Coalitions Urge Funding Increases for NSF, Defense Basic Research Program; Uncertain Appropriations Endgame

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Publication date: 
21 November 2014

The Coalition for National Science Funding and the Coalition for National Security Research have issued separate letters to Members of Congress urging the passage of funding legislation providing the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense’s basic research program with budget increases in FY 2015.  It is uncertain if Members will be given an opportunity to vote on an omnibus appropriations bill with these increases before short term funding expires on December 11.

Congressional leaders have not settled on a strategy to complete work on FY 2015 funding.  When it became clear that appropriations bills would not be passed by October 1, the start of FY 2015, Congress and the Administration agreed to maintain current program funding levels (except in a few exceptional cases) through mid-December. 

Since the passage of that short term funding bill the staffs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have been working behind the scenes to find common ground and craft legislation reflecting the twelve bills developed by one or both committees.  Reports indicate that good progress has been made, with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) strongly urging that a twelve-bill omnibus measure come up for a vote in both chambers.  They strongly contend, and many agency heads agree, that the provisions in this bill would best respond to current needs such as Ebola and new terrorist threats.

It is unknown if congressional leaders will allow an omnibus bill to be considered, or if one or more short term continuing resolution funding measures will instead be used to continue flat funding.  Congressional anger about changes in immigration rules complicates the outlook, with some Members advocating the use of FY 2015 appropriations legislation to counter these changes.  There are scattered warnings of a possible shutdown of the government after December 11.

The two coalition letters look beyond these disputes.  The Coalition for National Science Funding letter urges Congress to adopt the 3.2 percent increase for the National Science Foundation contained in the House-passed Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.  The Obama Administration requested a 1.2 percent increase which was provided in the counterpart Senate bill.  The text of the November 14 CNSF letter is below; among those signing it were the American Institute of Physics and two of its Member Societies: The American Astronomical Society and The Optical Society.    

Also below is the November 20 statement by the Coalition for National Security Research that was signed by the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and The Optical Society.   This statement urges Congress to approve the combined 5.0 percent increase for the 6.1 basic research programs in the Senate Appropriations Committee bill.  The Administration requested a combined decrease of 6.9 percent; the House-passed bill included a combined decrease of 6.4 percent. 

Coalition for National Science Funding Letter:

Dear Member of Congress:

“The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) members listed below write to strongly urge passage of a fiscal year (FY) 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill this year, rather than a continuing resolution based on the FY2014 appropriations levels. The 113th Congress has an important opportunity to continue its commitment to investing in America’s research enterprise by providing sustainable funding for NSF in an FY2015 Omnibus bill.

“The NSF has long enjoyed bipartisan and bicameral support for its science, engineering, and education programs. Your continued commitment to NSF is essential at a time when federal investments in research agencies are not keeping pace with inflation, and our foreign competitors are making significant investments in science and engineering research and education. In recent years, China and other nations have been rapidly increasing their investments in all fields of scientific research while American investment has started to stagnate. This has created an innovation deficit in the United States. The innovation deficit is the widening gap between the actual level of federal government funding for research and higher education and what the investment needs to be if the United States is to remain the world’s innovation leader. To close the innovation deficit and maintain our position of leadership, we must continue to make strong and sustainable investments in our research enterprise. We can start by passing an FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill which provides increased funding for NSF.

“As the only federal agency with the unique mission of ‘the promotion of scientific progress across all of the scientific and engineering disciplines,’ the agency needs sustained federal investment to fulfill its mission. We therefore urge Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to pass an FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill that funds the agency at $7.4 billion, the level included in the House-passed FY2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriation bill. This represents a modest three percent increase over the NSF’s FY2014 funding level.

“Thank you for your longstanding commitment to the basic scientific research, engineering, and education programs supported by NSF. As Congress begins to work on an FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill, we certainly hope that funding for NSF is amongst your highest priorities."


Coalition for National Security Research Statement:

“The Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR), representing the undersigned research universities, scientific associations, businesses, and institutions, urges you to pass an FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill this year that includes strong investments in the U.S. Department of Defense Science and Technology accounts.  It is imperative to maintaining our military’s technological superiority that an FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill includes at least $2.27 billion for 6.1 basic research accounts, and at least $12.04 billion for Defense Science and Technology Accounts (Defense S&T); the same amount provided in the Senate-proposed FY 2015 DOD Appropriations bill.

“The passage of an FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill will provide the long term security needed to fund Defense S&T accounts that simply would not be possible through a continuing resolution. An omnibus appropriations bill would better support the goal of these accounts, which is to keep the defense research pipeline filled with innovative, cutting edge research to benefit our warfighters.  At a time when our global competitors are expanding their research capabilities, we are decreasing ours and creating an innovation deficit that will continue to grow unless we intervene now.  A decrease in investment in Defense S&T will have a significant impact on future military readiness and capabilities. 

“Continued investments in Defense  S&T not only support the development of the technologies of the future, but also train the next generation of scientists and engineers and provides critical support for STEM programs. Failure to adequately fund these accounts, at levels already authorized, may have a long-term negative impact on our capacity and our technological edge.  DoD’s investments in technological innovation have provided significant advances in equipment and tactics used by our warfighters as they face ever-changing threats and challenges. Without sustained investment in these areas, we will jeopardize our military’s strength and lose our technological advantage.”