March 05, 2009

FY 09 Omnibus Details: Further Increases for Science

The House has passed and the Senate is now considering omnibus legislation that would enact the unfinished FY 2009 appropriations bills Congress ought to have passed last September (but elected to punt). Included in the omnibus are appropriations for a number of key science agencies -- appropriations that contain some significant increases for those agencies compared to their FY 2008 levels and that might signal Congress is finally getting serious about appropriating the increases for science authorized by the America COMPETES Act way back in August 2007.

Here's the breakout for some science agencies of particular note to the computing community. In each case, these funding levels represent an increase to the baseline funding for the agency (ie, this funding, if passed, will likely represent the starting point in the FY 10 appropriations process). The Stimulus funding passed last month represents funding above and beyond this FY 09 appropriation:

National Science Foundation: NSF would receive a $363 million increase over FY 08, or 5.9 percent, increasing to $6.49 billion overall. Included in that increase is $339 million in additional funding for the Research and Related Activities account, an increase of 7.0 percent over the FY 08 level of $4.84 billion. Language in the report accompanying the bill directs NSF to "provide a for a balanced program across all science disciplines" as the agency decides how to allocated funding across the research directorates. Additionally, the agency is urged to "further to invest in cost-effective and innovative solutions, such as grid-computing, to address the Nation's cyber infrastructure needs."

The Foundation's Education and Human Resources Directorate would also see an increase, growing $120 million over FY 2008, or 16.5 percent. The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, however, would see a decrease of about $69 million (or 31.1 percent) compared to FY 08. However, MREFC fared well in the stimulus bill -- it received an additional $400 million -- so it's not immediately clear to us how this decrease in funding will impact current and future projects funded out of MREFC.

Department of Energy's Office of Science: DOE's Office of Science would do extremely well under the FY 09 omnibus appropriation, growing 18.8 percent, or $755 million to $4.77 billion, versus FY 08. Included in the increase is $369 million for Advanced Scientific Computing Research, an increase of $18 million or 5.0 percent over FY 08.

National Institute of Standards and Technology: NIST's budget would increase 8.4 percent, or $63.2 million to $819 million in FY 09. NIST's Scientific and Technical Research and Services account -- basically, NIST's core research funding -- would grow by $31.5 million (or 7.1 percent) to $472 million. NIST's research facilities construction account would grow by 7.2 percent, or $11.5 million, to $172 million. Two somewhat controversial programs, the Technology Innovation Program (formerly the Advanced Technology Program) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships -- both basically zeroed by the Bush Administration budget for FY 09 -- both would receive funding in FY 09. MEP would grow $20.4 million to $110 million in FY 09. TIP would decline slightly (about $200,000) to $65 million.

National Institutes of Health: NIH would receive an increase of $938 million over FY 08 in the omnibus, bringing the agency's top-line funding level to $30.3 billion in FY 09.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: NASA Science funding is one of the few science funding accounts that would see a decrease in funding versus FY 08. While the overall NASA budget would increase $381 million, or 2.2 percent, over FY 08, the Science account would decrease $203 million, or 4.3 percent, to $4.7 billion in FY 09.

Not included in the omnibus is funding for research at the Department of Defense, but that's because the FY09 Defense Approps (along with the Military Construction and Homeland Security bills) were passed under regular order last year. Included in that bill was an increase of 27.4 percent, or about $1.6 billion, in basic and applied research at Defense research agencies -- including an 8.0 percent bump (or $136 million increase) for basic research.

The House has already passed the omnibus and the bill is being considered in the Senate right now, with the hope of passage either later this evening or tomorrow. Failing to pass the bill by March 6th would mean Congress would have to quickly act to pass another Continuing Resolution -- a temporary stop-gap funding measure -- to keep most federal agencies open. As this is written, it appears that the Democratic leadership in the Senate has enough votes to pass the bill as is, but we'll update here if that changes.

January 15, 2009

Initial Stimulus Summary Released

The House Democratic leadership has released an official stimulus summary and it looks great. It includes $10 billion in new spending for science, including $3 billion in new money for NSF -- "including $2 billion for expanding employment opportunities in fundamental science and engineering to meet environmental challenges and to improve global economic competitiveness, $400 million to build major research facilities that perform cutting edge science, $300 million for major research equipment shared by institutions of higher education and other scientists, $200 million to repair and modernize science and engineering research facilities at the nation’s institutions of higher education and other science labs, and $100 million is also included to improve instruction in science, math and engineering" -- and $6 billion for broadband deployment.

Here is a PDF of the summary and we'll have more details on this as it begins moving forward.

November 07, 2008

Science Magazine Editorial by Wen Jibao

Science Magazine recently published an editorial by Wen Jibao, (sub. req’d.) Premier of China’s State Council on China’s science and technology initiatives. We’ve been saying here for years that China is very serious about becoming a world leader in science and technology. The editorial states “China is now engaged in a modernization drive unprecedented in the history of humankind.” Other important highlights include:

The future of China’s science and technology depends fundamentally on how we attract, train, and use young scientific talents today. Thus, at the core of our science and technology policy is attracting a diverse range of talents, especially young people, into science and providing them with an environment that brings out the best of their creative ideas.

I firmly believe that science is the ultimate revolution. At a time when the current global financial turmoil is dealing a heavy blow to the world economy, it has become all the more important to rely on scientific and technological progress to promote growth in the real economy. Economic and social development must rely on science and technology, and science and technology must serve economic and social development. We will rely on science and technology to promote economic restructuring, transform development patterns, safeguard food and energy security, and address global climate change. We are confident that China will reap a rich harvest in science and technology and that this will have positive and far-reaching effects on human civilization and the well-being of humankind.

This is a good editorial to read to understand China’s commitment to science and technology and its willingness to follow through on its rhetoric even at a financially difficult time.

October 23, 2008

Computerworld Articles on US Innovation, Technology, and the Next President

Computerworld has published a great couple of articles this week regarding the next Administration, technology, and US innovation. They feature a number of folks well-known in the CS community and are definitely worth checking out.

US Innovation: On the Skids

Dear Mr. President: Let’s Talk Tech

October 14, 2008

ITIF Breakfast with Dr. Erica Fuchs

As we’ve discussed here before, DARPA has shifted its research strategy from high risk, high reward to “bridging the gap” under Director Tony Tether’s leadership since 2001. This week the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) held a breakfast with Dr. Erica Fuchs of Carnegie Mellon University who discussed research she had done regarding DARPA’s research agenda.

Dr. Fuchs began by talking about her original research in optoelectronics and how she started looking into DARPA as a technology innovator. She went through the history of DARPA and talked about the basic model of DARPA – brainstorm a new idea/direction, gain momentum around the idea, build a community, validate the idea with funding from other agencies or industry, and then let others take over the technology as DARPA was not meant to sustain technologies. Dr. Fuchs discussed the change under Tether to 12-18 month reviews with go/no go decisions and that universities are often shut out of the research or must partner with industry to get involved. Dr. Fuchs ended with the shift from “Old DARPA” with high risk, high reward, open ended research mostly at universities to the “New DARPA” characterized by "Bridging the Gap" and coordinating the commercialization of research and asked who is/will fund the earliest basic research at universities going forward?

Unfortunately, Dr. Fuchs’ slides are not posted online at this time. If they become available, we will add a link to the post.

September 17, 2008

Basic Energy Research Press Event

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation and the Science Coalition held a press conference this morning on “Fueling America’s Future”--the importance of federal funding for basic energy research. While both groups support a broad basic research agenda, this event emphasized the need for basic research in energy to solve America’s energy crisis. The event, held at the National Press Club, took place before a standing room only crowd. The four speakers were:

The speakers all called for an increase in funding for basic energy research and for the next President to take bold action to keep the US competitive in new technologies and discoveries in alternative energy sources. Each of the distinguished speakers brought their own take to the issue, but all spoke to the common goal of energy independence and reducing fossil fuel consumption while helping the environment.

Also featured at the event was a petition signed by over 70 organizations (including CRA) to the two Presidential candidates to focus on basic energy research in the White House to ensure America’s long-term security.

A recording of the event will be available on either the Task Force or Science Coalition website soon. We'll have the link here when it appears.

Update: Watch the full press event here.

September 16, 2008

McCain Answers Science Debate 2008

Now that Senator John McCain has supplied his answers to the Science Debate 2008 questions, we can take a look at the similarities and differences between the two candidates on a topic that could determine the United States' competitive and economic future in the next administration. We highlighted some of Senator Obama's answers here earlier and all of the answers from both candidates can be found here. Previously in this space we have contrasted the technological agendas from each campaigns' web site.

McCain specifically calls out information technology research and computer science as important in a few of his answers. McCain says that he wants to invest in basic and applied research particularly in new and emerging areas and in information technology and will "support significant increases in basic research" at the various federal agencies -- but stopped short of saying he would fully fund the America COMPETES Act, in sharp contrast to Obama who has promised the doubling called for in that legislation. McCain also supports greater education efforts in science and math to fill the skilled jobs that are needed in an innovation economy. He particularly supports giving $250 million to states to increase participation in AP courses in math, sciences, and computer science by offering them virtually as well as supporting the STEM education programs at the various federal science agencies like DOE and NSF, a markedly different stance than the current administration.

Here are excerpts from McCain's answers to the questions that are most relevant to the computing community:

Q1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America's continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

"...America has led the world into this technology revolution because we have enabled innovation to take root, grow, and prosper. Nurturing technology and innovation is essential for solving the critical problems facing our country..."

"As President, I will ---

• Focus on addressing national needs to make the United States a leader in developing, deploying, and exporting new technologies;

• Utilize the nation's science and technology infrastructure to develop a framework for economic growth both domestically and globally;

• Appoint a Science and Technology Advisor within the White House to ensure that the role of science and technology in policies is fully recognized and leveraged, that policies will be based upon sound science, and that the scientific integrity of federal research is restored;

• Eliminate wasteful earmarks in order to allocate funds for science and technology investments;

• Fund basic and applied research in new and emerging fields such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, and in greater breakthroughs in information technology;


• Encourage and facilitate commercialization of new innovations, especially those created from federally funded research;

• Grow public understanding and popularity of mathematics and science by reforming mathematics and science education in schools;

• Develop and implement a global competitive agenda through a series of business roundtables with industry and academia leaders."

Q4. Education. A comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average U.S. math scores ranked 24th. What role do you think the federal government should play in preparing K-12 students for the science and technology driven 21st Century?

"My Administration will promote economic policies that will spur economic growth and a focus on an innovative economy. Critical to these efforts is the creation of the best trained, best prepared workforce to drive this economy through the 21st century. America's ability to compete in the global market is dependent on the availability of a skilled workforce. Less than 20 percent of our undergraduate students obtaining degrees in math or science, and the number of computer science majors have fallen by half over the last eight years. America must address these trends in education and training if it hopes to compete successfully.

But I believe that education is an ongoing process. Thus our nation's education system should not only focus on graduating new students; we must also help re-train displaced workers as they prepare for the rapidly evolving economy. Invigorating our community college system is a good place to start. For example, recognizing this, I have long supported grants for educational instruction in digital and wireless technologies, targeted to minorities and low-income students who may not otherwise be exposed to these fields.

Beyond the basics of enabling every student to reach their potential, our country is faced with a critical shortage of students with specific skills fundamental to our ability to compete globally.

The diminishing number of science, technology, engineering and math graduates at the college level poses a fundamental and immediate threat to American competitiveness.

We must fill the pipeline to our colleges and universities with students prepared for the rigors of advanced engineering, math, science and technology degrees.

We must move aggressively to provide opportunities from elementary school on, for students to explore the sciences through laboratory experimentation, science fairs and competitions.

We must bring private corporations more directly into the process, leveraging their creativity, and experience to identify and maximize the potential of students who are interested and have the unique potential to excel in math and science.

We must strengthen skills of existing science and math teachers through training and education, through professional development programs and community colleges. I believe we must provide funding for needed professional teacher development. Where federal funds are involved, teacher development money should be used to enhance the ability of teachers to perform in today's technology driven environment. We need to provide teachers with high quality professional development opportunities with a primary focus on instructional strategies that address the academic needs of their students. The first 35 percent of Title II funding would be directed to the school level so principals and teachers could focus these resources on the specific needs of their schools.

I will devote 60 percent of Title II funding for incentive bonuses for high performing teachers to locate in the most challenging educational settings, for teachers to teach subjects like math and science, and for teachers who demonstrate student improvement. Payments will be made directly to teachers. Funds should also be devoted to provide performance bonuses to teachers who raise student achievement and enhance the school-wide learning environment. Principals may also consider other issues in addition to test scores such as peer evaluations, student subgroup improvements, or being removed from the state's "in need of improvement" list.

I will allocate $250 million through a competitive grant program to support states that commit to expanding online education opportunities. States can use these funds to build virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of AP Math, Science, and Computer Sciences courses, online tutoring support for students in traditional schools, and foreign language courses.

I will also continue to support STEM education programs at NSF, DOE, NASA, and NOAA. These scientific agencies can and should play a key role in the education of its future engineers and scientists. These agencies have the opportunity to add a practical component to the theoretical aspects of the students' educational process."

Q13. Research. For many years, Congress has recognized the importance of science and engineering research to realizing our national goals. Given that the next Congress will likely face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in basic research in upcoming budgets?

"With spending constraints, it will be more important than ever to ensure we are maximizing our investments in basic research and minimizing the bureaucratic requirements that eat away at the money designed for funding scientists and science. Basic research serves as the foundation for many new discoveries and represents a critical investment for the future of the country and the innovations that drive our economy and protect our people. I have supported significant increases in basic research at the National Science Foundation. I also called for a plan developed by our top scientists on how the funding should be utilized. We must ensure that our research is addressing our national needs and taking advantage of new areas of opportunities and that the results of this research can enter the marketplace. We must also ensure that basic research money is allocated to the best science based on quality and peer review, not politics and earmarks.

I am committed to reinvigorating America's commitment to basic research, and will ensure my administration funds research activities accordingly. I have supported increased funding at DOE, NSF, and NIH for years and will continue to do so. I will continue my commitment to ensure that the funding is properly managed and that the nation's research needs are adequately addressed."

September 05, 2008

Obama Answers Science Debate 2008

Senator Barack Obama responded to fourteen science questions asked by Science Debate 2008 regarding how an Obama White House would lead the US in areas vital to our competitiveness and innovation. All fourteen questions and Obama's answers in their entirety can be found here. Some highlights of most importance to the computing community include:

Q 1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America's continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

Ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my administration. Our talent for innovation is still the envy of the world, but we face unprecedented challenges that demand new approaches. For example, the U.S. annually imports $53 billion more in advanced technology products than we export. China is now the world's number one high technology exporter. This competitive situation may only worsen over time because the number of U.S. students pursuing technical careers is declining. The U.S. ranks 17th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; we were in third place thirty years ago.

My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for early-career researchers to keep young scientists entering these fields. We will increase support for high-risk, high-payoff research portfolios at our science agencies. And we will invest in the breakthrough research we need to meet our energy challenges and to transform our defense programs.

A vigorous research and development program depends on encouraging talented people to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and giving them the support they need to reach their potential. My administration will work to guarantee to students access to strong science curriculum at all grade levels so they graduate knowing how science works - using hands-on, IT-enhanced education. As president, I will launch a Service Scholarship program that pays undergraduate or graduate teaching education costs for those who commit to teaching in a high-need school, and I will prioritize math and science teachers. Additionally, my proposal to create Teacher Residency Academies will also add 30,000 new teachers to high-need schools - training thousands of science and math teachers. I will also expand access to higher education, work to draw more of these students into science and engineering, and increase National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate fellowships. My proposals for providing broadband Internet connections for all Americans across the country will help ensure that more students are able to
bolster their STEM achievement.

Progress in science and technology must be backed with programs ensuring that U.S. businesses have strong incentives to convert advances quickly into new business opportunities and jobs. To do this, my administration will make the R&D tax credit permanent.

Q 13. Research. For many years, Congress has recognized the importance of science and engineering research to realizing our national goals. Given that the next Congress will likely face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in basic research in upcoming budgets?

Federally supported basic research, aimed at understanding many features of nature- from the size of the universe to subatomic particles, from the chemical reactions that support a living cell to interactions that sustain ecosystems-has been an essential feature of American life for over fifty years. While the outcomes of specific projects are never predictable, basic research has been a reliable source of new knowledge that has fueled important developments in fields ranging from telecommunications to medicine, yielding remarkable rates of economic return and ensuring American leadership in industry, military power, and higher education. I believe that continued investment in fundamental research is essential for ensuring healthier lives, better sources of energy, superior military capacity, and high-wage jobs for our nation's future.

Yet, today, we are clearly under-investing in research across the spectrum of scientific and engineering disciplines. Federal support for the physical sciences and engineering has been declining as a fraction of GDP for decades, and, after a period of growth of the life sciences, the NIH budget has been steadily losing buying power for the past six years. As a result, our science agencies are often able to support no more than one in ten proposals that they receive, arresting the careers of our young scientists and blocking our ability to pursue many remarkable recent advances. Furthermore, in this environment, scientists are less likely to pursue the risky research that may lead to the most important breakthroughs. Finally, we are reducing support for science at a time when many other nations are increasing it, a situation that already threatens our leadership in many critical areas of science.

This situation is unacceptable. As president, I will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade.

Sustained and predictable increases in research funding will allow the United States to accomplish a great deal. First, we can expand the frontiers of human knowledge. Second, we can provide greater support for high-risk, high-return research and for young scientists at the beginning of their careers. Third, we can harness science and technology to address the "grand challenges" of the 21st century: energy, health, food and water, national security, information technology, and manufacturing capacity.

The other twelve questions and answers are worth taking a look at as well.

August 15, 2008

A Look at the Presidential Candidates Technology Agendas

Senator John McCain released his technology agenda this week. He supports some of the ideas that have high importance to the S&T community. McCain’s plan includes:

  • Making the R&D tax credit permanent
  • Lowering the corporate tax rate to 25%
  • Allowing companies to write off of new equipment and technology in the first year
  • Keeping the Internet tax-free
  • Limiting taxes on wireless services
  • Fully funding the America COMPETES Act
  • Expanding H1B visas
  • A crack down on piracy
  • Increased funding for Patent Office
  • Protecting intellectual property around the world
  • Increasing broadband to underserved areas
  • Increasing S&T expertise and use in government

Of course, a big focus of the computing research advocacy community has been seeing the funding commitments approved as part of the COMPETES act, which include doubling the budgets of three key federal science agencies -- NSF, NIST, and DOE Science -- over the next seven years fully realized. And it appears that McCain supports that goal. However, his senior policy staff has sent mixed messages. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy advisor to McCain told NPR that "Doubling is a nice fun number for political purposes. It's clean, it's smooth. But it doesn't reflect a balancing of political priorities. There will be competing demands for funds."

Senator Barack Obama has had a technology agenda on his campaign web site for awhile but now that McCain has come out with his the comparisons can begin. There are several areas of agreement between the two such as making the R&D tax credit permanent, increasing broadband to underserved areas, and increasing the protection of intellectual property around the world. Obama, however, supports Net neutrality (though he doesn’t use that term) and flatly states he would double the funding for basic science research. Obama’s plan also calls for allowing foreign students who earn degrees at US higher education institutions to stay in the country and earn citizenship and emphasizes the need to increase the number of American students, particularly women and minorities, who obtain undergraduate degrees in STEM fields. Also, in addition to increasing the intellectual property protections around the world, Obama calls for reforming the patent system.

While most of this sounds great, there is very little in either plan about how to accomplish these goals. However, knowing that science and technology issues are being discussed at the highest levels of campaign politics means the messages the community are sending are getting through.

June 30, 2008

Supplemental Signed By President

The Emergency Supplemental for FY08 -- the last chance to rectify the appropriations shortfall for science caused by the FY 08 Omnibus Appropriation -- has been signed by the President and is now law. Though science funding made it into the supplemental -- one of the few non-defense items in the bill -- the win for the science community is somewhat symbolic. The amount included ($400 million -- see here for a breakdown) is only about a third of the total shortfall of the FY08 appropriations, but it is nevertheless a sign that Congress and the White House understand the importance of research funding and are willing to back up their vocal support with some additional funding.

Meanwhile, the FY 09 appropriations process marches on, with some better news for science. As always, stay tuned here for the latest as the appropriations cycle moves forward (or not) this year.

June 20, 2008

Science Appears in Final FY 08 Emergency Supplemental, But Only Just Barely

A symbolic (and that's about all) victory for science in managing to get included in the FY 08 Emergency Supplemental Appropriation approved by the House today, though the amounts leave a lot to be desired. Even though the funding levels are pretty anemic, at least some money appeared in the bill. The great majority of other "special interests" that were clamoring to get into the bill didn't make it.

The House and Senate Leadership agreed on a $400 million bump for science agencies that got shortchanged in the FY 08 Omnibus Approps -- a far cry from the $1.2 billion included by the Senate in its version and an even further cry from the levels called for in the COMPETES Act (and ACI, and the Democratic Innovation Agenda).

Here's how it breaks out:

  • $62.5 million for Department of Energy's Office of Science (to "eliminate all furloughs and reductions in force which are a direct result of budgetary constraints")
  • $62.5 million for DOE Environmental Cleanup
  • $62.5 million for NASA
  • $62.5 million for NSF (a paltry $22.5 million for research and $40 million for EHR and the Noyce Scholarships)
  • $150 million for NIH (so even when NIH "loses," it still does better than the ACI agencies...)
The argument given by the House leadership for these funding levels is that these are the only amounts that are truly "emergency" funds. The FY 09 Appropriations bill are supposed to get the agencies back on track. Of course, the likelihood of the FY 09 bills getting finished is quite slim, but that's the story.

The Senate will pass the measure next week. The President has indicated that he's likely to sign it, so this is probably the end game for FY 08.

On to FY 09....

June 18, 2008

A Closer Look at the RAND Report on U.S. Competitiveness in S&T

[Dustin Cho is CRA's new summer fellow from the Tisdale Fellowship Program, which has been bringing college students to Washington, DC, for internships that explore current public policy issues of critical importance to the high-tech sector. Dustin is a recent graduate of Yale University with a degree in political science and an interest in the intersection of public policy and technology. After suffering through what is sure to be a tortuous summer with us here at CRA World HQ, Dustin plans to begin law school at Harvard in the Fall. Until then, expect to see plenty of his writing here on the blog as we wring all we can out of him. -- Peter]

I’ve just finished reading the RAND report, and as Peter points out, its authors take the contrarian position that U.S. science is as competitive as ever. They contend that the U.S. remains on top, and we’re not in danger of being overtaken because our R&D growth rates are pretty much the same as the rest of the world. According to RAND, there are only a few countries whose R&D growth outpaces ours, such as China and Korea, and all of these countries are starting from next to nothing (from 1993 to 2003, China only had to add $6B per year to grow at 17 percent, while the U.S. was adding more than double that amount annually and growing at 5.8 percent). Journalists’ interpretation: there’s nothing to worry about.

That’s a dramatic oversimplification, because the underlying message of the report is that we should stop looking at R&D as a horse race – and that R&D is crucial to the United States’ future, regardless of what other countries are doing.

The report argues that it’s nonsense to talk about R&D expenditures as “competition” between countries, since one country’s scientific advancements will end up increasing the standard of living for everyone in the world who can access its derivative technology. In fact, there are probably network effects to research such that increased funding actually has increasing returns – in other words, if there’s already a lot of worldwide R&D, then an extra dollar spent on research will allow another scientist to build off of other researcher’s developments, increasing every scientist’s productivity. So when other countries (or the U.S. itself) decide to invest more heavily in R&D, U.S. R&D productivity actually improves.

That said, the report also emphasizes the importance of maintaining the U.S.’s comparative advantage in R&D. Right now, it’s relatively cheaper to do science and technology research in the U.S. due to our infrastructure, labor, and funding advantages. But as Harvard economist Richard Freeman points out, if other countries (such as China) overtake us in these areas, their lower wages might actually give them the comparative advantage, thereby severely damaging the U.S. economy as we’re forced to retool our infrastructure toward different industries. Freeman thinks it’s likely poorer countries will somewhat succeed in this by specializing in certain subfields and producing a lot of highly educated researchers. But the U.S. will be better equipped to maintain its comparative advantage if we encourage immigration of skilled researchers, increase federal funding, and improve infrastructure for R&D.

The RAND report also shows that life sciences have received disproportionate federal funding, resulting in a glut of life sciences PhDs and hurting their salaries. In other S&T fields, employment demand has outstripped degree production. “The most notable instances of divergence between employment growth and growth in degrees are mathematics/computer sciences and physical sciences,” the report explains. “Mathematics/computer sciences degrees grew by 4 percent per year [from 1980 to 2000] – the highest rate of degree growth in S&E – while mathematics/computer sciences employment grew by more than twice that, 9 percent per year.”

In fact, the only reason we have comparable R&D growth rates to other countries in federal funding is due to increased life sciences funding – non-life sciences S&T growth has basically flatlined. Private investment in R&D has increased, but it’s no replacement for federally funded academic research: “Even though industrial R&D is much larger than academic research expenditures, academic spillovers increase the R&D performed by industry significantly, and have a comparable effect on patents.” The report argues that network effects from increased academic research improve the productivity of private R&D.

Since the bulk of the report examines ways to improve the United States’ R&D, it’s disappointing that media coverage (and the RAND press release itself) choose to overemphasize the counterproductive message that the U.S. is still the world leader in science and technology. Instead, shouldn’t we focus on how to keep it that way?

June 14, 2008

Chronicle, Citing RAND Report, Claims U.S. S&T is A-OK

Two recent pieces in The Chronicle of Higher Education riff off a just-released report by the RAND Corporation to make the case that those who have argued that U.S. science and technology dominance is at risk in a globally competitive world are exaggerating.

Richard Monastersky writes in "Despite Recent Obits, U.S. Science and Engineering Remain Robust":

Although Congress, President Bush, and top university chancellors have publicly fretted about the declining health of science and engineering in the United States, a new report argues that the U.S. has maintained its supremacy in those sectors. Further, the report says, the nation should not overreact to overseas growth in technological prowess.
And Daniel Greenberg writes in "Call Off the Funeral: Science in U.S. is Lively and Growing":
The RAND report stands out because gloomy findings predominate in assessments of American science. In 1985, for example, the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the National Science Foundation expressed exasperation with the din of doom: "It’s the same argument every year, about losing the lead." In 2005, the National Research Council—the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences and its subsidiaries—issued a blockbuster compilation of R&D anxiety, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," which still reverberates around Washington as science-policy gospel.
The thing is, I'm not sure there are many within the science advocacy community who would disagree with the primary findings of the RAND report, U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology. The report found that the U.S. continues to be the world leader in S&T innovation; that federal support for resarch is generally up over the last decade or so -- though that increase is almost all in the life sciences, the physical sciences have been held essentially flat; there is lots of opportunity in the science and engineering workforce; and the U.S. continues to be heavily dependent on our ability to attract the best and the brightest in the world to work and study here.

Not many, if any, in the DC science advocacy community would disagree with those assessments. The concerns, of course, are the trend lines -- they are almost all trending the wrong way. (The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation has a good compilation of many of these benchmarks in their Benchmarks of Our Innovation Future II report.) Our competitors worldwide are every day increasing their capacity to compete with us -- investing in better facilities, more partnerships, increased investments in key areas -- and we're concerned the U.S. isn't matching them with anything close to the same intensity.

Gene Spafford, one of my Government Affairs Committee members, notes that these pieces also seem to give short shrift to the disruptive effect one or two key discoveries can have -- think light bulb, antibiotics, the transitor, controlled fission, the Internet, and more. Right now there is intensive research in genetics, nanotechnology, parallel computation, fusion, alternative energy and several other areas. A major advance in any one of them would be transformative on a large scale. It won't be incremental. If we're concerned about our national position as opposed to simply the advancement of science, the we want to somehow ensure that those advances happen here. And that requires having a prepared base and an active set of programs of inquiry.

The U.S. is the global leader in science and technology. It's true that the U.S. has enough of a lead at this point to "decay gracefully" (as Newt Gingrich describes it). But I'm not sure that's what most want for this country, or for their children and grandchildren who will have to live in it.

June 12, 2008

House CJS Committee Approves Big Increase for NSF...

...but don't get too excited, yet.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science today approved (pdf) a nearly 14 percent increase for the National Science Foundation ($830 million over NSF's lackluster FY 08 number) in its version of the FY 09 CJS Appropriations bill.

While the committee is doing this with the stated goal of getting NSF back on the doubling track called for in the America COMPETES Act, this is just one step along a long and tortuous path appropriations will take to get completed this year. Unfortunately, all the dynamics that were in play last year that led to science getting completely shut out of increases in the final FY 08 Omnibus Appropriations are still in play this year. And frankly, it appears that we are once again headed for a long-term continuing resolution until at least early next year, when lawmakers can assess the new climate after the election and chart a new strategy.

Still, the CJS Committee deserves kudos for continuing to find a way to highlight the importance of science funding and for giving the community a good starting point from which to argue for continued support throughout the remainder of the appropriations process. We'll have all the details of that process here, so stay tuned.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has more (though that link might be temporary).

May 15, 2008

Update on the Supplemental

Well after a lot of rumors, innuendo, and veto threats, the House supplemental appropriations bill -- the last hope for rectifying the shortfall for science in FY 2008 -- does not contain additional funding for science and technology but the Senate version does. The House version, which is scheduled to be debated and voted on today, only includes additional domestic funding for veterans education, unemployment benefits, and Medicaid and some additional international aid that the President requested. The Senate version, which is scheduled to have floor time next week, also includes $1.2 billion for science at NASA, NSF, NIH, and DOE. It is unlikely that the Senate will pass the supplemental with a veto proof majority so the question going forward is how to reconcile the two bills -- and how they will handle the science funding -- and avoid a Presidential veto. It is likely that much of the Senate funding will get stripped out in order to satisfy House Republicans and “Blue Dog” Democrats who would vote against the additional spending and to avoid a veto by the President. We’ll keep you posted as the debate and votes happen and let you know how it all shakes out in the end…

Update: Here is a breakdown of the funding for science the Senate is including in their version of the supplemental.

$150 million for NSF basic research activities and $50 million for four science/math education programs.

$400 million for DOE - $300 million for environmental management and $100 million for ACI, of which $50 million is fusion (ITER).

$200 million for NASA for a new account to reimburse NASA programs that helped to cover costs associated with Space Shuttle return to flight after 2003 Columbia accident.

$400 million for NIH.

This additional funding, while welcome, does not cover the short fall for the ACI-related agencies who lost out in the FY08 omnibus. But at least the Senate included science funding which is more than can be said for the House version. Sigh.

April 29, 2008

National Academies Convocation on Gathering Storm Two Years Later

The National Academies, in conjunction with the National Math and Science Initiative, will hold a day long convocation today called “Rising Above The Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward A Brighter Future.” Discussions will include what has happened since the 2005 report was release at the federal, state, and private sector levels and, of course, what still needs to happen. Competitiveness overall, K-12, higher education, and research are all panel and breakout topics throughout the convocation. Frequent readers will remember that the Gathering Storm report, released in October 2005, was a report requested by Sens. Alexander (R-TN) and Bingaman (D-NM) and Reps. Boehlert (R-NY) and Gordon (D-TN) that listed the top 10 actions Congress should undertake to secure America’s competitiveness. The report was a catalyst for news, legislation, and further reports that we have reported on regularly over the last couple of years.

The convocation has spurred a grasstops effort, led by The Science Coalition, to bring the issue of research funding back to the forefront just as Congress begins to consider both a supplemental and the FY09 appropriations bills. The Coalition is encouraging university and association leaders to contact their Congressional members with letters emphasizing the call for increased funding of basic research contained in the “Gathering Storm” report and to contact local media on the ongoing competitiveness issue.

Additional coverage of the convocation can be found at The Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog.

April 17, 2008

WSJ Op-Ed on Missing Leadership in Science

Two Nobel Prize winners have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (sub. req’d) today regarding the need to make science a top priority of the next Administration. David Baltimore and Ahmed Zewail write that the next President needs to have an Office of Science and a science advisor at the White House in order to protect America’s competitive future. The piece makes a strong case for the necessity of strong leadership on science and science funding and is worth a read if you have access to the Wall Street Journal.

The section that best sums up the argument of the op-ed and the community as a whole plays on the fact that the three major candidates for President turned down an opportunity to have a debate focused on science issues is:

Apparently the top contenders for our nation's highest elective office have better things to do than explain to the public their views on securing America's future.

Protecting that future starts with understanding that much of the wealth in this country comes from scientific research and technological innovation. Translating science into commerce has opened up vast new fields of endeavor and has raised the standard of living in America. The country that is on the cutting edge of developing new technology is the country best positioned to benefit from that new technology.

April 16, 2008

Rumors Swirl Around Supplemental

We're starting to hear from folks on the Hill that it's looking more like science funding might be included in the initial supplemental when it comes out of the Senate. What's less clear is how much, though the consensus seems to be "likely less than the science and technology community hopes it will be." It's also not clear what the House might do with its version of the supplemental or what would happen if, as the President has repeatedly said, it gets vetoed for including domestic spending.

Another rumor buzzing around DC that the supplemental might actually get split into two bills: an Iraq-only funding bill and an Afghanistan and domestic spending bill. This is politically expedient for the Democrats as the issue of Iraq funding splits the party. By having a separate bill to fund the war in Afghanistan and some domestic programs, it allows the Democrats to vote against funding Iraq without withdrawal timetables but for Afghanistan and domestic program spending that they do support.

We'll know a lot more in the next week or two as the House and Senate appropriations committees begin their hearings and markups on the supplemental bills. Meanwhile, the science advocacy community continues to be very active in trying to make the case for science funding in the supplemental. Last week's grassroots effort (which included CRA's Computing Research Advocacy Network's involvement) appears to have generated a lot of phone calls to Members of Congress about the issue, and the various coalitions continue to weigh in with their corporate membership to make the case.

It's expected that the various supplemental bills will hit the House and Senate floors in late April or early May, so keep it tuned here for details.

April 07, 2008

Grassroots Effort to Urge Support for Science Funding in Supplemental

Here's a note sent to members of our Computing Research Advocacy Network. You can join, too!:

ACTION REQUEST: Call your U.S. Senators, your Representative in the House, and the White House this week to urge support for science funding in the FY 08 Supplemental.

WHY?: Though the FY 08 Appropriations process ended with an omnibus appropriations bill that eliminated most of the planned increases to science accounts called for in the President's budget and authorized in the bipartisan America COMPETES Act, we have one last chance to mitigate the damage to U.S. science efforts caused by that decision. Congress will soon consider a supplemental appropriations bill for FY 08 necessary to cover the costs of the ongoing war in Iraq and operations in Afghanistan, in addition to other immediate concerns not addressed in the FY 08 omnibus appropriation. CRA has covered this issue in depth in this space.

Members of the science advocacy community, including CRA, are mounting a strong effort, with the support of some Congressional champions, to address the shortfall for science in FY 08 in the supplemental spending bill. As part of that effort, CRA will be participating in a large-scale, grassroots effort to weigh-in with individual members of Congress about the importance of including additional funding for key science agencies in the supplemental appropriation.

We are asking members of CRAN to call their representatives in the House, their two U.S. senators and the White House on Tuesday, April 8th; Wednesday, April 9th; or Thursday, April 10th to urge support for the inclusion of additional funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology in the FY 08 supplemental appropriations bill.

HOW?: Here's a handy guide for the effort with all the details for your participation, including a simple script to use when calling. The point of this exercise is simply to register your opinion on this issue with your representatives in Congress and the White House. Calls to these offices are logged daily by issue and Members of Congress are influenced by call volumes in trying to decide how much an issue matters to their district. We expect significant participation from scientists and researchers across the disciplines -- we want to make sure computing researchers are heard from, too.

So, please plan to call your representative, senators and the White House this Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday as part of this effort. While the attached indicates you can place the call to the district offices or your representatives' DC offices, we've found through experience that a call to the DC office is more beneficial (more likely to be logged).

Phone numbers to use:

To call White House: (202) 456-1111

To call your Representative and Senators: Look up their contact info at Vote Smart

We'd also like to gauge our members participation, so please send us an e-mail when you call, letting us know who you called and whether you received any response. Please send the email to

Thanks again for your participation and support of computing research. Your effort will help convey to Congress and the Administration the breadth and depth of support for fully funding these key federal science agencies. Good luck with your calls!

To join the Computing Research Advocacy Network (CRAN) and receive email alerts, please sign up here.

April 02, 2008

AEA Cyberstates 2008 Report Released

While the economic news coming from most areas has been fairly poor in recent weeks, the American Electronics Association (AEA) Cyberstates 2008 report does have some good job news. Cyberstates 2008, which was released this week, showed job growth in technology and engineering of over 91,000 jobs in 2007. The news isn’t all good, however, as that was down from over 130,000 jobs added in 2006.

AEA President Christopher Hansen told Congress Daily that “The upside is that technology jobs pay considerably more than most other posts in the private sector and although the labor market remains tight, unemployment rates are below 2 percent across many tech occupations.” The bad news, he told the publication, is “The tech industry and the country risk an impending slide in U.S. global competitiveness, caused by negligence on the part of our political leaders to adequately invest in scientific research, improve our education system, and allow the best and brightest from around the world to work in the United States.”

AEA has been a forceful voice, alongside CRA and the rest of the S&T community, calling for fully funding the America COMPETES Act in order to keep job growth in these sectors going and to increase the competitiveness of the US.

Highlights from the Cyber States 2008 report can be found here.

March 13, 2008

Gates Tells Congress to Support Research

“Research is where it’s at,” Bill Gates said yesterday summing up his (and CRA's, in fact) message for federal funding priorities in a single sentence to the House Science and Technology Committee. The response came in the final minutes of the hearing when Gates was asked what the priority for federal funding should be given that there is a finite amount of federal money to spend and the large number of potential science and technology areas it could be spent on.

Gates’ appearance before the committee, his last as Chairman of Microsoft, was in commemoration of the committee’s 50th anniversary. The theme of the hearing was familiar to those in the science and technology realm—Competitiveness and Innovation. Gates’ testimony, both written and in response to questions, followed the arguments he and the rest of the S&T community have been making for the last several years: the urgency for improving STEM education at the K-12 level, the critical need for federal funding of basic research, the importance of attracting the best and the brightest from around the world to U.S. universities, the need to increase diversity in STEM fields, and the requirement that we do whatever we can to retain talent in the U.S.

The entire written testimony and a webcast of the hearing are available on the committee web site. In it, Gates, not unexpectedly, highlights the important contributions of information technology and its great potential to aid in solving some of the trickiest problems we face:

Computing and software will also play an increasingly central role in scientific research. We are rapidly moving into an era of data-centric computational science in which researchers across a wide range of disciplines routinely use software and computers as essential tools for investigation and collaboration. The ability to use computers to model complex systems is transforming the way we learn about everything from genomics and biosciences to physics and astronomy. In the future, scientific computing will play a profoundly important role in advances that will help us treat diseases, address climate change, and confront many other critical issues.
...But he raises important questions about whether we're doing all we can to insure the U.S. remains an innovation leader:
As I hope these remarks reflect, I am optimistic about the potential for technology to help us find new ways to improve people’s lives and tackle important challenges. I am less optimistic, however, that the United States will continue to remain a global leader in technology innovation. While America’s innovation heritage is unparalleled, the evidence is mounting that we are failing to make the investments in our young people, our workers, our scientific research infrastructure, and our economy that will enable us to retain our global innovation leadership.

In particular, I believe that there are two urgent reasons why we should all be deeply concerned that our advantages in science and technology innovation are in danger of slipping away.

First, we face a critical shortfall of skilled scientists and engineers who can develop new breakthrough technologies. Second, the public and private sectors are no longer investing in basic research and development (R&D) at the levels needed to drive long-term innovation.

If the United States truly wants to secure its global leadership in technology innovation, we must, as a nation, commit to a strategy for innovation excellence – a set of initiatives and policies that will provide the foundation for American competitive strength in the years ahead. Such a strategy cannot succeed without a serious commitment from – and partnership between – both the public and private sectors. It will also need to be flexible and dynamic enough to respond to rapid changes in the global economy.

Update: Some press coverage of the hearing from Forbes, the Washington Post, and one in Inforworld (though the latter focuses almost exclusively on Gates' H-1B testimony).

March 06, 2008

FY09 House Budget Resolution

The House of Representatives Budget Committee passed the FY09 budget resolution and a Sense of the House resolution last night reaffirming the importance of S&T funding. The budget resolution provides a large pot of money for the accounts that fund science agencies, including an additional $379 million above the President’s request for the account that funds NSF. The Sense of the House resolution, a non-binding resolution, says that it is important to fully fund the America COMPETES Act. While this is a good sign of support for science, it's only the first step that Congress must take to realize these increases as part of the FY 09 appropriations process. And we've seen in the past how good first steps don't necessarily mean the final steps will be equally good. Sense of the House text:



It is the sense of the House that the House should provide sufficient funding so that our Nation may continue to be the world leader in education, innovation and economic growth; last year, Congress passed and the President signed the America COMPETES Act, bipartisan legislation designed to ensure that American students, teachers, businesses, and workers are pre-pared to continue leading the world in innovation, research, and technology well into the future; this resolution supports the efforts authorized in the America COMPETES Act, providing substantially increased funding above the President’s requested level for 2009, and increased amounts after 2009 in Function 250 (General Science, Space and Technology) and Function 270 (Energy); additional increases for scientific research and education are included in Function 500 (Education, Employment, Training and Social Services), Function 550 (Health), Function 300 (Environment and Natural Resources), and Function 370 (Commerce and Housing Credit), all of which receive more funding than the President’s budget provides; because America’s greatest resource for innovation resides within classrooms across the country, the increased funding provided in this resolution will support initiatives within the America COMPETES Act to educate tens of thousands of new scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, and place highly qualified teachers in math and science K-12 classrooms; and because independent scientific research provides the foundation for innovation and future technologies, this resolution will keep us on the path toward doubling funding for the National Science Foundation, basic research in the physical sciences, and collaborative research partnerships, and toward achieving energy independence through the develop ment of clean and sustainable alternative energy technologies.

We’ll have more on the budget resolution as the process moves forward. Stay tuned!

March 05, 2008

Help Urge Congress To Support Increases in Science, Computing Research

An effort is under way to influence the National Science Foundation's FY09 funding early this appropriations season. Reps. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Bob Inglis (R-SC) and Brian Baird (D-WA) have put together a letter to the House Appropriations Chair and Ranking Member to urge support for NSF's FY09 budget request of $7.326 billion (which represents a 13.6 percent increase over FY08), and they're looking for more of their colleagues to co-sign. CRA has joined with many others in the science advocacy community in alerting our membership to help encourage more Members of Congress to sign on. But you can help, too! Below is the alert that we sent out to the Computing Research Advocacy Network (interested in joining?). You don't have to be a member to participate!:

Members of the Computing Research Advocacy Network:

I am writing to ask for your help with a brief opportunity that we have to influence support for increasing funding at the National Science Foundation in the FY09 budget appropriations process in the House of Representatives. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Bob Inglis (R-SC) and Brian Baird (D-WA) have circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter to all of the Members of the House of Representatives asking them to sign a letter (text provided below) to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee urging their support for the agency's budget request of $7.326 billion for FY09, an increase of 13.6 percent over FY08. As you know, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funds 86 percent of all university-based computing research, so securing a funding increase at this vital agency is crucially important to the computing community. We want to get NSF back onto the doubling track.

In order for this effort to have significant impact, the letter needs as many congressional signatories as possible. We're asking CRAN members to please contact your Representative immediately to encourage him or her to sign this letter. Members wishing to sign the letter MUST do so by March 12, so the window of opportunity is brief to make a difference. Please CALL your Representative's office today to encourage him or her to sign.

The process is short and simple: Call your Representative's DC office (if you need assistance finding your Congressman's phone number, please go to the House of Representatives web site or contact Melissa Norr at CRA at or at 202-266-2944). Ask to speak to the legislative assistant who handles science issues for the Member. Explain that you're a researcher in the Representative's district, and that much of work performed at your institution is enabled by support from NSF. Urge the Representative to support the increase requested by NSF for FY09, and to demonstrate that support by signing the letter in the Dear Colleague circulated by Ehlers, Holt, Baird and Inglis last Tuesday. That's it!

As of last Friday, co-signers, in addition to Reps. Ehlers, Holt, Baird and Inglis, include the following representatives:

* Mike Rogers (AL)
* Thomas Allen (ME)
* Alcee Hastings (FL)
* Betty Sutton (OH)
* Phil English (PA)
* Ron Paul (TX)
* Michael McNulty (NY)
* Jim Moran (VA)
* David Loebsack (IA)

Previous efforts have produced more than 100 co-signers. We'd like to reach at least that level this time as well. Remember, Members have until March 12th to sign on, so please call soon.

On behalf of the CRA, many thanks for your help!
-- Jeff

P.S. Here's a text of the letter we want your Congressman to sign:

Dear Chairman Mollohan and Ranking Member Frelinghuysen,

We are writing to thank you for your past support for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and to ask you to continue that support in the FY 2009 appropriations bill. Our request is to uphold the fiscal year 2009 funding level of the American COMPETES Act of $7.326 billion for the National Science Foundation.

In 2007, a pathway was established to double the budget of the NSF over the course of 10 years. The priority recommendation of an esteemed panel of the National Academies, the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, served as the catalyst for Congress and the Administration to find consensus on the doubling path for the physical sciences. The National Academies' convincing report warned that the U.S. must invest in fundamental research or our innovation pipeline will deteriorate.

Despite the evidence and overwhelming support for the COMPETES Act, which was signed into law in August 2007, funding for NSF fell short of the ten-year doubling path in both the FY07 and FY08 appropriations cycles. Cumulatively, NSF was funded $500 million below the request in the past two years. Our request - as authorized by the COMPETES Act - adds this amount to the funding request for NSF by the Administration in FY09 ($6.854 billion) in order to restore these deficits. This will put the NSF back on its doubling path.

A renewed commitment to core basic research and educational programs at NSF is essential to meet the enormous promise of scientific innovation, to better train future scientists, engineers, and technicians, and to promote the success of multidisciplinary initiatives, including biotechnology and nanotechnology. We now need to make substantial investments in the physical sciences and engineering. NSF is the core agency for these endeavors.

Past investments in NSF have contributed greatly to major technological advances in areas and industries that are critical for U.S. economic growth and defense. We respectfully request that you continue the flow of such advances in the FY09 budget by funding NSF at $7.326 billion."

Jeffrey S. Vitter
Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science
Purdue University

Update: A list of additional signers as of March 6, is below.

Update 2: The letter has 126 signers as of March 17. The total list is below. Thank you to everyone who contacted their Congressmen.

Neil Abercrombie (HI-1, D)
Thomas Allen (ME-1, D)
Jason Altmire (PA-4, D)
Michael Arcuri (NY-24, D)
Tammy Baldwin (WI-2, D)
Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6, R)
Shelley Berkley (NV-1, D)
Howard Berman (CA-28, D)
Judy Biggert (IL-13, R)
Brian Bilbray (CA-50, R)
Tim Bishop (NY-1, D)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-3, D)
Rick Boucher (VA-9, D)
Nancy Boyda (KS-2, D)
Bruce Braley (IA-1, D)
Corrine Brown (FL-3, D)
Steve Buyer (IN-4, R)
Dave Camp (MI-4, R)
Lois Capps (CA-23, D)
Michael Capuano (MA-8, D)
Russ Carnahan (MO-3, D)
Chris Carney (PA-10, D)
William Clay (MO-1, D)
Emanuel Cleaver II (MO-5, D)
Jim Cooper (TN-5, D)
Jim Costa (CA-20, D)
Joseph Crowley (NY-7, D)
Susan Davis (CA-53, D)
Tom Davis (VA-11, R)
Diana DeGette (CO-1, D)
William Delahunt (MA-10, D)
Charlie Dent (PA-15, R)
John Dingell (MI-15, D)
Michael Doyle (PA-14, D)
John Duncan (TN-2, R)
Chet Edwards (TX-17, D)
Eliot Engel (NY-17, D)
Phil English (PA-3, R)
Anna Eshoo (CA-14, D)
Bob Etheridge (NC-2, D)
Bob Filner (CA-51, D)
Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1, R)
Barney Frank (MA-4, D)
Jim Gerlach (PA-6, R)
Wayne Gilchrest (MD-1, R)
Charles Gonzalez (TX-20, D)
Phil Hare (IL-17, D)
Alcee Hastings (FL-23, D)
Doc Hastings (WA-4, R)
Stephanie Herseth (SD, D)
Baron Hill (IN-9, D)
Maurice Hinchey (NY-22, D)
Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15, D)
Paul Hodes (NH-2, D)
Darlene Hooley (OR-5, D)
Jay Inslee (WA-1, D)
Darrell Issa (CA-49, R)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18, D)
William Jefferson (LA-2, D)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30, D)
Timothy Johnson (IL-15, R)
Steve Kagen (WI-8, D)
Dale Kildee (MI-5, D)
Ron Kind (WI-3, D)
Sander Levin (MI-12, D)
John Lewis (GA-5, D)
Dan Lipinski (IL-3, D)
David Loebsack (IA-2, D)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-16, D)
Stephen Lynch (MA-9, D)
Carolyn Maloney (NY-14, D)
Edward Markey (MA-7, D)
Doris Matsui (CA-5, D)
Michael McCaul (TX-10, R)
Jim McDermott (WA-7, D)
James McGovern (MA-3, D)
John McHugh (NY-23, R)
Mike McIntyre (NC-7, D)
Jerry McNerney (CA-11, D)
Michael McNulty (NY-21, D)
Gregory Meeks (NY-6, D)
Michael Michaud (ME-2, D)
Brad Miller (NC-13, D)
Harry Mitchell (AZ-5, D)
Dennis Moore (KS-3, D)
James Moran (VA-8, D)
Chris Murphy (CT-5, D)
Jerrold Nadler (NY-8, D)
James Oberstar (MN-8, D)
Solomon Ortiz (TX-27, D)
Frank Pallone (NJ-6, D)
Ron Paul (TX-14, R)
Donald Payne (NJ-10, D)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-7, D)
Thomas Petri (WI-6, R)
Todd Platts (PA-19, R)
Jim Ramstad (MN-3, R)
Thomas Reynolds (NY-26, R)
Mike Rogers (AL-3, R)
Mike Rogers (MI-8, R)
Peter Roskam (IL-6, R)
Mike Ross (AR-4, D)
Jim Saxton (NJ-3, R)
Janice Schakowsky (IL-9, D)
Allyson Schwartz (PA-13, D)
David Scott (GA-13, D)
Robert Scott (VA-3, D)
Joe Sestak (PA-7, D)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1, D)
Albio Sires (NJ-13, D)
Louise McIntosh Slaughter (NY-28, D)
Adam Smith (WA-9, D)
Lamar Smith (TX-21, R)
Betty Sutton (OH-13, D)
Ellen Tauscher (CA-10, D)
Niki Tsongas (MA-5, D)
Chris Van Hollen (MD-8, D)
Henry Waxman (CA-30, D)
Robert Wexler (FL-19, D)
Charlie Wilson (OH-6, D)
Rob Wittman (VA-1, R)
David Wu (OR-1, D)

February 07, 2008

FY 09 Budget Close-Up: National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (along with all other federal agencies) released its FY 09 Budget Request to Congress on Monday. We've already had some preliminary coverage of it, noting that, on the whole, computing research does pretty well. Late Monday afternoon NSF hosted a briefing on its budget to provide a little finer resolution look at what they hope to get from Congress in this appropriations season -- and we've got those details below (spoiler: they're pretty good).

But maybe just as importantly, NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate also provided some detail about how it plans to deal with the austere appropriation it received from Congress for FY 2008. Before we get to the relatively good news from the request, it's probably appropriate to close the book on the FY 2008 numbers. You'll recall that CISE had some big plans for FY 2008. We've listed some of the potential impacts on NSF overall from the omnibus funding levels in a previous post, but here's what we know specifically about CISE:

  • NSF had requested a 9.0 percent increase for CISE in FY 2008, an increase of $47 million. Instead, CISE will see just a 1.5 percent increase -- $39 million less than requested.
  • The Cyber-enabled Discovery Initiative (CDI), a new initiative when it was proposed for FY 08, will see all of its requested funding. For FY 08, that's $20 million. Foundation-wide, CDI will be funded at $48 million in FY 08, down a bit from the overall request of $52 million, but still a strong commitment to a program that has attracted considerable attention within the computing community (with more to come in FY 09).
  • The biggest impact on CISE, therefore, is the growth that won't occur across the rest of the core in FY 08. Because NSF has targeted an average award size of $120,000 for FY 08, that's approximately 325 grants they had planned to award that they will not now as a result of the omnibus. On average, those 325 awards would have supported more than 400 graduate students this year.
Now, the good news.

