Update: FY 2008 NSF and DOE Office of Science Budgets

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Publication date: 
1 February 2008


A senior official of the National Science Foundation advised participants at a briefing that the foundation estimates that the much-lower-than-anticipated 2.5 percent increase in its FY 2008 budget will result in approximately 1,000 fewer research grants. Approximately 230 fewer students will be supported by the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The Administration had requested a 6.8 percent increase for NSF. The official suggested that last year's (FY 2007) budget will be a good indicator of what its programs will be like during this fiscal year.


The failure of President Bush and Congress to reach an overall FY 2008 budget compromise resulted in significantly lower funding increases for the DOE Office of Science, NSF, and National Institute of Standards and Technology's research program. (See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/114.html and http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/116.html for a recap of the unsuccessful attempts to settle the $22 billion difference between the spending targets for the Administration and Congress.) The result was a total "price tag" for the Consolidated Appropriations Act that was the President's figure.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act will, in all probability, not be the final source of domestic discretionary funding for this fiscal year. Historically, Congress sends the president a "supplemental appropriations bill" that provides additional funding for use during the current fiscal year. It is expected a supplemental bill will be sent to President Bush later this year.

The American Institute of Physics and two of its Member Societies, the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, have joined 50 scientific societies and associations, universities, and corporations in endorsing a letter requesting $300 million "to prevent serious damage to vital U.S. scientific efforts supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science." See http://aau.edu/research/Ltr_ESC_Stimulus_1-28-08.pdf
for a complete list of signatories and endorsing organizations for this letter.

The Energy Sciences Coalition, to which AIP and several of its Member Societies belong, is responsible for this letter. It was sent to President George Bush (with copies to OMB Director Jim Nussle, OSTP Director John Marburger, and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-CA) , House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), senior members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and other congressional leaders.
The text of the letter to President follows (other letters have almost identical language):

"The Energy Sciences Coalition calls on you to work with Congress to provide emergency supplemental appropriations in the amount of $300 million to prevent serious damage to vital U.S. scientific efforts supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. We request $75 million as part of an economic stimulus package to avert the immediate layoff of scientific and technical personnel, and a further $225 million in an emergency supplemental appropriations package to prevent the loss of scientific capabilities and DOE facilities critical to U.S. competitiveness.

"To avert the immediate and permanent loss of over 550 existing scientific, engineering, technical support and administrative jobs at DOE national laboratories and user facilities, and as many as another 500 jobs at universities and in industry throughout the country, including postdoctoral fellows, we specifically urge that $75 million of this funding be provided as part of the economic stimulus package being discussed by Congress and the White House. These are highly skilled positions supported by the DOE Basic Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, and Fusion Energy Sciences programs. Relief must come within the next month, or these jobs may be lost forever.

"Beyond the loss of jobs, FY’08 funding shortfalls for DOE Science will result in a significant and permanent loss of vital U.S. scientific capabilities:

- Many DOE scientific facilities (e.g. synchrotron light sources, neutron scattering centers, and nanoscale science research centers) in which American taxpayers have invested hundreds ofmillions of dollars will be forced to curtail or even halt operations. This poor use of resources will cause irreparable damage to U.S scientific capabilities and infrastructure.

- U.S. companies that use DOE facilities to develop and improve new products will accelerate offshore outsourcing of their R&D capabilities and facilities to be closer to international facilities that offer greater accessibility and more reliable operation times.

- The failure to fund the U.S. commitment to the international fusion project ITER will irreparably damage the U.S. reputation among its scientific partners and set back the project at a time when international cooperation is essential to addressing long-term energy issues. If funding is not restored for ITER, the United States may lose its ability to participate in and have access to the scientific results of this major international energy project.

- The future of the U.S. high energy physics program is threatened by the severe cuts to major projects planned for Fermi National Laboratory and other high energy physics facilities. If these facilities are mothballed, they will deteriorate and be enormously expensive to restore and replace.

- The major cuts in funding will significantly damage university research and harm our ability to attract and retain the next generation of DOE researchers. Instead of employing students to work on challenging new scientific projects, many university faculty supported by DOE science programs will be forced to lay off graduate and postdoctoral students for whom they no longer have funding. Past flat funding for these university programs has already driven many talented students away from these fields critical to continued U.S. scientific leadership.

"Reports such as the National Academies’ 'Rising Above the Gathering Storm' and the Council on Competitiveness’ 'Innovate America' have shown that continued underinvestment in fundamental science and technology is extremely damaging to our economy and our future. Congress and the Administration responded to this reality with the passage of the America COMPETES Act and with substantial increases written into their early versions of the FY08 budget. It makes little sense that our government would make cuts resulting in deep layoffs at key scientific facilities at the same time it is developing legislation to stimulate the economy. Maintaining these high technology, high leverage jobs is not only important to accomplishing DOE’s scientific and energy objectives; they also are critical to keeping our economy strong in both the near and long terms.

"To reiterate, we estimate that it will take approximately $75 million just to prevent layoffs that would otherwise occur because of the funding cuts in the FY08 Omnibus. Further, it will take an additional $225 million to prevent the permanent loss of research facilities and scientific capabilities critical to U.S. competitiveness. Were this funding restored, the Office of Science still would be funded at a level nearly $300 million below the level provided in the House-passed FY08 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill and fall well short of the funding required to institute many of the new DOE programs authorized by the America COMPETES Act.

"We therefore ask Congress and the Administration to ensure that additional funding is provided in the economic stimulus and emergency supplemental appropriations packages to avert the crisis for the DOE Office of Science that current funding levels have created."

The coalition's letter is open for additional signatories; Tobin Smith, chair of the Energy Sciences Coalition (toby-smith [at] aau.edu) is the point-of-contact.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) sent a letter to President Bush asking for similar funding. This letter was also signed by five other Republicans on the House Science and Technology Committee: Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Robert Wittman (R-VA), and Michael McCaul (R-TX). The letter states (in part):

"We strongly urge you to include $300 million in your fiscal year 2008 emergency supplemental appropriations request for the DOE Office of Science and the research, scientists and engineers, unique user facilities, and international collaborations that it supports.

"This supplemental funding addresses a real emergency – the permanent loss of key scientific personnel and the degradation of America’s leadership in science. It would avert the layoff of some of the nation’s best scientists and engineers at a time when there is a bipartisan commitment to stimulating the economy and taking the steps necessary to avoid a recession. While the continued employment of these scientists will stimulate the economy in the short-term, their research will contribute greatly to America’s long-term economic growth, competitiveness, and job creation.

"This supplemental funding also will maximize the run-time of user facilities at our national laboratories, making the most of past U.S. investments in unique, one-of-a-kind facilities that are critical to innovation in industry and academia. It will renew our commitment to international scientific projects like ITER and the ILC, and will help the U.S. retain its leadership in the field of High Energy Physics. Finally, your request of supplemental funding for the DOE Office of Science will send a message to young Americans pursuing - or thinking of pursing - degrees and careers in science, math, and technology that their President recognizes how invaluable their knowledge and expertise are to the future security and competitiveness of our nation.

"Mr. President, including $300 million for the DOE Office of Science in your fiscal year 2008 emergency supplemental request is consistent with your efforts to stimulate the economy and achieve the goals of your visionary American Competitiveness Initiative. We strongly urge you to make this request, and are prepared to support it as the supplemental appropriations bill makes its way through Congress."

The complete text of this letter can be viewed at: