Senate Bill Would Provide Additional $1.2 Billion for Science Programs This Year

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Publication date: 
16 May 2008

Yesterday afternoon the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of a bill to provide $193 billion in additional funding for war-fighting costs and other programs.  Under this Supplemental Appropriations Bill, a total of $1.2 billion would be allocated for spending this year by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health.

A committee press release stated the following: "Science Initiative.  To help promote long-term economic development, the Committee is recommending a total of $1.2 billion for programs under the jurisdiction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy."  The committee's bill and accompanying report stated the following:

$200 million to NASA "for necessary expenses, not otherwise provided for, in carrying out return to flight activities associated with the space shuttle and activities from which funds were transferred to accommodate return to flight activities."  These "transferred" activities include "Science, Aeronautics, Exploration" and "Exploration Capabilities."  The report accompanying the bill explains "As a result of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, NASA has experienced significant costs associated with the repair to the remaining shuttle fleet.  This has caused serious budget and programmatic disruption to NASA's core program."

$150 million to the National Science Foundation for Research and Related Activities.  The report implies that this money is "to increase funding for all research disciplines."  Of this amount, $10 million is for the National Academic Research fleet for rising fuel costs.

$50 million "for additional expenses in carrying out science and engineering education and human resource programs and activities" at the National Science Foundation.  The report states this funding is to be allocated to four scholarship and fellowship programs.

$100 million for "Science" at the Department of Energy.  The report states: "The Committee is aware that the final fiscal year 2008 appropriation was essentially flat with fiscal year 2007 in many areas of the Science budget.  The result of flat funding shows up in reduced hours of operation of equipment and facilities, reduced service to users, staff layoffs, reductions to education and training programs, and other negative impacts.  This increase to fiscal year 2008 funding will restore the jobs of 10 to 30 people who were terminated and prevent the reduction of 200 additional employees.  Specifically, $55,000,000 is for Fusion Energy Sciences and $45,000,000 is for High Energy Physics."

$400 million for the National Institutes of Health, "to be transferred to the Institutes and Centers on a pro-rata basis" in most instances.

It is not immediately clear where the remaining funds are allocated.

There are many obstacles that must be crossed before this money can flow to these programs.  The full Senate must approve this bill, which some Republican senators are expected to oppose since it provides funding for domestic programs that the President did not request, as well as controversial war policy provisions.  House Appropriators did not include much money for domestic programs in their version of the bill in hopes that President Bush would be more likely to sign it.  That concern is warranted, since yesterday the Office of Management and Budget released a Statement of Administration Policy explaining that the President would veto the current House version of this legislation.  This statement said the following about the House bill, which would also apply to the Senate bill since it provides more than $10 billion in domestic spending that was not requested by the President: "This legislation includes billions of dollars of unrequested domestic spending. . . .  The Administration believes there is a time and place where domestic funding should be debated and considered on its merits, but that is not in a bill focused on the emergency needs of our troops."