For FY 2009, NSF hopes to make up the ground lost in the omnibus by requesting significant increases for its research directorates. Overall, NSF would see its budget increase by 14 percent over FY 08, to $6.06 billion in FY 09. Within that increase, computing research is featured prominently in the request. The Foundation-wide, but CISE led, Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation program would expand considerably under the agency's plan, growing from $48 million in FY 08 to $100 million in FY 09, including $33 million in CISE. Additionally, the agency has proposed two new foundation-wide initiatives that have strong computing foci. The first is a $20 million investment in "Science and Engineering Beyond Moore's Law," which "aims to position the U.S. at the forefront of communications and computation capability beyond the physical and conceptional limitations of current systems." That program would be led by the Mathematics and Physical Sciences directorate, but CISE would control $6 million in awards. The second is a $15 million investment ($3.5 million in CISE) in "Adaptive Systems Technology" that focuses on "generating pathways and interfaces between human and physical systems that will revolutionize the development of novel adaptive systems."

Additionally, CISE would see its core research budget increase by 19.5 percent, or $104 million, in FY 09 under the President's plan -- essentially making up all the ground lost with the omnibus. Programs of note within the directorate include:

  • $78 million for Computing Fundamentals -- set-aside for basic, potentially transformative research answering fundamental questions in computing that have the potential for "significant, enduring impact." Foci include cyber-physical systems, data-intensive computing, software for complex systems, cybersecurity, network science and engineering, and understanding "what is computable?" when humans and machines work together to solve problems neither can solve alone.
  • $33.6 million for CDI -- CISE would contribute over a third of the total NSF investment in the initiative and would be the "lead" directorate.
We'll have some additional charts spelling out exactly how CISE plans to spend its money in FY 09 very soon.

For now, it's enough to say that the budget appears to once again represent a good start for NSF and computing in the appropriations cycle. But it's just the start of a long, unpredictable process.

Next up, a focus on DOD IT R&D....

February 05, 2008

FY 09 Budget Close-up: DOE Office of Science

It looks like a decent year for Advanced Scientific Computing Research at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Following the FY08 omnibus, in which ASCR received an almost 25 percent increase, the President has requested another 5 percent increase for FY09, for a total of $368.8 million. Here is a brief breakdown:

  • Applied mathematics and computer science research $93.2 million
  • Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) $58.1 million
  • High-performance computing and network facilities and testbeds $217.5 million

The high-performance computing number includes:

  • $54.8 million for the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center
  • $85 million for Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility
  • $30 million for Argonne Leadership Computing Facility
  • $25 million for an Energy Sciences Network (ESNet)

US high-performance computing is expected to reach a petaflop this year at Oak Ridge and Raymond Orbach, the director of the Office of Science, stated at the budget briefing presentation that the US will increase computing power by a factor of ten every two years moving forward.

Overall, the Office of Science did well in the request with $4.7 billion, an 18.8 percent increase. This keeps the Office of Science close to the ACI trajectory announced by the President in 2006. Funding levels include:

  • $805 million for high energy physics
  • $510 million for nuclear physics
  • $568.5 million for biological and environmental research
  • $1.57 billion for basic energy science
  • $493 million for fusion energy sciences
  • $110 million for science laboratories infrastructure

In FY08, there were $123.6 million in earmarks in a total appropriation of $4.02 billion, which the President has zeroed out in the FY09 budget request.

February 04, 2008

Computing Research Appears to Do Well in First Look at FY 09 Budget Numbers

The President's budget request for FY 2009 is now online and we've done a quick read through to glean some numbers of interest to the computing research community. These will likely be refined over the next few days as we figure out exactly what's in there and what's not, but it's a pretty good indication of where the President's priorities are as we head into his final year.

The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program
NITRD represents the sum total of the federal government's investment in information technology research across 13 federal agencies. Overall, the NITRD program would see an increase of 6 percent compared to estimated levels for FY 2008, due largely to increases in the three agencies featured in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). IT R&D at the National Science Foundation would grow 17 percent> over FY 08 levels to $1.090 billion (putting NSF's share of NITRD at over a billion dollars for the first time). The Department of Energy's Office of Science computing research would grow 13 percent over FY 08 to $494 million. Dept of Commerce, which includes the National Institute of Standards and Technology, would grow 6 percent to $90 million.

Defense IT R&D appears to decrease 2 percent in the President's request vs FY08, but it's hard to assess that decrease without understanding exactly how many congressionally-directed projects (earmarks) were removed in the agency request. (More below.)

NASA and the National Institutes of Health also see either flat-funding or slight decreases in the request, but again, without knowing what earmarks were removed, it's hard to assess the budgets.

EPA and the National Archives and Records Administration would get what little they received in FY 08 in FY 09 ($6 million and $5 million, respectively).

Agency budgets:

NSF (pdf)
NSF research accounts would increase 16 percent (14 percent for NSF overall) over FY 08 in the President's plan, to $6.06 billion. Included in that $6 billion is "$1.1 billion for fundamental information technology research and cutting-edge supercomputing and networking resources, including: $100 million, an 110-percent increase, for an NSF-wide effort to develop radically new computational concepts and tools [this is Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation -- Peter]; and $30 million for a new targeted cyber-security research effort in privacy, fundamental theory and usability."

We'll have CISE numbers after NSF's budget briefing later this afternoon.

DOE (pdf)
DOE Science Programs would grow 19 percent vs FY 08 to $4.7 billion. As noted above, DOE's IT R&D would see a 13 percent increase (on top of the nearly 25 percent increase DOE's Advanced Scientific Computing Research account received in the omnibus for FY 08).

NIST (pdf)
NIST core research would increase 4 percent over FY 08, but given the heavy earmarks in the omnibus that were likely stripped from this agency request, that may actually seem like a much more substantial increase.

NASA (pdf)
NASA science would drop 4 percent to $4.4 billion.

NIH (pdf)
NIH is flat-funded in the President's request.

Defense (pdf)
This is trickiest to figure out given the how heavily the DOD budget is earmarked. The President's budget calls for an increase of just 4 percent for Defense Basic (6.1) research and a decrease of 16 percent to Defense Applied (6.2) research vs. FY 08. However, if you subtract the earmarks from the FY 08 baseline, the increase for DOD 6.1 is more like 17 percent. DOD 6.2 shorn of earmarks would also grow in FY 09 to look like a 3.5 percent *increase* over FY 08 (not a 16 percent decrease). But the devil's in the details and we'll have many more of those in the coming days.

On the whole, it looks like the President has followed through with his commitment to ACI in his final budget. Of course, he's also pledged to take some very firm stands regarding earmarks in the upcoming appropriations process (he's threatened to veto any appropriations bill sent to his desk that doesn't cut FY08 earmark levels in half). That stand virtually guarantees he won't be around when Congress finally gets around to passing approps bills. It's very unlikely Congress will want to a) give up that many earmarks and b) engage in a battle over appropriations before the election, so it's likely this won't get settled until January 09 (or later). But, as with last year, we start with some pretty healthy numbers. In fact, in terms of IT R&D, we start with the healthiest requests we've seen in many years.

More details to come.

January 28, 2008

Standing "O" for Basic Research

I know that after the crummy omnibus appropriation we got after a year of positive signs, it's hard to get excited about the prospect of starting the whole process over again. But it was very encouraging to see the standing ovation for the President's mention of the need to double federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences in his State of the Union remarks tonight. Here was the line that earned the ovation:

To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge.

So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on earth. (APPLAUSE)

It's a start. We'll have much more budget news after the new Administration budget is released next Monday....

January 25, 2008

FY 2008 Omnibus: Damage Assessment

Update: (1/30/08) -- Cameron Wilson of USACM has some additional (depressing) details of the impact of the omnibus on the third ACI-related agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. For the impact on the other two -- NSF and DOE's Office of Science -- see the original post just below!

Original Post: We're beginning to get a sense of how the shortfall in the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill will impact specific programs in some of the federal science agencies. While we won't get the full story until after the FY 09 Budget comes out on February 4th, the bits and pieces that are leaking around town are fairly dispiriting.

First the good news. It appears that though NSF's research accounts only received $57 million in new money for FY 08 (an increase over FY 07 that fails to keep pace with inflation), the $52 million Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation program will likely move forward, though it's not clear whether it will be "fully-funded." Unfortunately, that's where the good news ends. The rest of the stats are pretty gruesome:

  • NSF will likely fund 1,000 fewer research grants in FY 08 than planned and the average award size will be smaller.
  • NSF Graduate Fellowships will drop by 230.
  • The number of Faculty Early Career Awards will likely drop by five percent.
  • The Science of Science and Innovation Policy program will likely be delayed.
  • The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, slated to grow to $40 million in FY 08 will instead be flat-funded at $10 million.
  • The National Ecological Observatory Network will likely be delayed.
  • The Ocean Observatories Initiative will likely be delayed.
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates may be reduced by five percent.
  • Science of Learning Centers will likely face a delay and possible reduction.
Things aren't any better at the Department of Energy's Office of Science. While the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program will see an pretty healthy increase in FY 08 (about 25 percent) and the start of a new "Institute for Advanced Architectures and Algorithms" with Centers of Excellence at Sandia National Labs and Oak Ridge National Labs, researchers across the board (including computing researchers) will see cuts or layoffs as a result of the overall agency budget. Here's what we know so far:
  • Cuts to the Fusion Energy Sciences budget will result in layoffs of up to 40 at ORNL, PPPL, SRL, and LANL.
  • Cuts to the Basic Energy Sciences budget mean that no funding for any new research initiatives in use-inspired energy research and the layoff of approximately 50 permanent PhDs, 30 postdocs, and 20 students from on-going research programs. (As a comparison, the new research initiatives called for in the FY 08 budget would have supported about 400 permanent PhDs, 120 postdocs and 240 students).
  • Cuts to High Energy Physics will result in some facility closures and the loss of support for 450 employees (250 at the Stanford Linear Accelerator and 200 at Fermi Lab).
  • Cuts to Nuclear Physics will result in reductions of up to 8 permanent PhDs, 10 postdocs and 10 students.
It's not clear whether anything can be done to mitigate any of these cuts. Congress has, in theory, closed the book on FY 2008. There are a couple of legislative vehicles that could provide opportunities to supplement these poor funding levels, but the likelihood that they will be used that way is pretty slim.

The first is in the economic stimulus package that will be passed shortly by the Congress in an effort to provide some relief for U.S. taxpayers and get them spending money in this slowing economy. While the House is not likely to include any funding for science as part of a stimulus, there's a teeny-tiny chance that the Senate might give it a run. But even though the amount of the shortfall for science represents a very small portion of the proposed stimulus package -- $900 million versus $150 billion -- there are not likely to be too many in the House or the Administration who would be willing to support any additions beyond their original proposal. So, the odds for this route are, well, beyond slim.

The second is in the emergency supplemental appropriations bill that will have to be considered in the next few months to pay for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Emergency supplemental bills have frequently been looked to in the past as a good place to stash a bit of extra funding for favored projects, provided you can make the case (however tenuous) that the funding is going for some sort of "emergency" use. Given the number of jobs lost at federal research facilities, and the fact that U.S. participation in some international research efforts (particularly the ITER fusion reactor project) is in jeopardy as a result of the FY 08 omnibus, Congress and the Administration might agree that supplemental funding is actually appropriate and include it in the supplemental appropriations bill. So, while this is unlikely to mitigate the whole of the shortfall, it's not inconceivable that Congress could include $100-300 million, particularly for DOE Office of Science, to help mitigate the damage.

Beyond that, we're looking at trying to make up as much of the difference in the FY 2009 appropriations process. The science community and the high-tech industry are already gearing up for that fight -- with lessons learned from our failures in FY 08. Expect to read much more about how that effort moves forwards in the coming weeks....

January 20, 2008

Craig Barrett's Upset About the Omnibus (and who can blame him?)

Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel, comes out swinging over the debacle that was the FY 08 Omnibus Appropriations Act and it's impact on federal support for the physical sciences, computing, mathematics and engineering, in a piece that runs today in the San Francisco Chronicle (which should get Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) attention). The whole piece is well-worth reading, but I thought his conclusion was remarkably on point:

The United States stands at a pivotal point in our history. Competition is heating up around the world with millions of industrious, highly educated workers who are willing to compete at salaries far below those paid here. The only way we can hope to compete is with brains and ideas that set us above the competition - and that only comes from investments in education and R&D. Practically everyone who has traveled outside the United States in the last decade has seen this dynamic at work. The only place where it is apparently still a deep, dark secret is in Washington, D.C.

What are they thinking? When will they wake up? It may already be too late; but I genuinely think the citizenry of this country wants the United States to compete. If only our elected leaders weren't holding us back.


January 15, 2008

NSB Releases 2008 S&E Indicators

The National Science Board released the 2008 Science and Engineering Indicators today at an event on Capitol Hill. Board Chair Steven Beering, Subcommittee Chair Louis Lanzerotti, and Arthur Reilly presented the Science and Engineering Indicators, the Digest of Key S&E Indicators, and a companion policy recommendation document, Research and Development: Essential Foundation for US Competitiveness in a Global Economy. Dr. Arden Bement and Dr. Kathie Olsen also attended the event and participated in the Q&A session at the end.

While the entire document can be found online, the event highlighted some specific findings of the 2008 S&E Indicators, including:

  • world science and engineering activities are shifting from the US and Europe, the traditional leaders, to Asia.
  • US share of high tech manufacturing has stayed above 30 percent over the last twenty years
  • Two-thirds of US R&D funding comes from industry and only 28 percent is from the federal government
  • 2007 had a major downward curve in constant dollars of federal support for academic research
  • Defense research, mostly development, accounts for over half of all federal R&D
  • China’s PhD attainment is on a steep up curve but is still significantly below the US
  • There has been an increase in S&E bachelors degrees in the US in all fields EXCEPT computing
  • Most foreign born PhD candidates in the US plan to stay in the US
  • 80 percent of the public supports federal funding of basic research and 40 percent believe there is too little federal funding of basic research

The policy companion piece includes three broad recommendations. They are:

  • The federal government should take action to enhance the level of funding for, and the transformational nature of, basic research
  • Industry, government, the academic sector, and professional organizations should take action to encourage greater intellectual interchange between industry and academia. Industry researchers should also be encouraged to participate as authors and reviewers for articles in open, peer-reviewed publications.
  • New data are critically needed to track the implications for the US economy of the globalization of manufacturing and services in high technology industries, and this need should be addressed expeditiously by relevant federal agencies.

During the Q&A, Bement said that investment in basic research drives the economy and that it is not just dollars but also talent. In response to a question about why students would go into science and engineering instead of fields with better job prospects, Olsen said that the data found that demand for science and engineering majors in industry is increasing but students don’t realize the options that are out there for a science or engineering degree.

December 18, 2007

More On the Awful Omnibus

Cameron Wilson at USACM's Technology Policy Blog has a great dissection of the FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill in which Congress managed to reverse two years worth of positive efforts in science and innovation funding policy. His piece is titled "Congress Abandons Commitment to Basic Research; Puts NIST in the Construction Business" and it's a must read.

Also, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (of which CRA is a member) released a statement today expressing grave disappointment in the appropriations outcome. Since it's not yet posted on the Task Force website, I'll quote it here:

The FY08 omnibus appropriations bill that Congress is considering represents a step backwards for the bipartisan innovation agenda. The President and Congress, for all their stated support this year for making basic research in the physical sciences and engineering a top budget priority ended up essentially cutting, or flat-funding, key science agencies after accounting for inflation.

The nations that seek to challenge our global leadership in science and innovation should be greatly encouraged by this legislation.

The President and a near-unanimous Congress, by enacting the America COMPETES Act earlier this year, laid out a bold path toward revitalizing basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. COMPETES was a welcome Congressional initiative to double funding for America’s science research programs and expand science education that complemented the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda.

This appropriations legislation takes a step back from the promises contained in all of these initiatives.

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation is hopeful that this reversal of direction does not represent a lack of commitment to turning around the nation’s long decline in support for basic research programs. For now, the failure to provide the funding required to begin growing these programs makes these promises little more than empty gestures. We intend to work with the Administration and Congress in the new year to make the promise of America COMPETES a reality.

Strong words from an organization consisting of some of the most important technology companies and organizations on the planet.

Finally, it's worth pointing out some interesting statistics. Late last summer, 367 members of the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 2272, The America COMPETES Act, which we celebrated and covered in great detail. It was an unequivocal demonstration of support for strengthening the federal investment in basic research in the physical sciences, computing, mathematics and engineering and the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Of those 367 members who voted for the COMPETES Act, 244 voted for this omnibus bill -- a bill which represents a nearly 180 degree reversal from the goals of COMPETES. 206 Democrats, 38 Republicans.

Now there were clearly other possible reasons for voting for the omnibus, including a deluge of earmarks in the bill. But the fact remains that support for science ceased to be a priority for those 244 members -- including quite a few who probably should have had science ranked high on their personal lists. As we now start to think about the FY 09 appropriations process, certainly it will be worth checking in with those members to understand the dissonance in their positions. (See the extended entry for the full list....)

Democratic House Members Who Voted for Both the COMPETES Act and the Omnibus

Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Boyda (KS)
Brady (PA)
Braley (IA)
Brown, Corrine
Davis (AL)
Davis (CA)
Davis (IL)
Davis, Lincoln
Frank (MA)
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Hall (NY)
Herseth Sandlin
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Klein (FL)
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lewis (GA)
Lofgren, Zoe
Mahoney (FL)
Maloney (NY)
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum (MN)
Meek (FL)
Meeks (NY)
Miller (MI)
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Moore (KS)
Moore (WI)
Moran (VA)
Murphy (CT)
Murphy, Patrick
Neal (MA)
Peterson (MN)
Price (NC)
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Scott (GA)
Scott (VA)
Smith (WA)
Thompson (MS)
Udall (CO)
Udall (NM)
Van Hollen
Walz (MN)
Wasserman Schultz
Welch (VT)
Wilson (OH)

Republican House Members Who Voted for Both the COMPETES Act and the Omnibus:
Davis, Tom
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
Johnson (IL)
King (NY)
Kuhl (NY)
Smith (NJ)
Walsh (NY)
Young (AK)
Young (FL)

December 17, 2007

NSF, NIST Lose Out in Final (?) Omnibus

Update: (12/17/07 1:30 pm) -- It appears this bill is even worse than we initially thought. It turns out that the 3.3 percent increase for NSF's research accounts ("Research and Related Activities") is artificially inflated by some bookkeeping -- namely the shifting of the EPSCoR program from the Education and Human Resources directorate to R&RA. Taking that shift into account, there's really only $57 million in "new" funding in the R&RA account -- a terribly anemic 1.2 percent increase for the research portion of the only federal agency devoted to supporting basic research. When you factor in inflation, that 1.2 percent really represents a cut -- and a complete reversal of the goals of the ACI, the COMPETES Act, and the innovation plans so touted by the congressional leadership.....

Original Post: Having gotten a peek at the final details for what will end up in the omnibus appropriations bill the House will consider Tuesday, I'm a bit dismayed at the choices that have been made. (Congressional Quarterly has the details; unfortunately, you'll need a subscription to access them. The House Rules Committee has the text of the agreement online now.)

Those who have been following the saga that is the FY 08 appropriations process will recall that the total spending in the appropriations bills left unfinished by Congress (which included everything but Defense) exceeded the President's budget request by $23 billion, a figure that brought out the President's veto threat. The Democratic leadership tried to assess that threat by passing a Labor/HHS/Education bill they knew he would veto. When he vetoed it and the Congress failed to override it, it was clear who held the power in the negotiation. So, realizing they didn't have the leverage they needed, the Democratic leadership began to cut back. They attempted to meet the President halfway with an omnibus that proposed an $11 billion cap overrun, but when they couldn't peel off enough GOP members to override any potential veto, they caved completely, agreeing to live within the President's budget cap for all the unfinished appropriations bills.

Unfortunately for the National Science Foundation and National Institute for Standards and Technology -- two agencies that had been at the focal point of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda -- living under the cap meant that other programs within the omnibus received higher priorities and the planned increases for those two science agencies were cut sharply.

NSF, which under the House and Senate appropriations plans approved earlier in the year would have received either a 10 or 11 percent increase (respectively) over FY 07, will instead receive just 2.5 percent vs. FY 07 in the new omnibus. NSF's R&RA account (which funds the research directorates) will see just a 3.3 percent increase over FY 07 (instead of a planned 10.5 percent increase), should the omnibus pass.

NIST's research efforts, which had been slated to grow over 15 percent vs. FY 07 in the House and Senate bills, will instead see that planned increase drop to just 1.4 percent over FY 07, should the bill pass.

DOE Office of Science fares a bit better -- and DOE-related computing research comes out even further ahead in the deal. The Office of Science would have grown over 18 percent vs. FY 07 in the earlier House and Senate plans, but the new agreement will reduce that rate of increase to a still-respectable 6.8 percent. Advanced Scientific Computing Research, which had been slated to grow about 20 percent over FY07, would actually see *more* money in the new agreement -- a growth of 25 percent over FY 07. Included in the increase is $19.5 million to "continue the Department's participation in the [DARPA] High Productivity Computing Systems partnership" and an increase of $7.7 million for Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility to "maintain the planned budget and cost schedule."

The agreement also includes details of an additional effort:

The Office of Science and the [NNSA] are directed to establish the Institute for Advanced Architectures and Algorithms with Centers of Excellence at Sandia National Labs and [ORNL]. These Centers will execute a national program involving industry, universities and national laboratories that is focused on technologies to sustain the U.S. leadership in high performance computing. The NNSA ASC and Office of Science ASCR programs will jointly fund the program and provide direction needed to support the goal of developing exascale computing for the Nation.
So, the House is set to begin consideration of the bill Tuesday. The Senate will get it as soon as the House passes it. It's not clear whether the President will sign. There's a core of the House GOP leadership that's still not content with the limited spending in the omnibus. They're leading an effort to push for a "Continuing Resolution" for FY 2008 (funding all agencies at their FY 07 levels) instead of the omnibus as a way of holding an even sharper line on spending. I suppose it's possible that the President could veto the omnibus , and he could cite a lot of reasons -- runaway earmarks, poor prioritization by congressional Democrats, the gutting of ACI -- and the House GOP could force a CR by sustaining the veto. In that case, it would behoove the science advocacy community to push hard for special consideration of ACI-related agencies, as happened under the last CR. And it's not implausible that GOP hard-liners might support it -- after all, the real point of the CR would be to put a hold on earmarks. The science increases are, in fact, in the President's budget.

But barring that somewhat unlikely chain of events -- Presidential veto -> House GOP uphold veto and force CR -> CR favors ACI-related agencies -- the ACI-related increases we'd hoped for at NSF and NIST appear to be lost. It's hard not look for those to blame. The Democratic leadership is certainly open to some criticism for these numbers. When push came to shove and they were forced to live within the President's budget constraints, the leadership didn't feel that preserving the increases for science funding rose to a high enough priority in the face of other increases for programs and earmarks elsewhere in the omnibus. At the same time, the inability to put together appropriations bills that could garner enough support to pass with sufficient support isn't unique to their leadership. You'll recall the FY 07 appropriations process, managed by the GOP, also melted down in spectacular fashion.

In any case, this is a very disappointing development. Failing to get this bipartisan priority (President's ACI, Democratic Innovation Agenda) funded -- essentially abandoning science when it counted -- only puts at risk our long-term competitiveness. It's especially disappointing when one considers how many voices from all sides of the political spectrum have weighed in in support bolstering federal science funding, when the Administration has seen fit to make it a Presidential priority, and when Congress has emphasized its commitment with the passage of a landmark competitiveness bill in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion.

So, it's hard to imagine what else can be done. The debate over funding for FY 08 is much much larger than science funding. The issues that led to the meltdown are heavily political and have considerations that outweigh anything the science community could bring to the table. But, this is certainly a step back, I think, from science's standing in the Congress at the beginning of this year, when it was granted special status in the CR for FY 07.

Though it certainly gives us a rallying cry for FY 09.

We'll have more details as the omnibus moves forward and a final breakdown of the agency-by-agency numbers when they're passed.

December 12, 2007

Task Force Competitiveness Briefing

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, of which CRA is a very active member, hosted another successful competitiveness briefing on Capitol Hill today. A full room heard from Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), an introduction by the president of the National Academy of Engineering Dr. Charles Vest, and a keynote address by Norm Augustine. Also, in attendance was Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) who has backed the issue of increased basic research funding since before the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report was released.

Senator Bingaman echoed Dr. Vest when he said that the difficult work was still ahead because the current appropriations meltdown. He also said that the efforts of competitiveness were a long-term project. Senator Alexander said that it was important to continue to broaden the base of support for competitiveness issues in Congress but that it would be a mistake to think this issue was solely the responsibility of Congress. He said that everyone needs to be involved in order to keep America competitive.

Norm Augustine, who in addition to chairing the National Academies panel that produced the hugely influential "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report and has since chaired a follow-up called “Is America Falling off the Flat Earth?”, pointed out that while great progress was made toward funding basic research in the FY07 appropriations, sustaining the momentum of increases in FY08 was critical. He said, “Leadership in science and technology is not a birthright of the United States” but is something that needs to be fought for and won every day. An interesting statistic that he used was that two-thirds of the increased labor productivity over the last several decades was contributable to federal investment in research.

The event ended with a screening of the Task Force YouTube contest winning video that we’ve previously mentioned here.

October 23, 2007

Two Information Week Articles of Interest

Two recent Information Week articles are of interest. The first article discusses the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology’s newly released report regarding the IT workforce and the need to increase the representation of women and minorities to keep America competitive. This was a theme at the recent conferences in Florida, the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Information Technology. The report is free and available at the CPST web site but you do have to register to access it.

The second article is about the National Research Council report encouraging open exchange of science and technology research on the international stage. The article states the Council’s understanding that there are matters of national security that the United States is trying to protect by classifying research but that “the possibility that the United States might lose its edge in technology and research represents one of the greatest risks to national security.” Again the report is available online and is worth reading.

October 05, 2007

Senate CJS Approps Considered, Veto Threat Issued

The Senate began consideration of the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriation bill yesterday but put off further consideration of the bill until October 15. Despite the delay, President Bush has released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) stating -- no surprise -- he will veto the bill if it is passed at the current funding levels.

