the budget request for research and related activities has been reallocated to education and human resources and highlights the importance the Committee places on investments in science and mathematics education as a complement to scientific and engineering research."

There is important language requiring the "more balanced allocation" of research funds:

"Investments in all science disciplines.--The [FY 2009] budget [request] proposes an 8.5 percent increase for the social, behavioral and economic sciences directorate compared to increases of 20 percent for the mathematical and physical sciences, engineering and computer sciences directorates. While the American Competitiveness Initiative - this Administration's agenda - identifies measurable increases for these particular sciences, the America COMPETES Act - a statute in law - includes language that the Director shall give priority in the allocation of Foundation resources to research activities that can be expected to make contributions in physical or natural science, technology, engineering, social sciences, or mathematics, or that enhance competitiveness, innovation, safety, and security in the United States. The Committee notes that Rising Above the Gathering Storm states that it should not be a 'disinvestment in such important fields as the life and social sciences.' The research portfolio for the social and behavioral sciences is as varied as the physical and natural sciences, focusing on such areas as climate change, risk assessment, economic and political laboratories, virtual centers and learning language. Further, if part of keeping America competitive in the 21st century involves, as Thomas Friedman points out in The World is Flat, the innumerable individual and societal choices that are made with regard to where people study, work and live, their economic decisions, their educational progress, and the influences of culture, the key to American competitiveness is understanding individual and societal behavior. Accordingly, the Committee believes that the proposed increases across the science directorates are inconsistent with prior direction of Congress and others' findings, and therefore, directs the Foundation to provide a more balanced allocation of its resources across the science directorates in its fiscal year 2009 program."

There is also report language requiring the renegotiation of the arrangement between NSF and the Coast Guard regarding polar icebreakers, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and NSF-wide investments. Regarding these investments the report states: "The Committee, however, does not provide resources for adaptive systems technology."

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction:

The House committee provided the full request. As is the case with the Senate bill, the House bill includes full funding for the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory ($51.4 million), th Atacama Large Millimeter Array ($82.3 million) and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory ($11.3 million.) The House report contains the following language:

"Several projects for which appropriations have been provided in previous years are currently undergoing final design and cost baseline reviews. Pending these reviews, the Committee does not recommend funding in this Act. This recommendation is made without prejudice to any project. However, to continue these projects in fiscal year 2009, pending final determination of their cost reviews, funding is provided within the R&RA [Research and Related Activities] account for concept and development in the following amounts, by project:

National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) $26,040,000
Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) 10,500,000

In addition, funding for design work for the advanced technology solar telescope is assumed within the amounts provided for R&RA, as discussed below."

Also, "Funding design activities within MREFC.--The Committee does not recommend language proposed by the Administration that would permit the use of funds provided within this appropriation for design activities. Costs associated with design of major research equipment and facilities are currently included within the R&RA account."

Education and Human Resources:

The Senate would provide the Administration's request of $790.4 million, an increase of 8.9 percent or $64.8 million over the current budget of $725.6 million.

The House bill would provide $840.3 million, an increase of 15.8 percent or $114.7 million.

The House bill reduces the Administration request for Graduate research fellowships, stating:

"The Committee recommendation provides $107,000,000, an increase of $18,900,000 over the fiscal year 2008 level and $9,700,000 below the budget request. While the Committee is supportive of the graduate research fellowships program, the budget request is in excess of the authorized level by $9,500,000. The Committee recommends that the funds requested in excess of the authorization be provided for other worthy programs in the education and human resources portfolio."

Other programs would see increases over the Administration's request, explained as follows:

"Robert Noyce Scholarships. – The National Academies' Rising Above the Gathering Storm discussed the importance of expanding programs to enhance the undergraduate education of the future science and engineering workforce. The Robert Noyce Scholarship program encourages talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate students and postgraduate professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers. Given the importance of this activity, the Committee recommendation provides an increase of $38,400,000 over the budget request for a total program level of $50,000,000 in fiscal year 2009."

"Undergraduate/graduate student support programs. – A total of $87,500,000 is recommended for undergraduate/graduate student support programs for fiscal year 2009, an increase of $650,000 over the budget request and $4,150,000 over the fiscal year 2008 level. Funding of $42,500,000 is provided for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP); $31,500,000 is provided for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) and $13,500,000 is provided for the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP)."

"Graduate teaching fellowships in K-12. – The Committee recommends a total of $49,500,000 for Graduate teaching fellowships in K-12 for fiscal year 2009, an increase of $2,500,000 over the current level and $500,000 over the budget request. This program provides for the most promising science, mathematics and engineering students in the U.S. for a broad range of disciplinary and cross-disciplinary careers."

"Math and science partnership (MSP) program. – The math and science partnership program was established in 2002 to integrate the work of higher education and K-12 education to strengthen and reform mathematics and science education. Recent assessment data on MSP projects indicate that the program has been effective in increasing student performance at the elementary, middle and high school levels. For MSP, a total of $61,000,000 is recommended for fiscal year 2009, an increase of $12,500,000 over the fiscal year 2008 level and $10,000,000 over the budget request."

"Climate change education program. – The National Academies' Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond noted that the training of future scientists needed to interpret observations and apply data and measurements into knowledge and information is critical. Consistent with the Academies' findings, the Committee provides $10,000,000 for education and training in the use of Earth observations and information derived from those observations. The Foundation is directed to work with the National Academies in the development of a plan for the distribution and effective use of these funds."