[Published originally in the March 2007 edition of Computing Research News, Vol. 19/No. 2]
Congress Protects Science Funding in Final Appropriations
President Requests Further Increases at Key Science Agencies in FY 2008
By Peter Harsha
After several months fearing a freeze on federal science funding in FY 2007, the science community in late January breathed a collective sigh of relief as congressional appropriators reached an agreement on a final resolution for the year’s spending bills that would preserve increases for three key science agencies. The increases—proposed more than a year earlier by President Bush as part of his “American Competitiveness Initiative”—will put the research budgets of the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Department of Energy’s Office of Science on track to double over ten years.
The funding increases, which received broad approval from the full House and the Senate Appropriations Committee, were put in jeopardy when Congress was unable to finish work on 10 of 12 annual appropriations bills by the start of the 2007 fiscal year (which began October 1, 2006). At that point, the Congressional leadership opted to postpone further consideration on the spending bills until after the November 2006 congressional elections, passing stopgap legislation instead that would fund all federal agencies except Defense and Homeland Security (the focus of the two spending bills that did see passage) at the levels approved for FY 2006. After big gains by Democrats in the November election and the shift in control of both chambers of Congress, the appropriations process broke down even further, with the Republican leadership eventually deciding to abdicate responsibility for finishing FY 2007 appropriations. Another “continuing resolution” was passed funding agencies through February 15, 2007.
Even before officially taking control, Democratic appropriators announced that they, too, were unlikely to finish the FY 2007 appropriations bills under regular order, and so planned to pass yet another stopgap continuing resolution that would extend for the balance of FY 2007. It was this plan that caused the science community such distress as it meant that the gains the community had worked so hard to achieve in the FY 2007 appropriations bills (that now lay unfinished) would not be realized in FY 2007, and the process would have to begin anew for FY 2008.
The community responded with an outpouring of concern directed at the Democratic leadership. CRA joined in the effort, sending letters on its own and organizing a response from the computing community to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Ultimately, the community’s appeals were successful, and increases for NSF, NIST, DOE Office of Science and the National Institutes of Health (even though NIH was not an original focus of the ACI) were included in the final resolution.
While the agencies will not receive the full amounts they requested as part of ACI, each agency will receive significantly more than they received in FY 2006. Under the agreement, NSF’s research accounts will receive a 7.7 percent increase to $4.7 billion in FY 2007, matching the increase called for in the ACI—$335 million more than FY 2006. NIST will receive $50 million in additional funding for its core research budget. DOE’s Office of Science will see $200 million more than FY 2006, plus the elimination of $127.8 million in earmarks that would then be available for competitive research. NIH, which requested flat-funding in FY 2007, would see an increase instead of $619.5 million—which, according to appropriators, would “support an additional 500 research project grants, 1,500 first time investigators, and expand funding for high risk and high-impact research.”
The protection of this research funding represents a big win for the science community. Preserving these increases for the federal investment in science in a resolution that included cuts to more than 60 other domestic programs below their FY 2006 levels sends a powerful signal that basic research is a national priority. Science was one of just a few priorities protected by congressional Democrats in the bill, joining federal highway programs, veterans’ health care, the FBI and local law enforcement, and Pell grant funding. The science community—along with its partners in industry—weighed in heavily in support of ACI funding, and that advocacy had the desired effect.
The community’s good news continued with the release of the President’s FY 2008 Budget Request, which continues the increases called for in ACI at NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science. Under the President’s plan (which serves as the starting point for the FY 2008 appropriations process), NSF would see its funding rise to $6.4 billion in FY 2008, an increase of $409 million or 7 percent greater than the FY 2007 request.
Included in that 7 percent increase at NSF is a 9 percent increase to NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate—the largest increase requested for any of NSF’s research directorates. Under the plan, CISE would grow $47 million to $574 million in FY 2008. That increase, as well as funding freed up as the Information Technology Research program comes to an end, would allow the directorate to fund several new efforts, including:
The President’s plan would also increase NIST’s Intramural Research and Facilities to $586 million in FY 2008, an increase of $55 million or 10 percent over the FY 2007 request.
DOE Office of Science would increase 7 percent over the FY 2007 request, an increase of $296 million to $4.4 billion. Included in that increase is an increase of $21.5 million (or 6.8 percent) for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program. Within ASCR, research in applied mathematics and computer science would increase to $82.8 million from $69.6 million in FY 2007; Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) would increase slightly to $56.3 million (from $56.1 million in the FY 2007 request); and high-performance computing and network facilities and testbeds would increase to $201.1 million, up from $193 million in the FY 2007 request.
Lastly, the Department of Defense would see its basic and applied research accounts held essentially flat in FY 2008.
For a more complete look at the FY 2008 budget request (and the final outcome of the FY 2007 appropriations), check the Computing Research Policy Blog at http://www.cra.org/blog
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