The bill includes $5.156 billion for NSF’s Research and Related Activities including $52 million for the Cyber Enabled Discovery and Innovation program, $244.6 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, and $850.6 million for Education and Human Resources Directorate - a $100 million increase over the President’s request. During consideration, an amendment adding $1 billion to the funding of NASA was passed, bringing NASA’s total to $18.5 billion within the bill. The bill includes $863 million for NIST including $110 million for the Manufacturing Extension Programs (MEP) and $100 million for the Advanced Technology Program (ATP).

The Administration has many concerns with this bill although they mostly are with the Commerce and Justice parts of the bill. The SAP does oppose the increase to NASA and the extra $100 million for NSF’s EHR. The SAP also states opposition to the funding amounts for the MEP and ATP programs, as he has in recent budget years.

Related posts on this topic can be found here.

October 03, 2007

Sputnik Anniversary Compels Look at K-12 Education

Good Op-Ed at about the need to invest in science and math education at the K-12 level to keep the US lead in science and technology. It points out that the current challenge to America’s competitive status is not a single high profile event that can galvanize the population but a slow decline in our education process and commitment to science and technology fields that has been happening for years.

Once again, our nation's educational system has been called into question, as international assessments indicate that our K-12 students lag far behind their peers from dozens of other nations in science and mathematics.

Furthermore, the impending retirement of baby-boom scientists and engineers trained during the post-Sputnik era has led to concerns over potential high-tech workforce shortages. Only 4.7% of undergraduate degrees awarded in the U.S. are in the field of engineering, compared to a staggering 38.6% of those awarded in China. Clearly, our national commitment to engineering and other high-tech fields has waned. As these jobs are playing a larger and larger part in the world economy, our timing is particularly bad.

Furthermore, their success does not spell doom for the U.S. economy as long as we react accordingly: with public investments that allow our students and workers to compete with their international counterparts. By building a solid bedrock of science and math education in grades K-12, we can assure a problem-solving, technically adroit workforce that will keep the U.S. in a position of global leadership.

It also calls on the government to implement the recommendations of the National Science Board report “A National Action Plan for Addressing the Critical Needs of the U.S. Science, Technoloogy, Engineering, and Mathematics Education System.” (PDF)

Posted by MelissaNorr at 10:43 AM
Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative

August 08, 2007

President Will Sign COMPETES Act, Will Be Law Tomorrow!

It's done! It's done! By now, I expect that everyone has heard that both the House and Senate have agreed on the conference report for H.R. 2272, The America COMPETES Act and that the measure is headed to the President for his signature.

Word comes from the White House today that the President will sign the bill in a small signing-ceremony tomorrow with the Members of Congress who were instrumental in moving the bill along. While it's a bit of a bummer that the President isn't making a big "to-do" about this with representatives from industry and academia and lots of press -- it does, after all, enact many portions of his own American Competitiveness Initiative, and it's also an issue that polls really well, a fact you'd think would be important to both a Congress and a President who could use a few good examples of positive, bi-partisan legislation to show off -- the important thing is it's getting signed. After nearly two years of wrangling over this particular set of proposals -- and a lot longer than that to get the Administration and the Congress to understand the import of the problems addressed -- the President will sign the bill and its provisions will be law.

That deserves some kudos, back-patting, and maybe one or two loud "whoo-hoo's."

Especially because this bill has a lot of good things in it. As Cameron Wilson points out over on the USACM Technology Policy Blog, the bill takes two basic routes to fostering the innovation the country will require to stay competitive in an increasingly global world. It addresses federal support for research -- both authorizing large amounts of new funding for three key science agencies (National Science Foundation, NIST, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science), setting a target to double the agencies budgets over 7 years, and by creating a new high-risk research agency at the Department of Energy (called the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, or ARPA-E, in a nod to the DARPA-like character Congress hopes the agency will adopt). And the bill addresses a diversity of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education efforts. For these, I'll simply steal what Cameron has already written:

The bill authorizes $43.3 billion over the next three fiscal years for STEM education programs across the federal government. The variety is impressive ranging from new k-12 teacher programs to new opportunities for undergraduate and graduate STEM students. Here is a sampling of the proposals:
  • Expands the Robert Noyce program which links students in STEM fields up with education degrees so they can teach STEM in K-12;
  • Authorizes two new competitive grant programs that will enable partnerships to implement courses of study in mathematics, science, engineering, technology or critical foreign languages in ways that lead to a baccalaureate degree with concurrent teacher certification;
  • Authorizes competitive grants to increase the number of teachers serving high-need schools and expand access to AP and IB classes and to increase the number of qualified AP and IB teachers in high-need schools; and,
  • Expands early career grant programs and provides additional support for outstanding young investigators at both NSF and DOE.
In addition, the legislation has several provisions that expand outreach to women and minorities in STEM fields. The lack of females and minorities has been a key problem in computing, so this is another welcome effort.
In addition, the bill contains two particular provisions I wanted to highlight because they're of particular interest to the computing community:

The first is Section 7024, "High-performance Computing and Networking" (if you're following along at home (pdf)) -- the inclusion of the High-Performance Computing Research and Development Act that has been much discussed on these pages since some of the earliest days of this blog. The bill has been proposed in various forms in every session of Congress since the 106th (we're now in the 110th) and has never gained the full approval of the Congress -- almost always for reasons unrelated to the bill. The bill has, in sessions past, been approved by the House only to languish in the Senate due to jurisdictional fights over other bills, approved by the House Science committee only to run afoul of budget disputes with the GOP Leadership, and been held hostage over fights about NASA between the House and Senate. In fact, until the approval of the conference report last week, it was assumed that this version HPC R&D Act might meet a similar fate as word escaped that some of the Senate conferees thought its inclusion might cause some jurisdictional friction between two Senate committees (Energy and Commerce, who both claim HPC jurisdiction). But those problems were resolved, and the bill includes the full House-approved language, plus an extra section that authorizes efforts in "Advanced Information and Communications Technology Research" at NSF, including research on:

  • affordable broadband access, including wireless technologies;
  • network security and reliability;
  • communications interoperability;,
  • networking protocols and architectures, including resilience to outages or attacks;
  • trusted software;
  • privacy;
  • nanoelectronics for communications applicaitons;
  • low-power communications electronics;
  • implementation of equitable access to natinoal advanced fiber optic research and educational networks in noncontiguous States; and
  • other areas the Director [of NSF] finds appropriate.
The provision also allows NSF to fund multiyear, multidisciplinary "Centers for Communications Research" to "generate innovative approaches to problems in information and communications technology research."

Otherwise, the HPC R&D Act remains essentially unchanged, which means it includes two provisions we particularly like: it requires the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop and maintain a research, development, and deployment roadmap for the provision of federal high-performance computing systems; and there's now an explicit requirement that the President's advisory committee for IT (now PCAST) review not only the goals of the federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program, but the funding levels as well and report the results of that review to Congress every two years.

The second noteworthy provision in the COMPETES bill is one (Sec. 7012) that was originally included in the House-passed NSF Authorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1867), that should help clarify NSF's role in supporting efforts that seek to encourage the participation of women and underrepresented groups in computing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As we noted back in March, this is a response to long-standing concerns from CRA and other members of the computing and science communities about NSF's role. Basically, NSF's general policy is to only support efforts that represent novel approaches. Yet, what's often needed in these cases isn't a novel approach, just a sustained one. The House Science and Technology Committee agreed and included language in the NSF Authorization that addresses the issue by allowing the Director of NSF to review such programs one year before their grants expire and issue extensions of up to three years without recompetition to those efforts that appear to be successful at meeting their stated goals. It also emphasizes that the committee believes this sort of effort -- maintaining the strength and vitality of the U.S. science and engineering workforce -- is appropriately part of the agency's mission. So, we're thrilled that the provision survived the conference and will become law with the President's signature tomorrow.

This is, of course, not the end of innovation efforts in the Congress or the Administration. While this bill sets nice, juicy funding targets for NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science, it doesn't actually appropriate a single dime, so the focus will continue to be on House and Senate appropriators as they wind their way through the appropriations process later this year. We're still expecting a meltdown in that process, so nothing is guaranteed, despite all the supportive words from Congress and the President. And there will be further efforts to address some of the pieces of the various innovation agendas that aren't represented in H.R. 2272 -- like a permanent extension of the R&D tax credit.

But for now, I think it's probably appropriate to take a deep breath and savor this win for a day or two. This is a big victory for the science community and a long-time coming for those of us who have been working these issues around the Hill over the better part of the last decade. We commend the President and the Congress for having the vision and the commitment to push ahead on these issues, even when it didn't seem as politically popular as it is today. And we commend the members of the science community for speaking up on these issues, serving on the advisory committees, and partipating in the grassroots efforts to make Congress aware of the issues. Now, just make sure you go out and do world-leading science -- take risks, think audaciously...demonstrate as you've done so well in the past why America needs to continue to be an incubator for invention, discovery, and innovation.

And keep it tuned here for all the details... :)

Update: (8/9/07) -- It's official!:

President George W. Bush signs H.R. 2272, The America Competes Act, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, in the Oval Office. Pictured with the President are, from left: Director John Marburger of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Senator Jeff Bingaman of N.M.; Congressman Bart Gordon of Tenn.; and Senator Pete Domenici of N.M. White House photo by Chris Greenberg

Update2: (8/10/07) -- Here are the President's comments about the bill and ACI, as well as an OSTP-produced fact sheet.

July 31, 2007

Competitiveness Bills Wrapping Up?

The long effort to address concerns about America's future competitiveness and capacity for innovation may finally result in a bill.

For the last two years, there's been a fairly constant drumbeat in Congress, the Administration, and federal advisory bodies over the need to prop up the U.S. innovation infrastructure -- by strengthening the federal investment in basic research in the physical sciences (including computing, mathematics and engineering), by investing in new math and science teachers, by increasing the participation of US students in math and science, and by creating new research organizations to help nurture an innovative culture in some federal research agencies. There's been a whole suite of different bills proposed to address these proposals -- many inspired by the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, or many of the other similar reports that have come out of the scientific community and American industry over the past several years. Unfortunately, though many of these bills had passed either the House or the Senate last session, none had passed both and gone on to the President.

But, that could change. As we've noted previously, this suite of competitiveness proposals has coaliesced into two different pieces of legislation, one House bill and one Senate bill -- both essentially omnibus bills that are collections of most of the previous proposals. The Senate passed its version, S. 761 The America COMPETES Act, in May by bundling a whole bunch of proposals together and having the Senate Leader bring the package directly to the Senate floor, bypassing the Senate committee structure (which would've tied things up for months). The House took a more piecemeal approach, passing the "10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds" Science and Math Authorization Act (HR 362), the Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Act (HR 363), the High Performance Computing Research and Development Act (HR 1068), the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 (HR 1867), and the Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act (HR 1868), one-by-one (by overwhelming margins) over the course of several months, then combining them into one giant omnibus bill "The 21st Century Competitiveness Act" (HR 2272), which they passed by voice vote. The plan was to conference HR 2272 and S. 761 and work out a compromise bill both chambers could approve. It appears that negotiation is nearing its end and a final bill may be on its way.

We just got a notice of a meeting with Speaker Pelosi scheduled for tomorrow at which the House and Senate leadership will discuss the conference agreement. We know that the bills have been exhaustively "pre-conferenced" with the various committee staff over the last couple of weeks. The official conferees -- the Representatives and Senators who were appointed to serve on the conference committee -- will meet tonight to hammer out the final details. So, this time tomorrow we should have a good sense of what made the bill and what didn't.

We'll have all the details as they are released, of course. There are some provisions in the the House and Senate bills about which the computing research community has had particular interest. More detail on those later. But for now, it's nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Congress -- and the Administration -- has spent a lot of time over the last two years talking about the importance of bolstering the chain of innovation that helps keep America a world leader, but they don't have much to show for it. It appears that could change soon.

Update: (7/30/07 10 pm ET) -- The conference committee has reached agreement on a compromise bill. It's massive -- 470 pages -- but you can poke through it here (pdf) if you're so inclined. We'll have details on the bill in the next day or so, but after a brief look through the bill it's fair to say there's a lot of good news for the community in there -- including the High Performance Computing R&D Act, which has died every previous Congress since the 106th (this is the 110th). So keep it tuned here for more detail....

July 28, 2007

President's Remarks on Research and Innovation

President Bush yesterday presented awards to the 2005 and 2006 National Medal of Science and Technology Recipients, and in his remarks reiterated his support for a strong federal role in support of fundamental research. There's no guarantee, of course, that the President's strong support now will help alleviate the coming appropriations meltdown (that could threaten science funding gains), but at least it appears that his heart is in the right place. The full remarks are here, but I thought I'd just highlight a bit of them:

The work of these Laureates demonstrates that innovation is vital to a better future for our country and the world. In America, the primary engine of innovation is the private sector. But government can help by encouraging the basic research that gives rise to promising new thought and products. So that's why I've worked with some in this room and around our country to develop and propose the American Competitiveness Initiative. Over ten years, this initiative will double the federal government's commitment to the most critical, basic research programs in physical sciences. Last year the Congress provided more than $10 billion, and that's just a start. And I call on leaders of both political parties to fully fund this initiative for the good of the country.

Maintaining our global leadership also requires a first-class education system. There are many things that American schools are doing right -- including insisting on accountability for every single child. There are also some areas where we need to improve. And so as members work to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, one of their top priorities has got to be to strengthen math and science education.

One way to do that is to create an "adjunct teachers corps" of math and science professionals all aiming to bring their expertise into American classrooms. It's not really what the aim is -- the aim is to make it clear to young Americans that being in science and engineering is okay; it's cool; it's a smart thing to do. And so for those of you who are involved with inspiring youngsters, thank you for what you're doing. I appreciate you encouraging the next generation to follow in your footsteps. And I ask that Congress fully fund the adjunct teacher corps, so you can have some help as you go out to inspire.

One of the many reasons that I am an optimistic fellow, and I am, is because I understand that this country is a nation of discovery and enterprise. And that spirit is really strong in America today. I found it interesting that one of today's Laureates, Dr. Leslie Geddes, is 86 years old and continues to teach and conduct research at Purdue University. Even more interesting is what he had to say. He said, "I wouldn't know what else to do. I'm not done yet." (Laughter.)

He's right. He's not done yet, because the promise of science and technology never runs out. With the imagination and determinations of Americans like our awardees today, our nation will continue to discover new possibilities and to develop new innovations, and build a better life for generations to come. And that's what we're here to celebrate.

More on the awards, including links to pictures of each awardee receiving their medal, is here.

July 25, 2007

Appropriations Update -- FY 08 Defense Approps and Commerce, Justice, Science

Two developments of note today in the annual appropriations cycle. First, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense will mark up its version of the FY 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill, which includes research funding for the various service and defense-wide accounts. We've gotten our first look at the funding levels for the Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation title of the bill in the Chairman's mark, and they look pretty good for most of the accounts the computing research community might care about. In general, defense basic research accounts (6.1) are up vs. the President's request, as are most of the computing-related applied research accounts (6.2). The remainder are funded at the President's request.

DARPA does suffer an overall cut in the bill, however, related to the fact that the committee continues to have concerns with the rate of spending at the agency. DARPA has been slow to execute programs for which it has been appropriated money either because a) the agency has been a careful steward of taxpayer dollars or b) because programs have become bottlenecked in the Director's office, depending on whether you believe the agency's explanation or the feeling among some congressional committee staff. As a result the committee reduced funding in the Biological Warfare, Electronics Technology, Advanced Aerospace Systems and Land Warfare Technology program elements. As a result of this spend-it-or-lose-it DC culture, the cuts would cause DARPA to lose $80 million vs. FY 2007, a reduction of 2.6 percent.

For a more-detailed look at the different accounts, take a gander at the table included in the jump. (Click on the "Continue Reading" link below). We'll update the table as we get additional detail.

Keep in mind, however, that these numbers are just a first step. The committee needs to approve them, then the whole House, then the Senate needs to approve its version, then a compromise version between the chambers, and then, after all that, it's likely that the President will veto the bill for being too generous. (More on that below....) So, consider these numbers a starting point in the inevitable negotiation that will occur between both the Senate and the President. But, it's a good place to start.

Speaking of vetoes, the Administration also issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) yesterday on the FY 2008 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill that the House will begin debating today, indicating that the President intends to veto the bill should the version the House will likely approve land on his desk. The CJS Appropriations bill, as we've discussed previously, contains funding for some science agencies we care about -- in particular, the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology (as well as NASA and NOAA). The bill includes healthy increases for both NSF and NIST, in line with both the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda.

Despite issuing the veto threat, the President does commend the bill for its support of NSF and NIST's research accounts, but takes issue with increases the House Appropriations Committee provided for NSF's Education and Human Resources directorate beyond his request. The SAP also criticizes excessive earmarking in the bill and bluntly states that because the HAC failed to demonstrate offsets for the increased spending, he will veto the bill if presented to him.

This is not terribly surprising. Facing a Democratically-controlled Congress for the first time, it was likely that the President would be drawn into a political fight over spending, and his only leverage in that fight is the veto. While Congress chugs away at passing the 12 annual appropriations bills necessary to fund the operations of government, its unlikely many (if any) will pass with the majority required to override any potential presidential veto. Indeed, in the House, the "magic number" for the President is 145 -- he needs just 145 out of 201 Republican members of the House to sustain any veto and provide him significant leverage in the spending negotiations that will follow. So far, none of the bills passed so far (Interior, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations) have had "veto-proof" majorities, so the President has retained his leverage.

It's likely the appropriations process is again headed for a train-wreck, just as in previous years. The final form of this particular train-wreck isn't yet known, but I tend to agree with others who expect that the end game will involve another omnibus appropriations bill in which, despite strong support for science programs in Congress and by the President, those programs will be threatened by across-the-board cuts required to get spending down to a level that the President will sign. The focus, then, of many of us in the science advocacy community once again will be on protecting the increases for science agencies approved by Congress and supported by the President in a bill in which they are just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of competing programs. The good news is that we've had some success with this approach in the past....

But for now, the funding levels included in both the Defense Appropriations and Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations are powerful symbols of the support R&D issues have in Congress, even if its likely that those levels might get modified in the coming months for reasons mostly unrelated to Congress' support of science.

We'll, of course, have all the details here as they emerge.

FY 2007 FY 2008 req FY 08 HAC-D FY 08 SAC-D HAC-D
vs. 2007
% vs 2007
vs. 2008 req
% vs 2008 req
Defense RDT&E 75,721,604 75,117,194 76,229,140 507,536 0.7% 1,111,946 1.5%
Army-BR In-House Lab Research 19,266 19,266 0 0.0%
Army - Defense Research Sciences 137,676 161,176 23,500 17.1%
Army - URI 64,843 76,743 11,900 18.4%
Army - University and Industry Research Cen 84,034 96,784 12,750 15.2%
Army 6.2 - Command Control Communications 22,215 38,465 16,250 73.1%
Army 6.2 - Computer and Software Tech 5,368 11,368 6,000 111.8%
Navy - URI 76,637 93,137 16,500 21.5%
Navy - In-House Lab Independent Research 16,556 16,556 0 0.0%
Navy - Defense Research Sciences 374,052 380,052 6,000 1.6%
AF - Defense Research Sciences 256,259 265,759 9,500 3.7%
AF - URI 104,304 104,304 0 0.0%
AF - High Energy Laser Research Initiatives 12,636 12,636 0 0.0%
AF 6.2 - Command Control and Communications 116,705 125,105 8,400 7.2%
DefWide - DTRA Uni Strategic Partnership 5,000 8,000 3,000 60.0%
DefWide - Defense Research Sciences 0 9,800 9,800
DefWide - GICUR 0 5,000 5,000
DefWide - Nat Def Ed Program 44,372 44,372 0 0.0%
DefWide 6.2 - Info and Communications Tech 229,739 235,139 5,400 2.4%
DefWide 6.2 - Cognitive Computing 179,728 179,728 0 0.0%
DARPA 3,115,310 3,085,617 3,035,222 -80,088 -2.6% -50,395 -1.6%

June 27, 2007

First Senate Appropriations Numbers

The Senate Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations subcommittee and the Senate Energy and Water Development appropriations subcommittee marked up their appropriations bills and, as with the House versions, it appears the science agencies did very well. We don't yet have all the details, but here are the early numbers:

NSF received a total appropriation of $6.6 billion from the subcommittee -- about $200 million more than the President’s request, $100 million more than the House subcommittee allocation, and about $700 million more than the agency received in FY 07.

NIST received $712 million, $71 million more than the President’s request and $33 million more than FY07 but $66 million less than the House subcommittee allocation. We don't know how much of that increase goes to the NIST core research budget, however.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science received $4.497 billion, almost $100 million above the President’s request and $700 million over FY07 but $17 million less than the House allocation.

All the usual caveats about appropriations bills apply here -- we don't have the details, no funding is certain until the bill becomes law with the President's signature, these numbers can change dramatically if the process melts down over an earmark dispute or a veto threat, etc -- but it's again a very positive sign that both the House and the Senate appear committed to the increases called for in both the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda. We'll keep you posted as the bills move forward.

June 15, 2007

Senate Budget Numbers

The Senate Appropriations committee released their "302(b) allocations" and it looks like science does very well. We previously discussed the House 302(b)'s here and the Senate's numbers look as good, or better, than the House numbers.

The Senate Commerce, Justice, Science subcommittee received $54.4 billion, $1 billion more than the House allocation and more than $4 billion more than FY07. The Energy and Water subcommittee received an increase of $1.9 billion over FY07, a $600 million more than the House allocated for this year.

The Labor/HHS/Education subcommittee received a $4.7 billion increase, the only subcommittee allocation to be lower than the House allocation but still an increase of almost $9 billion more than the President's request.

As we've stated here before, these allocations don't guarantee that the funding will keep Congress on the path to doubling the budgets of NSF, NIST, and DOE Office of Science over the next 10 years, as planned. But if the House's appropriations committee bills are any indication, that is where we are heading. Of course, given the disparity between some of the allocations, there will probably be some compromises worked out in conference but even if we get the lower numbers allocated for each subcommittee, we'll still be in a good position with increased funding in all our areas.

A bigger concern at the moment is whether the appropriations process is going to continue to move or if it's headed for meltdown over the disposition of earmarks in some upcoming bills. At the moment, House Republicans and Democrats have reached a tentative truce that will keep the bills moving, but it wouldn't take much for the process to break down again. At issue is a Democratic plan to bring appropriations bills to the House floor without earmarks included, then add them in conference with the Senate. House leaders argue that appropriations staff haven't yet had time to review the 32,000 requests for earmarks (keep in mind, there are only 435 members of Congress...that's an average of 74 requests per member), so rather than delay the bills, they want them to move and they'll add the earmarks later. House Republicans argue that the plan hardly promotes transparency in the earmarking process and were using procedural motions to tie up the bills until the Dems agreed to allow the House to vote on the bills with earmarks present -- though not in all of the bills. The House this week should finish work on the Homeland Security and Military Construction appropriations bills, and those will not see their earmarks added until the conference. The Energy and Water appropriation also will not have earmarks in it when it reaches the floor, but will get a pack of earmarks added to it before it heads over to the Senate. If the deal holds, the remainder of the appropriations bills will have earmarks included when the bills hit the House floor (and therefore, subject to amendment). We'll have all the details as the bills begin to move.

June 12, 2007

Initial NSF Approps Numbers

The Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations subcommittee marked up their portion of the appropriations bills yesterday evening. The full Appropriations Committee will mark up the bill on Monday, June 18. NSF did very well with a total appropriation of $6.509 billion, an increase of 10 percent over FY07 and $80 million more than the President requested.

Research and Related Activities got $5.14 billion in the subcommittee markup—7.9 percent over FY07 and $8 million more than the President’s request (but that $8 million is apparently going to the EPSCoR program, which the committee has apparently moved into R&RA from Education and Human Resources). Education and Human Resources received $822.6 million or 17.9 percent over FY07 and $72 million over the request for FY08. Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction received $244.7 million, the level that the President requested and 28.2 percent more than FY07.

No details were provided for the various programs within each account but we’ll know more as the process moves forward through the House and when the Senate takes it up and we’ll keep you updated here.

May 31, 2007

House Appropriations Allocations Are Out

The so-called "302(b) allocations" for the House Appropriations committee have been released and they look very positive for those of us anxious to see whether Congress will continue its commitment to double the budgets of some key federal science agencies. The 302(b)'s are the allocations each of the subcommittees responsible for producing the 12 appropriations bills necessary to keep the federal government operating each year gets to spend on their particular bill. If the Budget Resolution determined the overall size of the federal discretionary spending "pie," the 302(b) allocations determine the size of each slice.

For FY 2008, the subcommittees that have jurisdiction over some of the science agencies we care about -- NSF, NIST, DOE Sci, NIH, NASA, and DOD -- have each gotten pretty reasonable-sized slices. The House Commerce, Science, Justice subcommittee, which determines funding for NSF, NIST, NASA and NOAA, received from the Congressional leadership a bump of $3 billion to their allocation compared with last year -- $53.35 billion for FY 08 vs. $50.34 for FY 07 -- a level $2.11 billion higher than the President requested for FY 08.

The Energy and Water Committee received a $1.30 billion bump -- enough to support a healthy increase to the Department of Energy's Office of Science in the first FY 08 appropriations bill to get marked up, as we reported previously. The Labor/HHS/Education committee, which funds NIH, received a $5.53 billion bump -- more than $9 billion higher than the Administration requested for FY 08.

While these increases don't guarantee the appropriators will continue Congress' commitment to doubling the budgets of NSF, NIST and DOE Sci, as called for in both the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda, it certainly does make the job of finding money to fund the increases a whole lot easier. We'll keep an eye on the process and let you know how it goes. So far, so good.

May 24, 2007

First FY08 Approps Numbers: DOE Office of Science Does Well

The Department of Energy's Office of Science would see significant increases under the FY 2008 House Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill marked up by the E&W Approps Subcommittee yesterday. Though we don't yet have all the detail about increases in individual accounts, we do know that the Office of Science would see an overall increase to $4.516 billion in FY 2008, which is $120 million above the President's request for FY 2008 and $719 million above the FY 2007 level, or an increase of 18.9 percent.

Presumably the increases in DOE Science will be spread reasonably equitably throughout the agency, which would mean the agency's Advanced Scientific Computing Research program should see an equally significant increase in FY 08. But we won't see real detail until the full appropriations committee marks up the bill in June.

For now, it's good to know that the appropriators appear prepared to continue their commitment to doubling the budgets of key federal science agencies, as spelled out in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda. Next up should be the House version of the Commerce, Science, Justice appropriations, which will include funding for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. We'll have all the details as we get 'em...

