[Published originally in the January 2003 edition of Computing Research News, Vol. 15/No. 1, p. 7.]
NSF and Cyber Security Bills Pass as Congress
The 107th Congress adjourned in late November after a "lame duck" session that included passage of two bills authorizing increased funding for computing research. However work on Fiscal Year 2003 appropriations bills, including a bill that would increase research funding at the National Science Foundation by 15 percent in FY 2003, remained unfinished, postponed until the 108th Congress convenes in January.
Before adjourning, members of the House and Senate reached agreement on two authorization bills of interest to computing researchers. First passed was the "Cyber Security Research and Development Act," H.R. 3394, a bill authorizing $900 million in research and fellowship opportunities in Cyber Security at NSF and the National Institute for Standards and Technology over five years. In his remarks at a press conference marking the bill's final passage, House Science Committee Chairman and bill sponsor Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) thanked the Computing Research Association for help in crafting the original legislation. CRA Board member Eugene Spafford testified before the Science Committee last October as the Committee was beginning the process of assembling the bill. At press time, the bill was awaiting the President's signature, but he is expected to sign it.
Members of the House and Senate also reached a last-minute agreement allowing for consideration and passage of a bill that authorizes the doubling of NSF's core research programs, including computing research, over the next five years. The "Investing in America's Future Act," H.R. 4664--also known as the "NSF Doubling Bill" in the Senate--introduced by Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), authorizes increases of 15 percent per year for five years to NSF's research accounts. Late concerns expressed by the White House's Office of Management and Budget over the length of the authorization and the inclusion of the word "doubling" in the Senate version of the bill's title threatened to scuttle the bill. However, these concerns were allayed by reverting to the title the bill carried when it passed the House and by making the last two years of funding authorizations contingent on a finding by Congress that NSF has made "successful progress toward meeting [specified] management goals" set out in the legislation. The bill is also expected to get the President's signature.
Both H.R. 3394 and H.R. 4664 are authorization bills, which means they provide congressional appropriators with the authority to fund the programs listed, but neither bill actually provides any funding to the agencies. Agency funding is contained in the 13 annual appropriations bills necessary to fund activities of the federal government each year. Congress postponed further work on FY 2003 appropriations until January after having finished only the appropriations for the Department of Defense and for military construction. It remains to be seen what will happen to the remaining 11 bills, including funding for agencies like NSF, NIST, and the National Institutes of Health when Congress reconvenes in January. The appropriations committees in both chambers have already approved large increases at NSF for FY 2003--an increase of 15 percent to NSF's research and related activities account--and that level is not expected to change when action finally occurs. However, the Commerce-State-Justice appropriations bill, which includes funding for NIST and NIH, had yet to be written at press time. Congressional staff indicate the Members intend to make quick work of appropriations in January.
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