  • Link to E&W Appropriations Chair Peter Visclosky's (D-IN) statement on the markup (pdf). (Doesn't say much about the research portion of the bill, however.)

  • May 17, 2007

    FY08 Joint Budget Conference

    The House and Senate have announced a conference agreement of the Joint Budget Resolution for FY08 (PDF), a key step in the annual appropriations process once it's passed by both chambers. The General Science, Space and Technology account, known as Function 250, is the total budget amount for NASA (except aviation programs), NSF, DOE Office of Science and DHS S&T. Research funding in Function 250 fares well in the conference agreement, growing by $1.7 billion over the FY 2007 level, which budget committee members intend to use to “provide significant increases for NSF and the DOE Office of Science and fully fund the President’s FY2008 request for NASA at $17.3 billion” (according to the report accompanying the resolution).

    While this sounds like great news, like everything in Washington, it isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds. As we wrote in this space on the FY07 budget resolution (PDF), the budget resolution really only helps the appropriators and the congressional leadership set the overall level of funding for the year, not the agency-by-agency numbers. The leadership will use the resolution to determine how much money goes to each appropriations subcommittee and the subcommittee will then decide how much each agency in their jurisdiction gets. This all means that we need to continue working to ensure that everyone on the Hill knows how important basic research funding is and that the Appropriations bills should fully fund the American Competitiveness Initiative.

    We will keep you updated as the Appropriations process moves forward.

    May 03, 2007

    A Little Bit of Press for America COMPETES Act

    David Broder writes about the America COMPETES Act in his column today at the Washington Post. It contains this great quote from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), one of the sponsors of the Act:

    "Last week," he said, "while the media covered Iraq and U.S. attorneys, the Senate spent three days debating and passing perhaps the most important piece of legislation of this two-year session. Almost no one noticed."

    Alexander has a point. The bill, boldly named the America Competes Act, authorized an additional $16 billion over four years as part of a $60 billion effort to "double spending for physical sciences research, recruit 10,000 new math and science teachers and retrain 250,000 more, provide grants to researchers and invest more in high-risk, high-payoff research."

    Read the whole thing.

    May 02, 2007

    NSF Authorization on the Floor Today

    The National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1867), which we've discussed previously, will be on the House floor today. The bill authorizes appropriations at the agency (which is not the same as actually funding the agency -- only the appropriations committee can do that -- but is still a necessary (and symbolic) step in getting funding for the agency) at the levels called for in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda -- a trajectory that would double the agency's budget over the next seven years.

    It's likely the bill will pass today without much difficulty. There are, however, a whole slate of amendments proposed, some of which are pretty awful (though not likely to pass). For example, there are amendments from Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and John Campbell (R-CA) that would specifically prohibit funding of nine already-funded grants in NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economics directorate, based apparently on their "silly" titles. Here are the grants targeted:

  • the reproductive aging and symptom experience at midlife among Bangladeshi Immigrants, Sedentees, and White London Neighbors;
  • the diet and social stratification in ancient Puerto Rico;
  • archives of Andean Knotted-String Records;
  • the accuracy in the cross-cultural understanding of others’ emotions;
  • bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains;
  • team versus individual play;
  • sexual politics of waste in Dakar, Senegal;
  • social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre’s Leaf Monkeys; and
  • cognitive model of superstitious belief.
  • There are a number of reasons amendments like this are a bad idea. The primary one is that the NSF peer-review system, while arguably not perfect (well, far from perfect), is still likely a much more reliable way of choosing meritorious research than Congressional intervention. It's also pretty reasonable to assert that titles are not the best way to judge the worthiness of research.

    Additionally, there's an interesting (and bad) amendment proposed by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) that would tie any increases in the NSF budget to proportional increases at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The amendment, Weldon says in a press release, would "ensure that NASA's budget is not raided to fund the NSF increase." As someone who has been doing science policy work for the better part of a decade, it amuses a little to think of NASA in the role of victim to NSF, as I've watched innumerable times in the past as NASA increases swallowed up all the available funding room in VA/HUD appropriations bills that shortchanged NSF and NIST. But the Weldon amendment is an innovative approach to "protecting" NASA, by trying to link the two agencies' budgets. It might, however, set an awkward precedent. One could imagine linking the National Institutes of Health and NASA, or NIH and NSF, or NSF and DOE, or NSF and NIST and NIH...the number of permutations just among the science agencies are enormous. But why stop there? We could link NSF and the Veterans Administration. The Department of Labor to NIH. Or NASA and the Department of Transportation (wait, that could almost make sense). In any case, the idea of linking two agencies with disparate missions together is probably not sound policy, and I would argue that the best way to "protect" NASA funding (which isn't actually at risk because of the NSF Authorization) is to ensure NASA is pursuing a compelling mission for the Nation.

    You can find a complete list of amendments being considered today on THOMAS. We'll try to keep score here throughout the day.

    One other piece of news about the bill is that it appears H.R. 1867 will get conferenced with the Senate as part of the S. 761 (the "America COMPETES Act") conference. This is actually very good news as it means the NSF Authorization has a real chance of enactment. While the bill is expected to pass the House without much difficulty, it wasn't clear that the Senate had much of an interest in moving it's own version of the bill, simply because they'd already passed an NSF authorization as part of S. 761. Now it appears that there's an inclination to take the NSF-specific portions of that bill out and use them as a conference vehicle for H.R. 1867. We'll have more as we learn more, but in short, this means that there's a potential path to enactment that is relatively free of big bumps....

    Update: (5/3/07 12:20 am) -- The bill passed overwhelmingly (399-17). The Garrett and Campbell amendments both failed, and the Weldon amendment was subject to a point of order that the NASA provisions weren't germane to the bill -- a point of order that was sustained. So great news all around!

    May 01, 2007

    Another Article on the Innovation Agenda

    Interesting article (requires free registration) on the innovation agenda in the San Jose Mercury News. While it does focus mostly on the energy and environmental areas that could be helped, it also touches on almost all aspects of the overall innovation agenda such as funding basic research and increasing STEM K-12 teachers. There is also a good quote from Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) who said, "I'm a fiscal conservative, but the dollars we invest in basic research will come back to us in spades in terms of stimulating economic activity and helping the United States remain at the forefront of global innovation."

    April 27, 2007

    Graduate Education and Innovation

    The Council of Graduate Schools yesterday released a report regarding the role of graduate education in America’s competitiveness. The report makes five key findings:

    1. A highly skilled workforce operating at the frontiers of knowledge creation and professional practice is key to America’s competitiveness and national security. Universities, governments, and private industry each play an essential role in providing the expertise and resources necessary to achieve this objective.

    2. The expanded participation of U.S. citizens, particularly from underrepresented minority groups, should be a priority in fields that are essential to our nation’s success. Development of STEM careers should be emphasized.

    3. Interdisciplinary research preparation and education are central to future competitiveness, because knowledge creation and innovation frequently occur at the interface of disciplines.

    4. U.S. graduate schools must be able to attract the best and brightest students from around the world.

    5. The quality of graduate programs drives the success of America’s higher education system. Efforts to evaluate and improve all aspects of the quality of the U.S. graduate education enterprise must be advanced and supported in order to foster innovation.

    The report makes a series of recommendations for policymakers, calling for:

  • Collaboration among leaders in government, business, and higher education to develop a highly-educated workforce and encourage entrepreneurship in graduate education.
  • The creation of incentives for students, particularly from underrepresented groups, to pursue graduate education in STEM fields, the social sciences, and humanities, and identify “best practices” to reduce attrition and shorten the time required to complete a degree.
  • Support for innovative graduate education programs, such as professional master’s degrees, which respond to workforce needs in such critical fields as science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM), as well as in social sciences and the humanities.
  • Expanding opportunities for graduate students to pursue interdisciplinary study at the frontier of knowledge creation, using models such as those pioneered by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.
  • Continuing to improve and reform the visa process so that the world’s top international talent can pursue graduate study in the U.S. and contribute to our nation’s research and innovation.
  • Increasing federal funds for graduate education programs by at least 10% at every agency.
  • Enhancing the quality of graduate education through ongoing evaluation and research, and supporting risk-taking research programs that prepare highly-trained professionals for a knowledge-based global economy.
  • While the findings and recommendations echo a lot of recent reports -- the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the Council on Competitiveness' Innovate America, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation's Measuring the Moment -- it's very useful to have another perspective on innovation policy from another "sector" of the U.S. innovation ecosystem. And as innovation policy continues to swirl around the Hill, these reports provide the sort of buttressing policymakers need to continue to champion pro-innovation ideas.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 09:12 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Events

    April 25, 2007

    House Innovation Agenda

    Speaker Pelosi has re-released the House Democrats Innovation Agenda, which we have talked about before in this space. The Agenda was first announced in November 2005 and includes many of the provisions called for in the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report and that subsequently ended up in the American Competitiveness Initiative. With this re-release of the Agenda, Speaker Pelosi also released a statement saying:

    “To meet the challenges of today and to create the jobs and economic security of tomorrow, the time to act is now,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “This week, the House is taking the first steps in an Innovation Agenda that will help spur the next generation of discovery and invention. Democrats will continue throughout the 110th Congress to move forward on legislation that asserts our global economic leadership, creates new business ventures and jobs, and gives future generations increased opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

    The re-release is in support of three bills that are going to the House floor this week—HR 362 the 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act, HR 1332 the Small Business Lending Improvements Act of 2007, and HR 363 the Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, each released a statement supporting the Innovation Agenda and the three bills.

    This happens at the same time that the Senate is voting on S. 761, the America COMPETES Act, and could mean that a conference between the two chambers’ innovation bills might not be as problematic as it initially appeared.... We'll keep you posted.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 08:38 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Policy

    March 28, 2007

    Innovation Bill Moves Forward

    The House Science and Technology Committee approved H.R. 362, the “10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds” Science and Math Scholarship Act, today and will recommend it to the House for consideration. The bill was passed with five amendments that are meant to improve access for teachers and students from low-income schools and to improve science labs in secondary schools.

    The bill is based on the recommendations of the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report. A press release on the legislation states that the goal of the legislation is “increasing scholarships for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and who are committed to pursuing teaching; establishing a teacher education program at the National Science Foundation to encourage education faculty to work with STEM faculty on ways to improve education for math and science teachers; providing in-service training to math and science teachers to improve content knowledge and teaching skills; and authorizing the development of master’s degree programs for in-service math and science teachers.”

    This is just one of several innovation and competitiveness bills based on the Gathering Storm recommendations that the Committee has or plans to address this year, along with the reauthorization of NSF and the No Child Left Behind Act.

    A webcast of the hearing is available.

    March 21, 2007

    Innovation Funding Featured in House Budget Resolution

    The Chairman of the House Budget Committee today released the "chairman's mark" (both pdf) of his committee's FY 2008 Congressional Budget Resolution that includes funding caps large enough to accommodate the continuation of funding increases at key federal science agencies called for in both the American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation Agenda. The resolution contains healthy increases in a number of budget accounts designed to allow congressional appropriators the budget "room" to include increases for ACI agencies -- National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Department of Energy Office of Science -- as well as the National Institutes of Health and additional federal education spending at a variety of agencies.

    The overall budget levels are similar to those found in the Senate version of the Congressional Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res 21), which was introduced back on March 15th and is being considered on the Senate floor now. The House bill is a bit more generous for the science accounts, but because of the convoluted way the budget process works, it's hard to translate either set of numbers to likely actual appropriations. In each case, it's enough to know that both the House and Senate budgeters appear to have factored in the requested increases (or greater) for key science agencies in their budgets. (Update below) The House also included "sense of the House" language that really calls out their support for science funding increases:

    SENSE OF THE HOUSE ON THE INNOVATION AGENDA: A COMMITMENT TO COMPETITIVENESS TO KEEP AMERICA #1. (a) It is the sense of the House to provide sufficient funding that our Nation may continue to be the world leader in education, innovation and economic growth. This resolution provides $___ [this is still to be determined--PH] above the President’s requested level for 2008, and additional amounts in subsequent years in Function 250 (General Science, Space and Technology) and Function 270 (Energy). Additional increases for scientific research and education are included in Function 500 (Education, Employment, Training, and Social Services), Function 550 (Health), Function 300 (Environment and Natural Resources), Function 350 (Agriculture), Function 400 (Transportation), and Function 370 (Commerce and Housing Credit), all of which receive more funding than the President requested.

    (b) America’s greatest resource for innovation resides within classrooms across the country. The increased funding provided in this resolution will support important initiatives to educate 100,000 new scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, and place highly qualified teachers in math and science K–12 classrooms.

    (c) Independent scientific research provides the foundation for innovation and future technologies. This resolution will put us on the path toward doubling funding for the National Science Foundation, basic research in the physical sciences across all agencies, and collaborative research partnerships; and toward achieving energy independence through the development of clean and sustainable alternative energy technologies.

    Both House and Senate budget chairs believe they have the votes to move the respective resolutions in their chambers. We'll keep you posted as they move.

    For those who like numbers, here are the funding levels for each budget function in the House resolution, and here are the Senate numbers (click on Sec. 103, Major Functional Categories)

    Update: (6:14 pm 3/21/07) -- It appears I was a little quick in my analysis of the Senate version of the resolution. While the Senate does include increases for some of the budget functions that cover science agencies, it's not clear those increases would be used for science funding. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have an amendment to the resolution that will be voted on this evening that would "restore" $1 billion to the resolution for the President's request and to fund the provisions of the America COMPETES Act. Here's a press release from Alexander's office which spells out the detail.

    We'll have more after the vote.

    Update 2: (8:19 pm 3/21/07) -- The amendment passed overwhelmingly.

    March 14, 2007

    Innovation Press Conference and Hearing

    A proclamation from members of U.S. industry and academia (including CRA) calling on Congress to ramp up federal basic research funding, improve student performance in math and science, enable the U.S. to recruit and retain the best talent, and make permanent the R&D tax credit was officially released at a standing room only press event yesterday hosted by House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), with speakers Norm Augustine, Craig Barrett (Chairman of Intel), Harold McGraw III (CEO of McGraw-Hill), Robert Dynes (Pres of UC Berkeley), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Rep. Dan Lipinsky (D-IL), and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The proclamation is online and has over 270 endorsements from industry, academic, and professional groups. The proclamation was printed on parchment (an electronic version of the parchment scroll is available here) and delivered to every congressional office.

    The Committee put out a press release about the event and an audio webcast is also available.

    Directly following the press conference, the Committee held a hearing on two of its innovation bills, H.R. 362 and 363, "10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds" Science and Math Scholarship Act and Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act. Both bills are designed to enact the recommendations of the oft-cited National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report that are under the House S&T Committee's jurisdiction. The bills are a parallel effort to the Senate's America COMPETES legislation, which was introduced by the Senate leadership on March 4th and will go straight to the Senate floor.

    The written testimony of the witnesses, many of whom spoke at the press conference, and a webcast of the hearing are available online.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 10:57 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Policy

    March 09, 2007

    Support ACI FY08 Funding

    The American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) introduced by the President during the 2006 State of the Union is a commitment to the doubling of the research budgets for NSF, NIST, and the Department of Energy Office of Science. Much of that commitment was met by congressional appropriators in FY 07, as they increased the budgets for the three agencies in the year end "continuing resolution." The President remained committed to ACI in his FY 08 budget request, asking for 7 to 14 percent increases for the three agencies.

    The FY08 requests of $6.43 billion for NSF and $4.4 billion for the Office of Science would keep both agencies on the doubling path, which has received much bipartisan support in the past.

    Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) are circulating a letter to colleagues asking for their support of the $6.43 billion request for the National Science Foundation in FY 2008. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are circulating a similar letter to colleagues asking for their support for the Administration's $4.4 billion request for the Department of Energy's Office of Science in FY08. The letters will be sent to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee and the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, respectively.

    So far the NSF support letter has been signed by Christopher Bond (R-MO), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Carl Levin (D-MI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barack Obama (D-IL), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

    The Office of Science letter has been signed by Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Barack Obama (D-IL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Rockefeller (D-WV), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), George Voinovich (R-OH), John Warner (R-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

    During the FY 07 appropriations process, these "ask" letters were remarkably influential on congressional appropriators, helping position science funding as a "national priority" and carving out increases for three key science agencies even as many other agencies were held flat or cut. We're asking for your help in making this similar effort by Lieberman, Bond, Bingaman and Alexander equally effective. Please fax your state Senators (especially if they're not on the list above - but even if they are) and ask them to sign on to the Lieberman/Bond and Bingaman/Alexander "Dear Colleague" letters.

    A sample letter you can use can be found at CRA's Advocacy web page -- please FAX it to your Senators offices as soon as possible. The deadline for signers is Monday, March 12. Please also fax a copy of your letter to Melissa Norr at 202.667.1066.

    Find out who your Senators are at Senators of the 110th Congress.

    March 07, 2007

    Bill Gates Testifies on Competitiveness Issues

    Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp, testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on competitiveness issues this morning. A web cast of the hearing is available here. He emphasized three areas: educating students and workers, immigration, and federal funding of basic research and R&D tax credit. His extensive written testimony (where he cites CRA’s own Jay Vegso!) goes into great detail on each of these three issues.

    Gates hit the competitiveness high notes that are found in the Rising Above the Gathering Storm and Tapping America’s Potential reports including recruiting more high school science and math teachers, doubling the number of math, science, and engineering graduates, increasing basic science R&D at the major research agencies by 10% over the next 7 years, and increasing visas for high skilled workers. He used computing as an example in both his oral and written testimony. His written testimony states:

    We cannot possibly sustain an economy founded on technology pre-eminence without a citizenry educated in core technology disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, engineering, and the physical sciences. The economy’s need for workers trained in these fields is massive and growing. The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that, in the decade ending in 2014, there will be over two million job openings in the United States in these fields. Yet in 2004, just 11 percent of all higher education degrees awarded in the U.S. were in engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences – a decline of about a third since 1960.

    Recent declines are particularly pronounced in computer science. The percentage of college freshmen planning to major in computer science dropped by 70 percent between 2000 and 2005.3 In an economy in which computing has become central to innovation in nearly every sector, this decline poses a serious threat to American competitiveness. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that every significant technological innovation of the 21st century will require new software to make it happen.

    To combat this decline, Gates takes a recommendation straight from the Gathering Storm report and calls for 25,000 4-year undergraduate scholarships in the STEM fields. He also said that the opportunities for innovation in computing are greater than most people, especially students, realize.

    March 04, 2007

    New Competitiveness Legislation

    The America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act will be introduced in the US Senate on Monday. The bill is a compilation of provisions and language from past innovation legislation like the National Competitiveness Investment Act, American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006, and Protecting America’s Competitive Edge Through Energy Act of 2006. We don't yet have a draft of the actual bill language, but a summary of the bill states: “the America COMPETES Act focuses on three primary areas of importance to maintaining and improving United States’ innovation in the 21st Century: (1) increasing research investment, (2) strengthening educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from elementary through graduate school, and (3) developing an innovation infrastructure.”

    Provisions in the bill include:

    • Double funding for NSF and Department of Energy Office of Science by FY2011
    • Direct federal agencies that fund S&T research to set a goal of 8% of their R&D budgets to fund high-risk frontier research
    • Authorize NIST at $937 million by FY2011 and requiring NIST to use a minimum of 8% of its funding for high-risk, high-reward research
    • Authorize competitive grants to States for elementary and secondary education alignment with the requirements of post-secondary education, the 21st century workforce, and the Armed Services
    • Establish training and education programs at summer institutes hosted at the National Laboratories and increase support for the Teacher Institutes for the 21st Century program at NSF
    • Expand the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at NSF
    • Assist States in establishing or expanding statewide specialty schools in math and science that students from across the state would be eligible to attend and providing expert assistance in teaching from National Laboratories’ staff at those schools
    • Increase the number of teachers prepared to teach AP/IB and pre-AP/IB math, science, and foreign language courses
    • Develop and implement programs for bachelor’s degrees in math, science, engineering, and critical foreign languages with concurrent teaching credentials and part-time master’s in education programs for math, science, and critical foreign language teachers to enhance both content knowledge and teaching skills
    • Create partnerships between National Laboratories and local high-need high schools to establish centers of excellence in math and science education
    • Expand NSF graduate research fellowship and traineeship programs, require NSF to work with institutions of higher education to facilitate the development of professional science master’s degree programs, and expand NSF’s science, mathematics, engineering and technology talent program

    Once the bill is introduced and the actual language is available, we will be back with more details.

    Update: We've been told that the bill will not go through a committee and will instead be placed directly on the Senate calendar so that the Leadership can act on it at any time.

    Also, the Senators who are sponsoring the bill and putting it forward are: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), John Ensign (R-NV), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bill Nelson (R-FL), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 09:08 PM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Policy

    February 14, 2007

    House Science Committee Budget Hearing

    The House Committee on Science and Technology held its first budget hearing of the year today with testimony from Dr. John Marburger, director of the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. The focus of the chairman and several of the committee members, including perennial science champion Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), was on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and the decreases to NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate in recent years, along with some concern regarding NASA’s space exploration and aeronautics funding. The opening statements as well as a web cast of the hearing are available online.

    The Committee and Dr. Marburger for the Administration seemed to be in agreement that the increased funding for NSF, NIST, and DoE Office of Science were important and that the American Competitiveness Initiative is important for America’s future innovation and competitiveness. However, the Administration and the Chairman seemed to diverge when it comes to priorities. The Administration priority is research funding and Chairman Gordon said that the education recommendations of the Gathering Storm report should be an equal priority. The Chairman repeatedly came back to the fact that, while the FY08 budget request increases funding to NSF’s EHR Directorate, that same Directorate’s funding has decreased by 50 percent in the last four years. He was also unimpressed with the Department of Education FY08 budget request in that he felt the STEM education funding should be at NSF.

    You can see the entire hearing on the Committee’s web site.

    February 06, 2007

    FY08 Budget Detail: National Science Foundation

    As we noted yesterday, the National Science Foundation does quite well in the President's FY 2008 Budget Request, slated to grow 6.8 percent over FY 2007 (or nearly $409 million) to $6.4 billion. That growth rate would continue NSF on the 10-year "doubling" trajectory originally set by the Administration as part of last year's American Competitiveness Initiative. The news for the computing community that is so heavily reliant on NSF is equally good -- both the Computing and Information Science and Engineering directorate and the Office of Cyberinfrastructure would see big gains in the President's plan. Here are the details (brace for charts):

    First, the macro level view of the agency:

    National Science Foundation
    (in millions of dollars)
    Budget Request
    $ Change vs
    FY07 Request
    % Change vs
    FY07 Request (%)
    Research and Related Activities $4,449.25 $4,765.95 $5,131.69 $365.74 7.7%
    Education and Human Resources $700.26 $716.22 $750.60 $34.48 4.8%
    MREFC $233.81 $240.45 $244.74 $4.29 1.8%
    Agency Operations and Award Management $247.06 $281.82 $285.59 $3.77 1.3%
    National Science Board $3.94 $3.91 $4.03 $0.12 3.1%
    Office of the Inspector General $11.47 $11.86 $12.35 $0.49 4.1%
    Total NSF $5,645.79 $6,020.21 $6,429.00 $408.79 6.8%

    As you can see, the great bulk of the Administration's planned increase is aimed at the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, home of NSF's research directorates. The agency's education efforts -- in the Education and Human Resources directorate -- would also see an increase, though not nearly as robust as R&RA. Of particular interest to those of us in the computing community, NSF is using some of the increase provided by ACI on a new NSF-wide initiative called "Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation" (CDI) that aims to "broaden the Nation's capability for innovation by developing a new generation of computationally based discovery concepts and tools to deal with complex, data-rich and interacting systems." The $52 million initiative will be led by NSF's CISE directorate (who will control $20 million of the funding), with participation from Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science, Social, Behavioral and Economic science, Cyberinfrastructure, International Science, and EHR. The agency appears to have big plans for the initative, projecting out-year funding growing to $250 million in FY 2012 (with CISE hopefully maintaining a proportional share).

    Drilling down a little further, here's the Directorate by Directorate breakdown within R&RA:

    NSF Research and Related Activities
    Directorate Budgets
    (in millions of dollars)
    Budget Request
    $ Change vs
    FY07 Request
    % Change vs
    FY07 Request (%)
    Biological Sciences $580.90 $607.85 $633.00 $25.15 4.1%
    Computer and Information Science and Engineering $496.35 $526.69 $574.00 $47.31 9.0%
    Engineering $585.46 $628.55 $683.30 $54.75 8.7%
    Geosciences $703.95 $744.85 $792.00 $47.15 6.3%
    Mathematical and Physical Sciences $1,086.61 $1,150.30 $1,253.00 $102.70 8.9%
    Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences $201.23 $213.76 $222.00 $8.24 3.9%
    Office of Cyberinfrastructure $127.14 $182.42 $200.00 $17.58 9.6%
    Office of International Science and Engineering $42.61 $40.61 $45.00 $4.39 10.8%
    Office of Polar Programs $390.54 $438.10 $464.90 $26.80 6.1%
    Integrative Activities1 $233.30 $231.37 $263.00 $31.63 13.7%
    U.S. Arctic Research Commission $1.17 $1.45 $1.49 $0.04 2.8%
    Total, Research and Related Activities $4,449.25 $4,765.95 $5,131.69 $365.74 7.7%

    The increases weren't evenly distributed throughout the directorates. Of the research directorates, CISE would see the largest percentage increase. In fact, the 9 percent requested growth rate is the largest for the directorate in seven years. Here's how CISE plans to spend the funding:

    NSF CISE Directorate Funding
    (in millions of dollars)
    Budget Request
    $ Change vs
    FY07 Request
    % Change vs
    FY07 Request (%)
    Computing and Communication Foundation $105.30 $122.82 $149.15 $26.33 21.4%
    Computer and Network Systems $141.07 $162.98 $191.98 $29.00 17.8%
    Information and Intelligent Systems $103.78 $119.30 $154.63 $35.33 29.6%
    Information Technology Research $146.20 $121.59 $78.24 -$43.35 -35.7%
    Total, CISE $496.35 $526.69 $574.00 $47.31 9.0%

    Deborah Crawford, the acting AD for CISE, highlighted a number of new programs the new funding -- and funding freed up as the ITR program comes to an end -- would allow the directorate to pursue. First is an emphasis on "Discovery Research for Innovation," which includes these new efforts:

    • High Risk, High Return Research ($50 million) -- "Seeking Big Ideas in support of Grand Vision." Programs in the area will focus on fundamental questions in computing, larger projects, and try to exploit the potential of emerging technologies.
    • Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation ($20 million) -- As detailed above, CISE will lead this NSF-wide effort, focusing on promoting computational thinking for problem solving.
    In addition, CISE will continue its support for planning of the Global Environment for Networking Innovations with $20 million in funding for pre-construction planning. GENI was also included in the Foundation's 2007 Facility plan as the first "Horizon" project -- a step away from "Readiness Stage," which would allow for extensive pre-construction planning. GENI is one of 10 projects listed as "Horizon" projects. (There's just one project in the Readiness Stage in FY 2008 -- the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope -- and just one that is listed as a possible new start in FY 2008 (the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory)).

    The budget also includes statistics on the number of awards and the funding rate estimates for the directorate in FY 06, 07 and 08. The directorate estimates it will fund fewer research grants in FY 07 than it did in FY 06 (950 in FY07 vs 1,003 in FY06), with a corresponding drop in funding rate (18 percent in FY07 vs 22 percent in FY06). For FY08, the directorate expects the number of research grants to grow to 1,000 and the funding rate to rise a bit to 20 percent.

    Despite those figures, this is, overall, a very promising start for computing at NSF in FY 2008 -- which, given NSF's role in funding 87 percent of academic basic research in computing, makes it a good start for the field.

    FY08 Budget Detail: DOE's Office of Science

    As stated in a previous post about the FY08 Budget Request, Department of Energy’s Office of Science did well with a $296 million, or 7 percent, increase over the FY07 request. The Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) request is $340.2 million, an increase of $21.5 million or 6.8 percent.

    The ASCR has three overarching programs: Research in applied mathematics and computer science with a request of $82.8 million up from $69.6 million in the FY07 request; Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) with a request of $56.3 million up from $56.1 million in the FY07 request; and High-performance computing and network facilities and testbeds with a request of $201.1 million up from $193 million in the FY07 request.

    Overall these are good numbers for computing, and science, and certainly help to make up for some of the recent lean years. As always, we’ll keep you posted as we learn more and as the budget process goes forward on Capitol Hill.

    February 05, 2007

    President Releases FY 2008 Budget; Stays Committed to ACI

    President Bush released his FY 2008 budget request today and it appears that, as promised, the Administration remains committed to the American Competitiveness Initiative and the doubling trajectory for three key science agencies begun in last year's budget request. We've only just started digging into the budget documents -- and we'll be getting more in-depth agency briefings later this afternoon -- but here are some of the top-level numbers: [Just a note, comparing some of these numbers to FY 2007 is a bit problematic because the final FY 2007 estimates aren't in yet. So in all cases but Defense and Homeland Security, the comparison is to the President's requested funding level for FY 2007, which, in most cases, is probably actually higher than the final FY 2007 level set by the CR is likely to be. Therefore, the increases shown for these agencies' requests may actually be greater compared to the final FY 2007 numbers.]

    National Science Foundation: Overall funding would rise to $6.429 billion in FY 2008, an increase of $409 million or 7 percent greater than the President's FY 2007 budget request. NSF's research accounts would grow $648 million over the FY 2007 request to $4.880 billion, an increase of 15 percent.

    National Institute of Standards and Technology: (Intramural Research and Facilities) NIST's core research and facilities accounts would grow to $586 million in FY 2008, an increase of $55 million or 10 percent over the President's FY 2007 request.

    Department of Energy, Office of Science: Increase to $4.398 billion, or $296 million or 7 percent greater than the President's FY 2007 request.

    Defense: Defense is trickier to figure out because it and Homeland Security are the only two agencies with enacted levels for FY 2007. In the President's FY 2008 request, Defense basic and applied research would decline $1.110 billion vs. the FY 2007 enacted level to $5.785 billion, a 16 percent reduction. For Basic research (6.1), the Administration requests $1.428 billion, a reduction of $137 million from the FY 07 enacted level (9 percent) and just $7 million more than the President requested in FY 07. Applied research would fall to $4.357 billion under the President's plan, $973 million (18 percent) lower than FY 07 enacted, and $121 million less than he requested in FY 07.

    National Institutes of Health: The Administration plan would set NIH's budget at $28.700 billion in FY 2008, $432 million more than the President's FY 2007 request, but about $188 million short of the amount likely to be enacted in the FY 2007 CR.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: NOAA would see its research budget rise to $358 million in FY 2008 under the President's plan, an increase of $20 million or 6 percent compared to his FY 2007 request. We have to do a bit more digging to see how this will compare with the CR level.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration: NASA's Science account would grow to $5.516 billion in FY 2008, $186 million or 3 percent greater than the President's FY 2007 request.

    Networking and Information Technology R&D Program: This is the cross-agency budget line for the NITRD program, one of just three interagency R&D efforts listed in the budget (the other two are the National Nanotechnology Initiative and the Climate Change Science Program). I'm hesitant to just put up the raw numbers here, because they always require some interpretation (see last year, for example), but the bottom line number is that the NITRD program would stay essentially flat at $3.057 billion in FY 2008, a $12 million increase over the President's FY 2007 request (and the FY 2007 Defense enacted number). Slated for increases would be NSF's NITRD activities, which would grow $90 million to $994 million, a 10 percent increase, and the Department of Energy and NASA, which would both increase by 4 percent. Defense IT R&D would suffer a 2 percent cut vs. the FY 2007 enacted level, and NIH would see a 14 percent decrease vs. the President's FY 07 request. But it's going to take a bit more investigating to figure out where NITRD really stands vs. FY 2007.

    Just for comparison's sake, the NNI would grow by 4 percent in FY 08 (to $1.447 billion) and the Climate Change Science Program would decline 7 percent to $1.544 billion.

    We expect to have a lot more detail after the agency briefings this afternoon. We'll post whatever we learn as soon as we can.

    By the way, all the budget documents are perusable here.

    January 30, 2007

    Good News for Science in the FY 07 CR

    It appears House and Senate appropriators have reached a final agreement on the "continuing resolution" for FY 2007 and it looks like good news for federal science agencies. For weeks now we (and the other members of the science community) have been concerned that FY 2007 appropriations debacle would freeze agencies like NSF, NIST, and DOE's Office of Science at FY 2006 levels, postponing planned increases to the agencies called for in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and approved by the full House and the Senate Appropriations Committee. However, in a joint continuing resolution filed last night, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairs agreed to exempt NSF, NIST, and DOE Office of Science (and NIH additionally) from the CR and provide increases to each agency's FY 2007 budget.

    While the agencies won't receive the full amounts they requested as part of ACI, each agency should receive significantly more than they received in FY 2006. Under the agreement, NSF's research accounts would receive a 6 7.7 percent increase, slightly below the 7.8 percent matching the increase called for in the ACI, but $335 million more than FY 2006.* NIST would receive $50 million in additional funding for its core research budget. DOE Office of Science would see $200 million more than FY 06, plus the elimination of $127.8 million in earmarks that would then be available for competitive research. And NIH, while not officially part of the ACI and expecting flat-funding in FY 07, would see an increase of $619.5 million -- which, according to the appropriations committee, would "support an additional 500 research project grants, 1,500 first time investigators, and expand funding for high risk and high-impact research."

    Given where we thought we might be as a result of the CR, this is great news. The agreement was announced by both House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WI) and Senate Appropriations Chair Robert Byrd (D-WV), so it's a good bet that the bill will pass in its current form. The House will vote on the CR on Wednesday and the Senate will take it up soon after.

    This is a big win for the science community. Protecting these increases for the federal investment in science in a resolution that cut more than 60 other domestic programs below 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 -- it joins federal highway programs, veteran's 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 its clear that advocacy had the desired effect. So thanks to all of you who joined with CRA as part of the Computing Research Advocacy Network to help make the case for science. It's clear your voices were heard!

    We'll have more details as this bill moves towards final passage. Then it's on to FY 2008, which just might be off to a good start.

    Update: (5:50 pm, 1/31/07) -- The House easily passed the measure today, unamended, by a vote of 286-140. The Senate should take up the resolution next week.

    Update: (4:22 pm, 2/8/07) -- * a closer look at the numbers actually in the resolution show that it only specifically calls out NSF's R&RA account, increasing it $335 million over FY 2006 to $4.7 billion (matching the Administration's request). It appears the remainder of NSF's accounts aren't addressed in the resolution and so they'll stay at FY 06 levels.

    The Senate is considering the resolution today. The Senate Democrats have apparently blocked any amendments to the resolution from Republicans (using some of the Senate's arcane procedural techniques), so it's likely it will pass in its current form.

    January 26, 2007

    ACI not in SOTU, but Administration "still fully committed"

    In contrast to last year's State of the Union address by the President, this year's speech didn't feature much in the way of competitiveness or themes. While we've gotten many assurances from the White House in recent weeks that the President's American Competitiveness Initiative -- introduced with great fanfare last year and currently mired in the debacle which has become the FY 07 Appropriations process -- is still a priority for the Administration and will continue in the FY 08 budget, in the wake of Tuesday's State of the Union I thought I'd just check in again and make sure things hadn't changed. Fortunately, they haven't. Here's the word from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (posted with permission):

    Me: I notice the ACI didn't recieve much mention in the President's SOTU. Is ACI still a priority for the Administration? Will we see the commitment continue in FY 08?

    OSTP: The SOTU was focused this year to a limited number of topics (mostly new of course), but I can assure you we’re still fully committed to its success.  FYI, below is a response to a similar question that Dr. Marburger shared with a reporter earlier this week.  I suspect we’ll have more details to share between now and the budget release so I’ll keep you posted. 


    The President remains fully committed to the success of the American Competitiveness Initiative and the Administration looks forward to Year Two of the ACI and working with the 110th Congress to achieve the President’s vision for innovation. 
    Individually, the House and Senate funded Year One of the President’s proposal to increase basic research in the physical sciences.  However, to remain on track to meet the President’s goal of doubling funding for these key research agencies over 10 years, Congress now needs to complete full funding for Year One of the Initiative (FY07).
    The White House also indicated it plans to continue working to see ACI addressed in whatever final resolution Congress comes up with for FY 07 appropriations. News on that front is that the House plans to take up the CR next week, but as of this writing, there's still no final decision on what will make the cut and what won't. By pledging to "eliminate earmarks" in the CR, appropriators will free up somewhere on the order of $17 billion to $33 billion in funding to apply to agencies for FY 07. But that range demonstrates the difficulties the decision-makers are facing -- gaining consensus on what constitutes an earmark in this case is fraught with political landmines. As a result, there is even talk at the moment of yet again extending the CR for a short duration past the Feb 15th deadline to give appropriators more time to negotiate a CR that will extend the balance of the fiscal year.

    As always, as we learn more detail, we'll pass it on....

    January 23, 2007

    Speaker's Speech Emphasizes Innovation

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with Majority Leader Harry Reid, gave the State of Our Union speech last week at the National Press Club. Pelosi's portion of the speech covered many topics including innovation. Highlights:

    Essential to our children's future is the economic security of their families now. Preparing for the 21st century means bolstering our commitment to keep our nation number one. In our Innovation Agenda, unveiled more than a year ago here at the Press Club, House Democrats made a commitment to competitiveness. We will provide our nation with the tools necessary to unleash the next generation of growth and jobs.

    In his State of the Union address last year, President Bush spoke of keeping America competitive. With Democrats in the majority, we must work together with our Republican colleagues to do so - nothing less than America's economic leadership and our national security is at stake.

    Innovation and economic growth begins in America's classrooms. To create a new generation of innovators, we must fund No Child Left Behind so that we can encourage science and math education, taught by the most qualified and effective teachers.


    Innovation also requires federal grants to our universities, which have long been the spark for great breakthroughs: from the Internet, to biosciences, to fiber optics, to nanotechnology.

    We must commit to doubling federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences and modernize and expand the research and development tax credit. And we will bring broadband access to every American within five years, creating millions of jobs.

    These investments, and initiatives to support a thriving small business environment, will allow us to pursue the long-term, trailblazing research that gives rise to new advances, spawns new industries, and creates good jobs here at home.

    We hope this means that basic science research agencies like NSF will receive the President's proposed increases for the FY07 budget in the forthcoming CR and further increases in future budgets.

    The full text of the speech can be found here.

    January 18, 2007

    CR Impacts on NSF

    NSF has released some data on the impact of a "continuing resolution" on the agency for FY 2007, something we have discussed previously in this space. It confirms essentially what we expected: programs will have reduced funding for FY 2007 or be put on hold and award rates and award size will decline signficantly. Some examples:

    • Overall budget would be $4.175 billion, $400 million below the Adminstration's request and $168 million below the FY 2004 budget in constant dollars ($4.343 billion);
    • Will reduce the number of new grants by 10% and the funding rate by 20%
    • Reductions in programs will include: International Polar Year, Petascale Supercomputer Acquisitions ($50 million for the Office of Cyber Infrastructure's Petascale Computing system), Explosives and Related Threats, Science of Science and Innovation Policy, and Engineering Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation
    • New starts that would potentially be on hold are the Alaska Region Research Vessel, National Ecological Observatory Network, and Ocean Observatories Initiative
    • Administrative costs have risen by $8 million from FY06 to FY07 and offsets in services and infrastructure will be required

    Dr. Arden Bement, Director of NSF, posted a letter regarding the CR impacts online. The letter states:

    The outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year remains highly uncertain, with one possibility being an extension of funding at the current level. While we are acutely aware of the tight constraints on the available budgetary resources, NSF is continuing to issue program announcements and solicitations as previously planned.

    It is likely, however, that NSF may be unable to fund a number of activities planned for this fiscal year. We believe it is important for NSF’s grantee community to be aware of this uncertainty, as a number of activities may be affected later in the fiscal year.

    Stay tuned and we will update you on the CR status and impacts to agencies as we learn more.

    January 17, 2007

    Computing Community Weighs in on Continuing Resolution

    As we've previously noted, the potential adoption of a "continuing resolution" to freeze funding at federal agencies at FY 2006 (or lower) levels through FY 2007 has the potential to cause major disruptions at federal science agencies and imperil the increases for science called for in the American Competitiveness Initiative.

    In response, the leading organizations of the computing community have joined together to call on the Democratic leadership to preserve in any continuing resolution the hard-won increases for science already approved by the full House and the Senate Appropriations committee:

    January 12, 2007

    The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
    House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Madam Speaker:

    As leaders and supporters of the computing research community responsible for providing the research base that has propelled the new economy and enabled our nation's dominant position in information technology, we are greatly concerned to learn that difficulties in the appropriations process might endanger proposed increases to three key federal science agencies in FY 2007. We urge you to protect the increases for FY 2007 already approved by the full House and the Senate Appropriations Committee for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy Office of Science in the FY 2007 appropriations Continuing Resolution or final appropriations.

    As you know, NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science are key participants in the federal Networking and Information Technology R&D initiative, the multi-agency effort that comprises the federal role in supporting long-term, fundamental IT research. The importance of this research in enabling the new economy is well documented. Nearly every aspect of information technology research upon which we rely today traces its roots to federally sponsored university-based research. The resulting advances in information technology have led to significant improvements in product design, development and distribution for American industry, provided instant communications for people worldwide, and enabled new scientific disciplines like bioinformatics and nanotechnology that show great promise in improving a whole range of health, security, and communications technologies. Leaving basic federal science funding at FY 2006 (or lower) levels threatens to disrupt that chain of innovation, placing our nation at risk of not having the necessary resources - the people, the ideas and the infrastructure - we need to maintain our global economic leadership and ensure our continued security.

    You and your colleagues in the Democratic Caucus earned high praise from our community in recognizing in your Innovation Agenda the need to increase support for fundamental research in the physical sciences, mathematics, computing and engineering in order to ensure the Nation's continued leadership in an increasingly competitive world. The President's American Competitiveness Initiative shared that commitment and the full House and the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed the need for those increases on a bipartisan basis in the appropriations bills they approved.

    We commend you for your continued leadership in helping ensure the U.S. has the resources it needs to remain innovative and competitive, especially in information technology. Preserving the proposed increases for NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science in a limited adjustment to the FY 2007 Continuing Resolution would be a simple and necessary step to ensure U.S. competitiveness. While the payoffs of past research have been dramatic, the field of information technology remains in relative infancy. Tremendous opportunities remain - far more can happen in the next ten years than has happened in the last thirty, and it is crucial that America lead the way.


    American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI)
    Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
    Computing Research Association (CRA)
    Coaltion for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC)
    Insitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE-USA)
    Microsoft Corporation
    Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)

    As an aside, regardless of the success of this effort (we understand there's not a whole lot of wiggle-room in the CR for anything beyond providing increases in veteran's benefits), the fact that the wide-breadth of the computing community -- from the research side, to the practitioner side, to the corporate community -- joined together with one voice is worthy of note and certainly bodes well for future efforts.

    Keep an eye here for all the details of the CR as they emerge....

    Gingrich/Gordon OpEd on Basic Research, Security and Competitiveness

    Today's Washington Times features an OpEd from two champions of science from opposite sides of the aisle: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the new Chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). The piece was motivated by the recent Task Force on the Future of American Innovation report, (covered previously) which calls for a strong federal investment in fundamental research in order to help preserve the Nation's economic leadership and ensure our continued security. Gingrich participated in the roll-out event for the Benchmarks report and was quite eloquent on the national security implications of basic research, themes he and Gordon return to in this OpEd:

    Throughout history, national security has been dependent on economic prosperity, and visa versa. An economically strong America is better able to defend itself. Likewise, the nation's ability to defend itself is a prerequisite to maintaining the infrastructure and other elements of a strong national economy.

    Unfortunately, the nation has forgotten one of the most important ways our economic prosperity and national security are linked — investment in fundamental scientific research. Investments made in fundamental scientific research after World War II and during the Cold War have been essential to making our fighting men and women today the best equipped in the world. These previous investments and the new knowledge they generated also made enormous contributions to our economic vitality.

    But our commitment to that defense-oriented fundamental research — the kind of research that pays off not in a year or two but in the long run, sometimes decades in the future — has eroded. If we do not renew this commitment, it will harm our global economic competitiveness as well as the effectiveness and safety of our troops.

    The piece is very well-timed, given the current deliberations on the stalled FY 2007 Appropriations process and the President's forthcoming State of the Union Address. Its bipartisan authorship highlights the bipartisan support for fundamental research in Congress. With a flood of new Members of Congress in Washington, and "old" Members with new positions of responsibility, this is a drum that will need continuous beating in the coming we try to make up for the painful stumbles late after a year of fantastic progress.

    Read the whole piece.

    January 11, 2007

    Congressional Letter on CR and NSF Funding

    Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), and Rep. Rush Holt (R-NJ) are the impetus behind a “Dear Colleague” letter to Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) of the Appropriations Committee regarding NSF funding in the FY2007 CR that will be delivered tomorrow. It currently has 14 co-signers. The letter makes all the points about NSF funding that CRA and the rest of the science research community have been making since the first CR for FY2007. Some highlights:

    Specifically, we ask that you fund NSF at the House-passed, President’s requested level of $6.02 billion in fiscal year 2007. This is essential, because the flat funding for this agency under the Continuing Resolution will directly inhibit our national competitiveness and jeopardize American innovation.

    The NSF is the major source of funding in many fields such as the basic sciences, mathematics, computer science, and the social sciences, and it funds approximately 20 percent of all federally-supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. If Congress only flat funding, peer-reviewed basic science research will suffer across the country. NSF-funded researchers have won more than 170 Nobel Prizes and pioneered innovations that have improved quality of life of all Americans.

    CRA has sent letters to the leadership in both chambers and to the chairmen of both Appropriations Committees supporting increased funding for NSF in the CR. There is still time for all of you to weigh in with your members regarding funding levels as we have suggested here previously.

    Update: As of January 16th, there are 78 signatures on the Congressional Dear Colleague. For the list of co-signers click the link at the bottom of the post.

    Update 2: Sen. Joseph Lieberman has begun a similar effort in the Senate with a letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Sen. Richard Shelby, the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. Highlights:

    The NSF has suffered from budgetary constraints in recent years, and even saw its budget cut in fiscal year 2005. In 2007, the President’s budget included a significant increase in NSF funding, particularly for physical sciences and engineering. This increased funding will support the development of innovative technologies, and will promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States. NSF funding is also critical to our nation’s continued investment in higher education, providing 20 percent of all federally-funded research in America’s universities and colleges. In their respective 2007 appropriations bills, both the House and the Senate concurred with the President’s increased funding request for the NSF.

    The NSF is a sensible investment of our federal dollars. The agency earns exemplary budgetary performance scores, and all grants are awarded through a peer-review process. The NSF is unique in that a small federal investment in research has the potential to yield immeasurable results in both the short and long term.

    As of this morning, the Senate letter had 8 co-signers.

    Congressional Dear Colleague Co-Signers
    Mike Rogers (R-MI)
    Danny K. Davis (D-IL)
    Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)
    Bart Gordon (D-TN)
    Rush Holt (D-NJ)
    Eliot Engel (D-NY)
    Bob Inglis (R-SC)
    Timothy V. Johnson (R-IL)
    Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI)
    Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)
    Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
    Diana DeGette (D-CO)
    Ellen Tauscher (D-CA)
    F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
    Dennis Moore (D-KS)
    Dale Kildee (D-MI)
    William Delahunt (D-MA)
    Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
    Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
    Mike Doyle (D-PA)
    Ed Markey (D-MA)
    Richard Baker (R-LA)
    Deborah Pryce (R-OH)
    Michael E. Capuano (D-MA)
    Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
    Howard Berman (D-CA)
    Michael R. McNulty (D-NY)
    Bobby L. Rush (D-IL)
    Doris O. Matsui (D-CA)
    Timothy Bishop (D-NY)
    John Dingell (D-MI)
    James McGovern (D-MA)
    Baron P. Hill (D-IN)
    Steve Cohen (D-TN)
    Jay Inslee (D-WA)
    Albio Sires (D-NJ)
    Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
    Judy Biggert (R-IL)
    Jim McDermott (D-WA)
    Lois Capps (D-CA)
    Tom Allen (D-ME)
    Doc Hastings (R-WA)
    David G. Reichert (R-WA)
    Bruce L. Braley (D-IA)
    David Loebsack (D-IA)
    Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
    Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)
    Nancy E. Boyda (D-KS)
    Michael Michaud (D-ME)
    Mark Udall (D-CO)
    Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
    Diane E. Watson (D-CA)
    Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ)
    Jim Gerlach (R-PA)
    Stephanie Herseth (D-SD)
    John Lewis (D-GA)
    Jo Bonner (R-AL)
    William J. Jefferson (D-LA)
    Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
    Jerry Moran (R-KS)
    Jim Saxton (R-NJ)
    Elijah Cummings (D-MD)
    John Tierney (D-MA)
    Jim Moran (D-VA)
    Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
    Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
    David Wu (D-OR)
    James L. Oberstar (D-MN)
    Ralph M. Hall (R-TX)
    Tom Lantos (D-CA)
    Darlene Hooley (D-OR)
    Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
    Harry E. Mitchell (D-AZ)
    Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
    Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
    Brian Baird (D-WA)
    Norman D. Dicks (D-WA)
    Albert Wynn (D-MD)

    January 08, 2007

    NYT Article on Impact of CR on Science

    The Sunday New York Times featured an article on the impact of the continuing resolution on science research. The article starts:

    The failure of Congress to pass new budgets for the current fiscal year has produced a crisis in science financing that threatens to close major facilities, delay new projects and leave thousands of government scientists out of work, federal and private officials say.

    It touches on a number of agencies, programs, and labs that are hurting and facing possible discontinuation. Regarding NSF it states:

    The National Science Foundation, which supports basic research at universities, had expected a $400 million increase over the $5.7 billion budget it received in 2006. Now, the freeze is prompting program cuts, delays and slowdowns.

    "It's rather devastating," said Jeff Nesbit, the foundation's head of legislative and public affairs. "While $400 million in the grand scheme of things might seem like decimal dust, it's hugely important for universities that rely on N.S.F. funding."

    The threatened programs include a $50 million plan to build a supercomputer that universities would use to push back frontiers in science and engineering; a $310 million observatory meant to study the ocean environment from the seabed to the surface; a $62 million contribution to a global program of polar research involving 10 other nations; and a $98 million ship to explore the Arctic, including the thinning of its sheath of floating sea ice.

    A number of quotes are included but one that sums up the thoughts of most of the community is from Mike Lubell at the American Physical Society, a fellow member of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation.

    "The consequences for American science will be disastrous. The message to young scientists and industry leaders, alike, will be, ‘Look outside the U.S. if you want to succeed.’ "

    January 05, 2007

    CR Action Needed

    This action alert was sent to the Computing Research Advocacy Network (CRAN). To join CRAN, visit CRAN.

    The chairs of the 110th Congressional Appropriations Committees have announced their intention to pass a continuing resolution (CR) for all of FY07, rather than complete appropriations under regular order or in an omnibus bill. This will effectively freeze funding for all science agencies at FY2006 levels, endangering significant increases in federal science funding planned for FY 2007! It is important that we do not lose the progress we have made on R&D funding so far this year.

    Please contact your Representative and both Senators as soon as possible to urge them to protect the increases for FY 2007 already approved by the full House and the Senate Appropriations Committee for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy Office of Science in the FY 2007 CR. All House and Senate actions to date have provided increased funding for the sciences in FY07 up until the CR.

    Congress has returned to Washington and will shortly consider the CR so we must get the message to them quickly. Please consider calling or faxing your Senators and Representative's offices with your support for including the increased funding in a CR. A phone call should take just a few minutes and is the best way to impact your Members of Congress. A faxed letter is the next best thing. Though e-mail is convenient, it's not as effective as a call or fax to your representative, so please consider picking up the phone or firing off a fax.

    Also, please send a copy of your letter (or any notes from your call) to Melissa Norr at or fax to 202-667-1066. Having a portfolio of letters of support from our member institutions will aid us greatly in making the case for more support for IT R&D on the Hill.

    For more information on this issue and sample letters, please visit: FY07 CR

    A list of representative contact information is here: US House Members.

    If you don't know your representative, you can find out who it is here:
    US House of Representatives

    For the U.S. Senate, you can find phone numbers and fax numbers via US Senate.

    Permanent R&D Tax Credit Legislation Introduced

    The new chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (MT), introduced legislation on the first day of the 110th Congress to permanently extend the R&D tax credit an article in Congressional Quarterly stated (Sub Req'd).

    The R&D tax credit has always been a priority of the high-tech community on Capitol Hill and there have been previous attempts to make it permanent rather than extending it each year. However, the cost of such a permanent tax credit has generally kept this from happening. After much wrangling (most not related to the merits of the R&D tax credit itself, but rather the other tax proposals it was packaged with), the 109th Congress passed the R&D tax credit for 2006 retroactively in the waning days of the session in December and included the extension through 2007.

    The CQ article also states that competitiveness issues will be a priority for Baucus as the chair of the Finance Committee. We certainly hope that is true, not just for the Finance Committee, but for all of Congress.

    December 12, 2006

    Dems Elect to Punt FY 2007 Appropriations, Placing ACI Increases in Jeopardy

    On Friday we noted that the Republican Congressional leadership had effectively given up hope of resolving the 11 outstanding appropriations bills for FY 2007, including the bills that would provide the increases in science funding called for in the American Competitiveness Initiative we've talked about so frequently in this space. Instead, Congress passed a "continuing resolution" that would fund government at FY 2006 levels or lower through February 15, 2007, when the new Democratic leadership would be able to take its crack at passing the unfinished bills.

    Now it appears the Democrats have decided against trying to complete the process. (sub. req'd) reports today that Rep. David Obey (D-WI) and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), the incoming chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees, have given up hope of solving the FY 2007 impasse and elected to move a yearlong stopgap measure when the new Congress convenes next year:

    "Unfortunately, there are no good options available to us to complete the unfinished work of the Republican Congress," Obey and Byrd said. “After discussions with our colleagues, we have decided to dispose of the Republican budget leftovers by passing a yearlong joint resolution.

    "We will do our best to make whatever limited adjustments are possible within the confines of the Republican budget to address the nation’s most important policy concerns."

    This is obviously bad news for those of us in the science community who have worked hard to win increases contained in the ACI and in the House and Senate FY 07 appropriations bills. Unless ACI merits inclusion among "the nation's most important policy concerns," it's likely that the increases that had been slated for NSF, NIST and the DOE Office of Science in FY 07 will be lost and the timetable for doubling the research funding for those agencies set back another year.

    CRA, along with many members of the science and high-tech industry communities, will be working hard over the next few weeks to make just that case -- that the increases called for in the ACI and the Democratic Innovation Agenda do merit inclusion among the nation's most important policy concerns. There's a chance the Democratic leadership will agree -- though I'm not going to go out on a limb and try and assess that chance yet. The innovation agenda has been one of the top Democratic priorities and was something that incoming Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated would be among the first issues considered under the new Congress.

    We'll bring you updates as we get further information and also detail ways in which you can help make the case for research. For now, if you haven't become a member of CRA's Computing Research Advocacy Network, this would be a great time to join. We're going to need your help....

    December 09, 2006

    Congress Elects to Pass a CR 'til Feb with No Exceptions for ACI (or much else)

    Though CRA -- along with lots of other members of the science community (and a whole lot of other constituencies) -- pressed for Congress to complete its work on the FY 07 appropriations before adjourning, it appears that the outgoing congressional leadership has decided to punt the process to the new Democratic congress. Congress is set to vote today on a new "Continuing Resolution" that will fund the operations of government through February 15th at FY 2006 levels, with only one exception for veteran's health care (which will get a $3 billion bump in the CR). CRA joined with a number of scientific groups in using our advocacy networks to try and pressure Congress to either finish the appropriations bills -- which contain hard-won increases for science as part of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative -- or, if necessary, pass a continuing resolution that contains the agreed-to increases as "exceptions" to the CR. CRA activated its CRAN network to call members of Congress in their district offices and ask them to pressure their leadership to pass the approps bills or pass a CR that included the ACI increases. However, the science community wasn't alone in asking for "exceptions" for its favored programs. The pressure on Congress from a large number of "special interest" groups fighting for exceptions was strong enough that it appears the leadership just decided that it was easier just to sharply limit what gets excluded from the CR -- limiting it only to the VA program increase.

    There is some cost to the community as a result of this. The agencies who who benefit from ACI-related increases won't likely receive the increased funding they would have gotten for the months that pass while they operate under the CR, effectively delaying the start of the ACI ramp-up until after Congress finally gets the appropriations done. And of course, until Congress gets the appropriations bills figured out, agencies are sharply constrained in the number of new programs they can start and, in some cases, the new personnel they can hire.

    But it does appear that Congress is still committed to the ACI goals and that the increases will be in the bills once they're eventually passed. There is a "worst case" scenario that the appropriators will feel overwhelmed with the prospect of having to complete two fiscal years worth of appropriations in an 8 month period and just "CR" the entire FY 07 -- skip it, and move right to FY 08. It doesn't appear that's very likely, but we'll continue to keep an eye on it (and continue to advocate against it, of course.) Whether they just bundle the outstanding appropriations bills as an omnibus or try to pass them individually under "regular order," the conventional wisdom is that the new Democratic congress will act quickly in February to get it done and begin work on the FY 08 appropriations process.

    November 17, 2006

    Task Force Releases Benchmarks II

    As mentioned previously in this space, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation held a press conference for the release of the Benchmarks II report on Thursday. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, David Abshire, President of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, and Larry Wortzel, Chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and Vice President for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation addressed a full house of Congressional staff, reporters, and other interested members of the DC crowd. This year’s Benchmarks report, called “Measuring the Moment: Innovation, National Security, and Economic Competitiveness,” focused more on defense and homeland security related research than the previous report.

    National Journal’s Technology Daily and both ran an article on the event and report. A bit from the article:

    A group of high-tech leaders and national security experts is asking President Bush to include basic defense research in his American competitiveness initiative.

    The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation backed the request Thursday with a new report that warns that while funding for military research and development is at a record high, recent increases have focused on applying existing ideas to new weapons and equipment.

    "We have been under-investing in the basic research needed for the next-generation military technology," the report warned. The task force was formed in 2004 to advocate for more federal support for research in the physical sciences and engineering…

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the long-term goal should be not just combating terrorism but leading in science by investing in national security advances. "Otherwise we'll have opponents that have scientific capabilities we don't understand," Gingrich said.

    He added that his biggest mistake as House speaker in the mid-1990s was not also tripling the National Science Foundation budget when Republicans doubled the National Institutes of Health budget.

    We’ll keep you updated on the Task Force’s activities, press coverage of the report, and any impact it might have moving forward as we work with the Congress through the end of the year and into the next budget cycle.

    A PDF of the Benchmarks II report can be found here.

    Highlighting Cyberinfrastructure

    NSF Director Arden Bement encouraged colleges and universities to expand high speed networking tools as a path to innovation in a speech to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Technology Forum yesterday. The Chronicle article on the speech is available for free here for the next five days and then to subscribers only here.

    A couple highlights from the speech and article:

    "Leadership in cyberinfrastructure may well become the major determinant in measuring pre-eminence in higher education among nations," he said. "Indeed, to be even more provocative, I would suggest that leadership in cyberinfrastructure may determine America's continued ability to innovate -- and thus our ability to compete successfully in the global arena...."

    Mr. Bement said cyberinfrastructure was a "comprehensive phenomenon that involves creation, dissemination, preservation, and application of knowledge." He said it was not just about building new networking tools, but new "norms of practice and rules, incentives, and constraints that shape individual and collective action."

    November 15, 2006

    Task Force Event Thursday!

    In the previous entry, I mentioned that the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (of which CRA is a member) was planning an event on November 16th to release its "Benchmarks II" report and press Congress to finish its good work on funding the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. Well, we can now share some details about it. Should be a good event!:



    • Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House
    • David Abshire, President, Center for the Study of the Presidency, former Special Counsel to President Reagan and former Ambassador to NATO
    • Larry Wortzel, Chairman, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and Vice President for Foreign Policy, Heritage Foundation
    • Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), House Armed Services Committee.

    1. Participants will challenge the Administration and Congress to provide greater Defense Department funding of basic research.
    2. Participants will support full funding of President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative.
    3. Release of the 2006 Benchmarks Report of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation. To read 2005 report, go to (pdf).

    Reserve Officers Association
    One Constitution Avenue, NE
    5th Floor Conference Room

    WHEN: Thursday, November 16, 11:00 AM to Noon

    - # # # -

    The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (, comprised of organizations from industry and academia, advocates increased federal support for research in the physical sciences and engineering.

    Formed in 2004, the Task Force urges strong, sustained increases for research budgets at the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Department of Defense.

    For more information, to RSVP, or to request an embargoed copy of the report, please contact:

    Anne Caliguiri

    Barry Toiv

    Watch this space for all the details....

    November 10, 2006

    Post-Election: Where do we stand?

    So, the bloodshed appears to have ended for the moment and the Dems are now in charge of both the House and the Senate. The obvious question is: "What's in it for us? (the computing research community)" The short answer at the moment is: I dunno. Lots of questions remain unanswered about how the remainder of the 109th Congress will play out and how the 110th Congress will organize and move forward, but here are some thoughts.

    The immediate legislative concern of many of us in the science advocacy community is the status of the NSF, NIST and DOE appropriations increases called for in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and currently tied up in the unfinished Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Energy and Water appropriations bills. The big question is whether the current congressional leadership will want to make progress on the bills in the lame-duck session starting next week, or simply punt the problems to the Democrats in the new Congress next year. The current conventional wisdom is that the GOP will probably push through a new "continuing resolution" that will continue to fund the federal government at the FY 06 levels through February 2007 and leave the challenge of passing the 11 outstanding appropriations bills to the Democratic leadership to deal with when they take over. Part of the motivation here is that the FY 07 Defense Appropriations bill passed by Congress before the election actually busted the budget caps by about $5 billion -- money that would have to be found in the remaining bills. 

    There is some incentive for taking care of business now on both sides of the aisle, if it can be done. One reason is that these appropriations bills are, as usual, loaded with earmarks for just about every member of Congress to insure their passage. Starting the current approps process over from scratch next Congress puts those earmarks at risk. Another motivation is that the Democrats would rather not have to make the tough decisions that will be required to hit the budget caps with the current approps bills -- and starting from scratch on FY 07, while simultaneously beginning the FY 08 budget process, is a lot to do. 

    As we've noted before, we would much rather Congress take care of business now -- either by passing the appropriations bills individually (under "regular order") or as part of an omnibus that preserves the ACI increases. Passing a continuing resolution and beginning the process anew in February puts all of the ACI gains we've worked hard for this year at risk (at least for FY 07). It does appear that Congress -- or at least the Senate -- will be in session for much of December working on the confirmation of Robert Gates as the new Secretary of Defense (more on that below). So there's at least the opportunity for Congress to act during the lame-duck to finish their work on appropriations. Just not sure there's the will. 

    CRA will help make the case for acting now at an event next week we're participating in as part of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation. You'll recall that the Task Force released a report last year ("Benchmarks of Our Innovation Future") that we endorsed (and actually helped produce) that helped drive much of the debate within the Administration about the need to address some of the competitiveness concerns that American universities and, increasingly, American companies were raising. We've updated the report for 2006, added a bit of a national security angle as well, and will be releasing it at a press conference on Thursday, Nov 16th, with some remarks by a few Washington notables (keep tuned here for details...should be worth the wait). The point of the report is to note that though the U.S. continues to hold a dominant position in the global economy, that position isn't guaranteed and, indeed, many trends suggest it's at risk long-term. The report highlights the importance of federal support for fundamental research as a key point in the innovation chain necessary for insuring our continued global competitiveness. We'll use the event to call on Congress to finish their work on ACI-related issues -- especially finishing the already agreed-to but not passed appropriations bills that would fund NSF, NIST and DOE. We'll have more on the report in a few days.

    The industry members of the Task Force have also once again chosen to weigh in heavily. Most recently, the Business Roundtable today ran two nice (pdf) full-page ads (pdf) -- one in the Washington Post, one in the NY Times -- urging Congress to act in a bipartisan way and address the outstanding competitiveness issues.

    Over the longer term (at least for FY 08 and FY 09), we should be in good shape with a Democratic congress. The Democratic Innovation Agenda was very similar to what became the President's American Competitiveness Agenda. Both are heavily influenced by the National Academies "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report. The Democrats might place more emphasis on federal education efforts (NSF EHR) and "applied and industrial" R&D (NIST ATP and MEP) than the Republicans have, and may place more emphasis on workforce/offshoring issues, but should otherwise share a similar commitment to increasing the research budgets of NSF, NIST, NOAA, NIH and DOE.

    There are, however, a few things though that could skew the picture a bit. The first is that it's not clear exactly how Democratic priorities will impact upcoming apporpriations. While support for the federal role in fundamental research is bipartisan at the "meta" level, there are some differences at the agency level. Though the Democrats were generally supportive of the "physical sciences" thrust of the ACI, they were not as pleased with the relative deemphasis of NIH funding in the President's plan. Because the budget environment hasn't changed significantly -- there will still not be any significant amount of "new" money in the budget -- any effort to increase the relatively flat NIH budget will necissitate cuts elsewhere. Will that put other research budgets at risk?

    Another potentially complicating factor is that we have no idea at this point whether the Democratic leadership will want to make significant changes to the existing committee structure -- something well within their power to do. Altering how the appropriations committees are laid out, or even how the authorizing committees are assembled (what subcommittees will exist, what their jurisdictions will be), could have a substantial impact on the way science policy gets implemented in Congress. (You can see here what we thought about Republican plans to reorganize the committee structure back in '05.)

    One other change -- one that has the potential to improve the computing research community's fortunes a bit -- is the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Sec. of Defense and the nomination of current Texas A&M University president Robert Gates to succeed him. As a close friend of the President, Gates has, for the last couple of years, been one of the people the higher-ed community has looked to often to help carry the message of the importance of federal support for fundamental research to the Administration. As a result, he should be familiar not only with our basic issues, but also have a decent familiarity with the science advocacy community here in town. Hopefully, that means he'd be a bit more open to listening to the concerns of our community than the current DOD leadership has been.

    So lots of changes ahead, but much of the agenda -- at least the agenda related to issues important to the computing research community -- will likely remain the same. We'll have additional updates when we have some sense of how the Democrats and GOP will choose to organize their leadership and committee structures. And we'll provide quick updates as soon as we know anything at all about how appropriations are going to shake out. 

    Update: From today's Washington Post:

    Pelosi said that Democratic leaders want to demonstrate their effectiveness, and build up some trust with the White House, by tackling legislation that will have bipartisan support. Bush's "innovation agenda," laid out last year in his State of the Union address, has largely lain dormant. Democrats would like to take up Bush's proposals to expand funding for basic research and alternative energy sources such as ethanol, she said.
    So, that's a good thing.

    From "Reid, Pelosi Expected to Keep Tight Rein in Both Chambers."

    September 27, 2006

    Innovation and Competitiveness: How'd we do?

    With the members of the 109th Congress getting ready to leave town this week and not come back until mid-November (giving them plenty of time for last-minute campaigning in their home districts), it seems appropriate to take a look at what they've accomplished in addressing some of the innovation and competitiveness issues that have been so well-covered here this year.

    Though there was movement on competitiveness issues in Congress at the end of last year, the inclusion by President Bush of an "American Competitiveness Initiative" in his State of the Union speech at the end of January clearly catalyzed the action on innovation and competitiveness issues this year. The President's plan included a number of different provisions addressing different portions of the innovation/competitiveness chain:

    • First, double, over 10 years, the Federal support for fundamental research in the physical sciences and engineering at the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science;
    • Second, make permanent the R&D Tax Credit;
    • Third, encourage more children to take more math and science, and encourage more math and science professionals to teach;
    • Fourth, provide more worker training options;
    • and, Fifth, increase our ability to compete for and retain the best and the brightest talent in the world.
    Congress, too, had it's own ideas -- many gleaned from influential reports like the National Academies' Rising Above the Gathering Storm and the Council on Competitiveness' Innovate America reports -- and reflected them in a number of pieces of legislation introduced throughout the year. It was enough to make the science advocacy community somewhat giddy. After all, we'd been fighting for several years to convince the Administration and Congress that the federal investment in fundamental research, despite being an absolutely crucial part of the the chain of innovation that keeps America dominant in an increasingly competitive world, was inadequately supported within the Federal budget -- a fact that put our future competitiveness at risk. But until this year, beyond a few sympathetic ears in Congress, that argument had gained no traction. Then, a change in attitude in the White House and some real leadership on both sides of the aisle in Congress (folks like Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Sherry Boehlert (R-NY), the House Democratic Leadership, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Pete Domenici (R-NM), John Ensign (R-NV), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)) and the tide turned dramatically. Soon the President was on the road making the case for increased funding for science and members were scrambling to claim some legislative ground by introducing a plethora of competitiveness bills.

    So as we approach the end of this legislative session, where did all of this activity get us? How will the science community fare as a result of "competitiveness" and "innovation" becoming hot topics?

    The short answer seems to be: we'll probably do pretty well.

    For those of us who have a great interest in seeing university research in the physical sciences (which, in DC parlance, includes mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, etc) receive more support, the clear number one priority was seeing the President's number one priority -- starting NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science, on the path to doubling their budgets in 10 years -- enacted in the FY 2007 appropriations bills. And despite some early mixed-signals from the House Republican leadership, both the full House and the Senate Appropriations Committee have approved appropriations bills that would provide those agencies with the full funding they requested under ACI.

    [There is one potential hurdle ahead in the form of the appropriations "end-game." It's clear that Congress will not conclude work on the appropriations bills before the November election, which means they'll need to pass a "continuing resolution" that would provide funding for the federal government past the Oct 1, 2006 beginning of the 2007 fiscal year. What is unclear is whether Congress will elect to return after the election in "lame duck" session and pass the appropriations bills as freestanding pieces of legislation (unlikely), as part of a giant omnibus appropriation with all bills rolled into one (pretty likely), or simply "punt" on the whole issue and extend the "continuing resolution" (CR) through Sept. 30, 2007.

    That last option is the most problematic for the science community. A CR typically directs federal agencies to continue to spend in the new fiscal year, but only at the same rate as the previous fiscal year -- with no new starts or programs. A similar CR this year would wipe out all the gains we've worked to achieve through the President's ACI and the House and Senate appropriations committees and send us back to square one next year. While it's unlikely Congress would take the CR option this year -- a CR would wipe out any earmarks won by lawmakers as well, unless they were explicitly included -- it's not completely out of the question, and the uncertainty about which party will lead each chamber doesn't make the prognosticating any easier. So CRA, along with the rest of the science community, will continue to take the message "omnibus, not CR!" to the congressional leadership throughout the end of this legislative session.]

    Beyond funding increases for the agencies, however, things aren't quite as clear. Several bills were introduced in Congress this year that attempt to "authorize" specific provisions of ACI, or the various recommendations of the Gathering Storm or Innovate America reports. The table below shows what some of those bills contain and what their current and likely future status is. In every case, it appears the bills will fall short of the actions required to enact them. The biggest hurdle, it appears, is the White House's continuing insistence that the programs contained in the ACI don't require additional authorizations (and so they're reluctant to allow Congress to put its stamp on programs in authorizations), and the House Leadership's continuing reluctance to pass "high-dollar" authorizations at a time when it's trying to demonstrate fiscal restraint. (This despte the fact that the authorizations don't actually obligate any funding -- it's just "bad optics.")

    With only a short time remaining in the 109th Congress' legislative calendar -- really, only the days the Members are willing to sit in "lame duck" session after the election -- it becomes increasingly unlikely (though not impossible) that any of the congressional competitiveness bills will make it to the President's desk. So, despite yesterday's introduction by the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders of the National Competitiveness Investment Act (not yet online) -- an omnibus-like complilation of a number of different Senate approaches into one 209-page bill -- it's not clear that any of the bill will get the necessary consideration in the House to move it towards passage.

    It would be nice symbolism to see these Congressional authorizations passed overwhelmingly, but it's not a particularly big loss that they likely won't be. In fact, from our perspective, there's a benefit in not having these particular bills get enacted. One key element of increasing the Nation's innovative capacity is insuring that we have a diverse, well-educated workforce. And a key part of that is by increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in math and science -- particularly in computer science. Though the various authorization bills listed below have a number of good things in them, none is particularly strong in promoting the participation of women or minorities in math and science. Having to begin the process of working through these bills with the next Congress beginning in January actually presents an opportunity for us to continue to make the case for increasing support for programs that aim to create a more diverse workforce, with the hope of seeing that reflected in whatever bill finally moves towards passage.

    But, for now, the real key for those of us who represent those who do fundamental research in the physical sciences is to see the appropriations requested by the President enacted in full. And on that score, we should do quite well this session.

    Status of Key Innovation/Competitiveness Bills
    Bill Title
    Key Provisions
    Pass House?
    Pass Senate?
    H.R. 5356 - Research For Competitiveness Act (previous coverage)
    • Early career grants programs at NSF, DOE and NIST;
    • Authorize NSF "prize" competitions;
    • Establish cross-disciplinary awards program for "bridging the gap" betwee life sciences and physical sciences;
    • Encourage NSF research on the process of innovation.
    H.R. 5358 - Science and Math Education For Competitiveness Act (previous coverage)
    • Authorizes a scholarship program for teachers in K-12 math and science;
    • Encourages school and university partnerships in math and science education through a specialized master's degree program as well as a mentor program for AP teachers and their students;
    • Allows NSF to fund centers to improve undergraduate education.
    S. 2802 - American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (previous coverage)
    • Increase funding authorizations for NSF and NIST;
    • Create "Innovation Acceleration Grants" at federal agencies;
    • Creates a council to overss basic research efforts at NASA;
    • Directs NAS to study "forms of risk that create barriers to innovation."
    S. 2197 - Protecting America's Competitive Edge (PACE) Act -- Energy (previous coverage)
    • Authorizes national labs staff to assist schools that specialize in science and math;
    • Establishes an "experiment-based" internship program, as well as a satellite summer programs at the national labs;
    • Renewed focus on nuclear science education with expansion grants, competitiveness grants and scholarships for students in that area;
    • Creates an Advanced Research Projects Authority (ARPA-E) at DOE, as well as a graduate fellowship program.
    S. 3936 - Protecting America's Competitive Edge (PACE) Act -- EnergyEssentially a consolidation of the National Innovation Act and the PACE Energy and Education bills.
    Likely Soon

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 10:53 PM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative

    September 20, 2006

    The Tenure Gender Gap

    A National Academies report published this week discussing the gap between women and men in science academia is getting decent press in the national media. Both Newsweek and the New York Times have pieces covering the Academies' report "Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.”

    Both articles make the key point from the report: while women are getting a larger percentage of the graduate degrees in science, engineering, and mathematics than in the past, academic faculties do not reflect those gains. Women of minority groups are almost non-existent on faculties. Among the reasons given in the report for low numbers of women on faculties are: rigid tenure clocks, inadequate child care, and colleague and administration bias. The report also states that in order to address this issue, there must be widespread changes to academic departmental structure in order to address the problem and that the changes must start at the top.

    The New York Times article ”Bias is Hurting Women in Science, Panel Reports” focuses on the reports findings and states:

    For 30 years, the report says, women have earned at least 30 percent of the nation’s doctorates in social and behavioral sciences, and at least 20 percent of the doctorates in life sciences. Yet they appear among full professors in those fields at less than half those levels. Women from minority groups are “virtually absent,” it adds.

    The report also dismisses other commonly held beliefs — that women are uncompetitive or less productive, that they take too much time off for their families. Instead, it says, extensive previous research showed a pattern of unconscious but pervasive bias, “arbitrary and subjective” evaluation processes and a work environment in which “anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a ‘wife’ is at a serious disadvantage.”

    The Newsweek article ”Science and the Gender Gap”, which is part of a larger section on women in leadership, points out that this is not necessarily new information. The article states:

    Though individual women may have understood what they were up against, there wasn't much of an organized effort to change things until an August day in 1994, when a group of tenured female faculty members at MIT met with physicist Robert Birgeneau, then the dean of the School of Science, to press their case that there was an institutional bias. "It was really a singular point," says Birgeneau, now the chancellor at Berkeley. Before that day, he says, it was easy to dismiss an individual woman's career problems as the result of a personality conflict or problems in her lab. But after investigating their complaints, he concluded that the problem was systemic.

    In 1999, MIT issued a groundbreaking report which showed that tenured women professors made less money and received fewer research resources than their male colleagues. The next year MIT's president, Charles Vest, convened a meeting of administrators and scientists from 25 of the most prestigious U.S. universities who issued a unanimous statement agreeing that institutional barriers prevented women from succeeding in science.

    Both articles are available online at ”Bias is Hurting Women in Science, Panel Reports” and ”Science and the Gender Gap”.

    August 03, 2006

    SBIR Increase from Research Agencies’ Budgets

    New legislation has been introduced in the Senate to expand the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. While this is not in and of itself a bad thing, the correlating increase in the budget could actually hit the research agencies hard. The SBIR program is funded by a tax on federal research agencies (those doing more than $100,000,000 in R&D). Currently the agencies are required to contribute a minimum 2.5 percent of their total budget to the SBIR program. The new legislation, S. 3778 - the Small Business Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2006, would increase the percentage to a minimum of 3 percent in FY 2007 and increase it by 0.5 percent each fiscal year until it reaches 5 percent in 2011 where it would remain until legislation is passed to increase it again.

    The irony in this proposal is that it will actually decrease the amount of money the agencies can spend on their core research missions, which may have impacts on the nation's innovative capacity beyond any expansion of the SBIR program. At a time when Congress and the Administration seem to have agreed on the importance of increasing support for fundamental research as a way to improve the environment for innovation and help ensure the nation's continued competitiveness, this proposal actually represents a step backwards.

    The science advocacy community is beginning to organize to respond to this new legislation. We will keep you posted here when more details on the effort become available.

    July 11, 2006

    First Details of Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations...

    ...and they look pretty good! Better than we thought, certainly.

    You'll recall we worried that the President's American Competitiveness Initiative would face problems in the Senate due to the need to pay for cuts to NOAA and NASA in the President's budget. But the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee marked up their bill today (link doesn't render on my Mac, however) and managed to get NOAA $1.1 billion more than the House included in their bill, and about $126 million more for NASA, without carving it out of the other science agencies. NSF and NIST managed to make it out of the markup with significant increases still intact. I haven't seen the mark yet, so I don't know all the details. But the short story appears to be that NIST will get its requested level and NSF gets almost everything requested -- about $29 million shy of the request, actually -- but still a healthy increase of $410 million over FY 06.

    Here's the detail the committee's released so far (comparisons to the House bill in parentheses):

    • NIST: $764 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (vs. $627 million in the House bill) -- $11.9 million above the FY06 enacted level and $182 million above the budget request. $106 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) (vs. $92 million in the House). No mention of ATP funding (zeroed in the House). It's not clear how much of that $764 million would go to the NIST Labs, but considering the House included the full $104 million called for in the ACI in their smaller allocation, odds are decent that NIST Labs will actually receive their requested funding.
    • NSF: $5.99 billion for National Science Foundation: $410 million above the FY06 enacted level; $29 million less than the House bill.
    • NOAA: $4.43 billion for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (vs. $3.4 billion in the House bill): $536 million above the FY06 enacted level, excluding supplemental appropriations, and $753 million above the budget request.
    • NASA: $16.8 billion for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (vs. $16.7 billion in the House): $126 million above the FY06 enacted level.

    If these numbers survive the full committee markup -- scheduled for Thursday -- and then again on the Senate floor, then NSF and NIST (and likely DOE Office of Science, when it gets its turn in the Energy and Water bill) will just about be assured of getting nearly the level of increase called for by the President back in January. The only possible monkey wrenches at that point -- at least that I can see -- would be Presidential veto (unlikely) or some sort of appropriations meltdown that would lead to another across-the-board cut as happened last year. Even then, it's hard to imagine an across-the-board cut stunting much of the growth NSF, NIST and DOE SC should experience as a result of these appropriations.

    Further good news is a recent indication from OMB that the out-year increases for ACI called for in the President's FY07 budget are likely to be realized, at least in the next budget (FY 08) -- meaning the Administration doesn't see ACI as a one-shot deal; it's committed to a multi-year increase for these agencies.

    So, we're in pretty good shape at the moment (knocking on wood).

    Of course, we'll have more details as they come available....

    July 10, 2006

    Hill Visits

    CRA is a member of the Coalition for National Science Funding -- an organization comprising over 100 different scientific societies, universities, and industrial advocates for federal support of fundamental research. As part of their advocacy efforts, CNSF sponsors a "Hill Visits Day," which is an opportunity for members of the research community to come to Washington and chat with Members of Congress and their staff about the importance of the federal role in supporting long-term research.

    CNSF will hold its second annual Hill Visits Day on September 13, 2006 with orientation on September 12. CRA invites researchers from its member institutions to take part. 

    With President Bush's introduction of the American Competitiveness Initiative calling for a doubling of federal support for fundamental research in the physical sciences, computing, mathematics and engineering over the next 10 years, and the House of Representatives endorsement of that plan, the opportunity for seeing significant increases at agencies important to our community -- NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST, in particular -- is better than at any time in recent memory. But it's important that Congress continue to hear from researchers about the importance of sustained support for research. 

    CNSF Hill Visits Day presents the unique opportunity for the research community to speak with one voice. Participating in CNSF Hill Visits Day gives us the opportunity to make our case again to Congress, but to do so as part of a larger and multidisciplinary group with even greater impact. 

    A CNSF subcommittee will create interdisciplinary teams of visitors and make all the appointments, so if you would like to participate, please contact Melissa Norr at by August 16 with your name and full contact information. 

    For more information please visit our previous blog postings and the CNSF web site.

    To join the Computing Research Advocacy Network (CRAN) sign up here.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 02:05 PM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Events | Funding

    July 07, 2006

    Innovation and Competitiveness Authorization Updates

    We have previously mentioned that CRA had signed two letters urging Congressional leadership to bring to the floor a number of measures addressing innovation, competitiveness and elements of the ACI. Here’s the some background on the bills and an update on where these efforts stand:

    The Research for Competitiveness Act (H.R.5356) would authorize the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy to give grants to encourage people to enter research as a career by creating a number of new career and research grant programs, including:

    •Early career grants programs at NSF, DOE and NIST – grants would be at least $80,000 a year for five years;
    •NSF and Energy research award “matching” programs that would award grants up to $75,000 a year to early career researchers working on high-risk, high-return research, with the possibility of an additional $37,500 in federal funds available each year with an industry match;

    Additionally, the bill would allow NSF to accept donations for specific prize competitions, establish a program at NSF to award grants for cross-disciplinary research bridging the physical and non-biomedical life sciences, encourage NSF to support research on the process of innovation and the teaching of inventiveness, and allow NASA to establish a workforce training program.

    The Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act (H.R.5358) encourages mathematics, science, engineering and technology education. This bill would reauthorize a scholarship program for teachers, the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which allows schools to set up scholarship, stipend and/or internships for students of math and science who wish to teach within high-need K-12 education programs. $50 million would be set aside for 2007, $70 million for 2008, $90 million for 2009, $110 million for 2010, and $130 million for 2011. The bill also encourages school and university partnerships in mathematics and science education through a specialized master’s degree program for in-service mathematics and science teachers as well as a mentor program for advanced placement teachers and their students. It also seeks to address the shortage of math and science teachers in education by allowing NSF, as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP), to fund Centers to improve undergraduate education.

    Status Update: The House Science Committee has marked-up and approved both bills, but they await consideration on the House floor. There was hope that both bills would be considered “under suspension of the rules,” a special status reserved for non-controversial bills that would have expedited their passage. However, the House Leadership, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear (but likely linked to concerns from conservative Members about “new programs” they believe are created by the bills – an erroneous belief, in our reading), declined to add the bills to the “suspension” calendar, so they are likely to hit the floor under an open rule, which subjects them to amendment and lengthier debate. There’s some concern within the scientific community about the prospect of bringing the bills to the floor under an open rule. Coming on the heels of the House’s approval of FY07 funding for ACI-related research programs, there’s a question whether further debate on the ACI-related authorizations would be useful – especially if there’s a chance that debate could be acrimonious…

    In any case, there’s a chance both bills could come to the floor at any time. Last week, it appeared they’d be headed to the floor as soon as Congress returned from its July 4th recess, but that may have changed. We’ll have the details as soon as we know for sure.

    On the Senate side, the PACE-Energy Act (S.2197) is largely modeled on the energy-related recommendations of the National Research Council’s Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, encouraging basic research programs at the Department of Energy. Under the bill, schools that specialize in science and mathematics could receive National Laboratory scientific and engineering staff as assistant instructors where laboratory equipment is used in the lesson. The bill would also establish an experiment-based internship program, as well as satellite summer programs for the national labs at nearby schools and a worker recognition program at the labs (called the Distinguished Scientist Program). There is also renewed focus on nuclear science education with expansion grants (up to $500 thousand a year for 5 years), competitiveness grants (up to $250 thousand a year for 5 years) and scholarships (up to 150 awards at $40 thousand a year for 4 years) for students in that area. The bill also focuses on the applied energy advanced research projects, with the establishment of an Advanced Research Projects Authority board, and would establish a Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) Graduate Fellowship Program, funded at $4.5 million in 2007 for 100 fellowships, growing to $54 million for 1,000 fellowships for 2013.

    Status Update: This bill has been approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and will likely hit the Senate floor in the near future.

    We’ve covered the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 (S. 2802) in a previous post. The bill was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee back on May 18, 2006 but it has not yet been placed on the Senate calendar.

    Given the completely disparate approaches to authorizing innovation and competitiveness-related programs in the two chambers, it’s not clear how Congress will come to agreement on a final package (should any of these actually receive the approval of their respective chambers). Having an authorization package for the ACI-related programs would be a good symbolic development for the community. But, what’s perhaps more important is seeing that the ACI-related programs actually get funded in appropriations – and, as we’ve reported recently, the situation there is “so far, so good.”

    As always, keep watch here for the latest details….

    Posted by EricaCamese at 10:37 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Policy

    June 29, 2006

    With Passage of SSJC Appropriations, House Votes to Fully Fund ACI

    The House today approved increasing funding for two key science agencies called out for increases in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative last February. The House passed the FY 2007 Science, State, Justice, Commerce Appropriation bill by a large margin (393-23), approving an increase of nearly 8 percent to the budget of the National Science Foundation and 14 percent to core research programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With the passage of the SSJC, along with the passage on May 24, 2006, of the FY 2007 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, the House has now approved all of the funding the President requested for the three key agencies targeted by the ACI: NSF, NIST and the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

    As we noted in our previous coverage of the SSJC, there was some concern expressed by both Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the sponsor of the bill, and those of us in the science advocacy community that the increases for NSF and NIST called for in the bill might be at risk on the House floor. The fear was that Members of Congress who are fans of programs that received cuts in the bill (as many did) would seek to address those cuts in amendments. Because of the House rules, any amendment seeking to increase funding for one program in the bill must also seek to offset that increase by cutting program funding elsewhere in the bill. Given that the ACI agencies received very healthy increases in an otherwise austere bill, there was a fear that the ACI increases would be juicy targets for Members not as concerned about US innovation and competitiveness. However, that fear appears to have been unfounded, as the funding levels approved by the committee last week emerged unscathed in the floor debate yesterday and today.

    As we noted previously, though, those increase remain at risk in the Senate, as appropriators there struggle with how to mitigate significant cuts to NOAA in both the House bill and the President's budget request. We'll have more on the Senate appropriations effort as the details emerge.

    However, it's hard to understate the significance of the House action today. The House acted to reverse a long-standing lack of support for research in the fundamental physical sciences, mathematics, computing and engineering. In doing so, they have sent a very clear message that this research forms the core of our economic and scientific future and is worthy of federal support. Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) put it well in his remarks on the House floor:

    These agencies, which are not exactly on the tip of everyone's tongue, are keystones of our nation's economic future. Our nation will remain strong and prosperous only if we remain innovative. And we will only remain innovative if we have the most robust research and education enterprise in the world. And it is these agencies that help enable the U.S. to lead the world in science, math and engineering education and in research.
    So, the community owes big thanks to Rep. Wolf, Ranking Member Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Rep. Boehlert, and Science Committee Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN), as well as to the other 389 Members of Congress who voted in support of securing America's innovative future.

    June 20, 2006

    CRA Signs Letters to Leadership

    CRA has signed onto two letters to the Congressional leadership urging floor time for innovation legislation.

    The first letter to Senator Frist asks for prompt floor time to debate S. 2802, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act and S. 2197, the Protecting America's Competitive Edge through Energy Act. Here is the text of the letter:

    The following leading science, technology, educational, business and trade associations are writing to urge you to consider S. 2802 the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 and S. 2197 Protecting America's Competitive Edge Through Energy Act of 2006 or (PACE-Energy Act) for floor consideration as soon as possible. Both pieces of legislation respond to recommendations contained in the Council on Competitiveness’ Innovate America Report and the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report.

    In a world where many nations compete on the basis of cost and quality, innovation is the key arbiter of competitiveness. Other countries are increasing investments in basic research and better-educating their science and engineering workforce. We must respond by strengthening our capability to innovate in an increasingly challenging, knowledge-based, global economy. America’s strategic role in world affairs is intertwined with the global economic marketplace. We must act now to ensure our leadership role in economic and strategic affairs for generations to come.

    America has many resources to accomplish this task—not the least of which is our ability to recognize when change is required and action is necessary. We urge you to move expeditiously to bring both of these bills before the full Senate. Thank you for your leadership and consideration.

    The second letter to Speaker Hastert and Representative Boehner requests floor time for H.R. 5356 and H.R. 5358, two bills that would authorize STEM scholarships, teacher training, and early-career research funding at NSF and DoE's Office of Science. The text of the letter is:

    As leaders in the science, technology, education, and business communities, we are writing to urge you to schedule floor time to consider important measures approved recently by the House Science Committee—H.R. 5356 and H.R. 5358. These bills would authorize Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics or STEM scholarships, teacher training and early-career research at the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    In a world where many nations compete on the basis of cost and quality, innovation is the key arbiter of competitiveness. Other countries are increasing investments in basic research and better-educating their science and engineering workforce. We must respond by strengthening our capability to innovate in an increasingly challenging, knowledge-based, global economy. America’s strategic role in world affairs is intertwined with the global economic marketplace. We must act now to ensure our leadership role in economic and strategic affairs for generations to come.

    America has many resources to accomplish this task—not the least of which is our ability to recognize when change is required and action is necessary. We urge you to move expeditiously to bring both of these bills before the full Senate. Thank you for your leadership and consideration.

    With the shortened legislative calendar, if the bills don't get floor time soon then they probably won't be debated this year.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 11:17 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Funding | Policy

    June 15, 2006

    Computing Leaders Praise House Appropriatiors for Innovation Funding

    Reacting to yesterday's good news, CRA and ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee issued a joint statement yesterday thanking Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and his colleagues for their efforts. Here's the full text:

    June 15, 2006


    Washington, DC -- Leaders of the Computing Research Association (CRA) and ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM) today commended Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and his colleagues on a House Appropriations Subcommittee for fully supporting the President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) in legislation passed by the subcommittee today.

    The bill, approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Science, State, Justice and Commerce, would provide an 8 percent increase in research funding at the National Science Foundation - an increase of $439 million over last year's level - and an additional $104 million increase to the core laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Both increases are key parts of the ACI proposed by the President in his State of the Union address last January.

    "Chairman Wolf and his committee have created a historic opportunity to secure the Nation's leadership in research in information technology and other physical sciences," said Daniel A. Reed, Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute at the University of North Carolina and Chair of the Computing Research Association. "By acting to fulfill the promise of ACI, the subcommittee has made a down payment on America's future competitiveness."

    "We applaud this decisive action and are pleased that the legislation responds to our advice about making a serious statement about fostering innovation in America," said Eugene Spafford, Director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance at Purdue University and Chair of the Association for Computing Machinery's U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM). "The computing research field is a crucial example of how federal investment in fundamental research drives economic growth. These increases would reverse a lengthy trend of flat or declining budgets in computing research that threaten to put future innovation at risk."

    "The computing research community thanks Chairman Wolf, Ranking Member Allan Mollohan (D-WV), and the other members of the subcommittee for their extraordinary leadership in support of federal investment in fundamental research," Reed said.

    About CRA
    The Computing Research Association is an association of more than 200 North American academic departments of computer science, computer engineering and related fields; laboratories and centers in industry, government and academia engaging in basic computing research; and affiliated professional societies. CRA's mission is to strengthen research and advanced education in the computing fields, expand opportunities for women and minorities, and improve public and policymaker understanding of the importance of computing and computing research in our society. web:

    About ACM
    ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is an educational and scientific society uniting the world's computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

    The ACM U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM) serves as the focal point for ACM's interaction with U.S. government organizations, the computing community, and the U.S. public in all matters of U.S. public policy related to information technology. Supported by ACM's Washington, D.C., Office of Public Policy, USACM responds to requests for information and technical expertise from U.S. government agencies and departments, seeks to influence relevant U.S. government policies on behalf of the computing community and the public, and provides information to ACM on relevant U.S. government activities.

    # # #

    So, while this development is great news for those with an interest in seeing the federal investment in the physical sciences, mathematics, computer science and engineering increase, it's by no means a done deal. As I pointed out in the last post, there are a number of significant hurdles ahead. One potentially troublesome aspect is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did not fare well at all in the House SSJC appropriation. NOAA, which was already facing a cut in the President's requested budget for FY 2007 would receive even less than the President's request in this bill (actually, nearly $240 million less!). Given NOAA's role in hurricane warning and prediction, it's probably not a stretch to imagine a number of Gulf Coast representatives inclined to protect NOAA at the expense of a big increase to NSF or NIST, just as an example of what may ensue when this bill gets to the floor and the amendments start flying.

    The bill is expected to go to the full committee next week, which means it will likely hit the floor the following week. As we get closer, watch this space to learn what you can do to make sure the gains for science are preserved.

    June 14, 2006

    NSF and NIST Appropriations Numbers Released

    The first numbers from the House Science, State, Justice, Commerce appropriations subcommittee are out and it appears Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) made good on his promise to "take care of" the ACI-targeted agencies within "his" bill. From the committee's press release, just sent out:

    National Science Foundation receives $6 billion, the full amount requested as part of the American Competitive Initiative and an increase of $439 million above FY06. Includes $4.6 billion for research, $334.5 million above FY06; and $832.4 million for science education, $16.2 million above the request.

    $627 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including $104 million to fully fund the American Competitiveness Initiative, and $92 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program.

    The challenge, of course, will be ensuring that these levels survive the floor debate, but we're way ahead of where we were at this time last year. More details as they come available....

    May 19, 2006

    Senate Commerce Committee Approves Key Innovation Authorization; Commits to a Hearing on Computing

    The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill yesterday that would increase the authorization for two key science agencies, create a new program of "Innovation Acceleration Grants" at federal agencies, create a council to oversee basic research efforts at NASA, and direct the National Academies to study "forms of risk that create barriers to innovation."

    The committee approved the bill -- the "American Innovation and Competitiveness Act" (S. 2802), introduced by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) -- by a vote of 21-0 after a compromise was reached on a controversial amendment introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). The amendment originally proposed by Hutchison would have directed NSF to place priority on funding efforts in "the physical and natural sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics" that would help meet "critical national needs in innovation and competitiveness." The proposed amendment was seen as an attack on the social sciences by many in the science community and some of the members of the committee. Hutchison has not been a particular fan of social science research at NSF in recent years. Inside Higher Ed reports that in a hearing earlier this year, Hutchison called social science research a "burden" on NSF that is distracting from the goal of technological competitiveness.

    Hutchison reiterated her feeling that Congress should “focus on science and technology” because “we are responding to a crisis in our country.” Hutchison added that she is “not against social sciences being part of the NSF budget,” but that “I want to make sure we focus on the mission we are after.” Hutchison appeared to be using a broad definition of social science when she noted that biology, geology, economics, and archaeology are worthy pursuits, but can often stray from the innovation and competitiveness path.

    She again cited specific NSF funded social science studies that she thinks should not be funded by the foundation. “I object to the study of … the impact of global changes on 300 women workers in Bangladesh,” she said. “I want good social science research,” she adding, noting endeavors like the development of digital technology for teaching children.

    Amidst pressure from other members of the committee, including Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) who proposed language that would strip the Hutchison language, and members of the science community (who objected not only to the attack on a particular discipline, but to the idea of congressional micromanagement of NSF), Hutchison modified her amendment. Instead of prioritizing research in the physical and natural sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (a broad collection of disciplines which Hutchison intended to include computer science as well), the modified amendment directs NSF to "include consideration of the degree to which awards and research activities may assist in meeting critical national needs in innovation and competitiveness." The amendment also contains the limitation:
    Nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict or bias the grant selection process against funding other areas of research deemed by the Foundation to be consistent with its mandate, nor to change the core mission of the Foundation.

    Other provisions in the bill include language that would direct NSF to provide grants to community colleges to establish apprenticeship programs for women pursuing technical training, and to create a mentoring program for women in science, and technology, engineering and math (included in the bill as an amendment by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)); and another to establish a "President's Council on Innovation and Competitiveness" to "develop a comprehensive agenda to promote innovation in the public and private sectors."

    One amendment proposed but not included in the bill would have inserted the text of H.R. 28, the "High Performance Computing Revitalization Act," that passed the House in April of last year. We've covered H.R. 28 previously in this space, and joined with USACM in endorsing the measure. However, Cantwell's amendment faced some resistance from Ensign for reasons that aren't completely clear, but appear to be technical in nature. Apparently a provision in H.R. 28 that would call on PITAC (which still existed as a separate committee at the time of the bill's passage in the House) to review the state of the federal IT R&D portfolio every two years was problematic -- perhaps because the committee has now been folded into PCAST. In any case, as a compromise, Ensign committed to holding a hearing in the "near future" on H.R. 28 -- which has languished in the Senate for more than a year without action -- and the importance of high-performance computing to innovation. In return, Cantwell withdrew her amendment.

    This is actually a positive development for the computing community, I think. H.R. 28, while a good bill, could use some tweaking -- including addressing the issue with PITAC -- and the discipline could surely use the additional exposure to be gained from a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on our issues. CRA will of course do what we can to help the committee prepare for the hearing and we'll have more details as they come available.

    In the meantime, here's some additional coverage of the markup yesterday:

  • Committee press release
  • Coverage from Inside Higher Ed

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 09:01 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative | Funding | Policy
  • May 11, 2006

    First Appropriations Numbers for ACI

    The first appropriations numbers for elements of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative are starting to percolate out, and they're good. The House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee marked up their FY07 E&W Approps bill today, which contains funding for Department of Energy's Office of Science. The appropriators have included the full funding requested by the President for ACI at the Office of Science -- a 14 percent increase for the office over the FY 2006 level. The appropriators also included about $30 million within the office in "Congressionally directed funding," but that is over and above the ACI amount. So very good news there.

    Word is also that Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the Science, State, Justice, Commerce appropriations subcommittee (which includes ACI agencies NSF and NIST), has said that he's "taken care of ACI" in his bill as well. The SSJC bill won't be marked up until June, but full funding of ACI would mean a 7.8 percent increase to NSF and a 24 percent increase to NIST's core research programs -- though the NIST number is a little trickier because of likely earmarking.

    Wolf anticipates there will be some effort once the bill reaches the House floor to divert some of the ACI funding to other areas of the bill that received cuts (as happens every year with science funding) and so he's looking to the science community to help with the fight. CRA will participate in that effort -- we'll have details soon how you can help, too.

    No word yet on the Senate number -- though for NSF, it's not expected to be quite as good. The Senate appropriators are apparently more inclined to "take care" of NASA and NOAA in their bill, as those agencies didn't fare quite as well in the President's budget.

    Of course, the fact that the House seems much more on board with actually providing funding for ACI is ironic given how non-committal (or downright hostile) the leadership seemed to be over the initiative in recent months. But that's Washington....

    Anyway, I'll have more updates as the numbers become a little clearer. In the meantime, here's a bit of the press release issued by the Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee today.

    The bill provides $24.373 billion for the Department of Energy, $327 million above the FY2006 level and $299 million above the request.
  • The bill fully funds the American Competitiveness Initiative which would strengthen basic research by increasing funding for the DOE Office of Science, for a total of $4.132 billion.  In addition, the bill supports the Advanced Energy Initiative by increasing funding for a variety of clean energy technologies, including biomass, hydrogen, solar, wind, and clean coal.
  • The bill provides $150 million for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), the administration’s initiative on recycling spent nuclear fuel, $96 million below the request but at the level authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
  • Energy Supply and Conservation programs are funded at $2.0 billion, $102 million above FY06. The bill restores reductions in other essential energy programs, such as support for university nuclear energy education (funded at $27 million) and weatherization assistance (restoring $78 million cut for a total of $242.5 million).
  • Fossil Energy research and development programs are funded at $558 million, an increase of $88.5 over the request, to include $54 million for FutureGen, and $36.4 million for the Clean Coal Power Initiative.
  • The Bill funds the Yucca Mountain repository at $544.5 million.  This includes $156.4 million for Nuclear Waste Disposal and $388 million for Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal.  In addition, the Committee provides another $30 million for interim storage of spent fuel, subject to authorization.
  • The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which includes the nuclear weapons program, defense nuclear nonproliferation, naval reactors and the Office of the Administrator, is funded at $9.2 billion, an increase of $95 million over last year and $116 million below the President’s request.  Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation activities are funded at $1.6 billion, $22 million below FY06 and $133 million below the request.  The bill provides $105 million for container screening at foreign ports, $65 million above the request.  Weapons activities are funded at $6.4 billion, $42 million above FY06 and $4 million above the request.  Within the Weapons Activities account, the bill targets $140 million for weapons complex reform and consolidation activities.
  • Defense Environmental Cleanup programs are funded at $5.55 billion, an increase of $161.5 million over the request.  The Chairman’s mark provides $600 million for the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.   Non-defense Environmental Cleanup activities are funded at $309.9 million, a decrease of $0.4 million below the request. 
  • The Power Marketing Administrations are funded at $252 million, $18 million below last year and the same as the request. 
  • The Denali Commission total funding is $7.5 million.  Appalachian Regional Commission is reduced by $30 million, total funding is $35.5 million    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is funded at $808.4 million, an increase of $40 million to provide for the anticipated growth in reactor license applications.
  • The bill terminates the following programs:
    • State energy program grants:  $49.5 million
    • Geothermal R&D technology:  $23 million
    • Natural gas R&D technologies:  $20 million
    • Construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Plant and the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility at the Savannah Site:  $368 million
  • The bill reduces total earmarks by $200 million, or 16 percent, compared to last year’s House bill.
  • May 10, 2006

    Sen. Sununu on Competitiveness and R&D

    Sen. John Sununu (R-NH), known as one of the biggest budget hawks on the Hill (in fact, he's the highest ranked "taxpayers' friend" in the Senate, according to the National Taxpayers Union) has his take on the current push for competitiveness legislation in today's Washington Times. While it's not surprising that he sees lots of "waste" when he looks at the competitiveness bills currently floating around the Senate, it's encouraging that the essence of his Op-Ed is that the federal government's real role in advancing competitiveness is in supporting fundamental research. Here's a liberally-quoted bit from the piece (no pun intended):

    As this debate moves forward, any legislation designed to promote American competitiveness and innovation should adhere to the following rules to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are not wasted or misused:

  • Focus on the basics. Federal funding for research and development should be applied toward basic science and technology, (such as chemistry, physics, material science and computational mathematics) rather than applied research, technology transfer or commercialization efforts. The private sector — not the federal government — has the obligation to advance the findings of basic research into marketable products and technologies. Equally troubling, legislators await the movement of a competitiveness bill in hopes they may attach pet research projects or fund a favored industry. Politicizing the process only undermines the integrity of peer review and dilutes the effectiveness of these resources.
  • Don't over-promise. To date, Senate competitiveness bills are littered with increased authorization levels for various purposes. Billions of dollars would be needed to actually fund programs at such inflated levels. Given this scenario, reasonable authorization levels must be utilized to ensure that funding can actually be secured through the appropriations process. It would not be beneficial to repeat an example from 2002, when Congress reauthorized the NSF with the goal of doubling its annual funding. Ultimately, NSF appropriations never approached such levels.
  • Limit new programs. Like so many other sound-bite driven "debates" in Congress, competitiveness proposals often boil down to the usual simplistic solution: Create more government programs. How many times do we have to go down this same costly road? And when was the last time we dealt effectively with a complex problem by creating new federal programs? One Senate bill would create more than 20 new programs without eliminating a single one. Dozens already exist, including the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and other questionable expenditures of funds. Congress should not create new programs without a thorough review of the value and efficacy of existing programs. Otherwise, we are merely diverting funding to new programs and layers of bureaucracy when such money could be used on basic research.
  • Make hard decisions. Once realistic authorization levels are established, Congress needs to make the necessary adjustments to ensure funding increases actually occur. Spending billions on a competitiveness agenda through deficit spending restricts future economic growth, and stunts future innovation and competitiveness. If we are to increase funding for a competitiveness agenda, legislation needs to include necessary rescissions and program repeals to remain budget neutral.
  • Don't play favorites. Given the popularity of a competitiveness initiative, it is disappointing that agencies integrally involved in basic research are being ignored. For instance, NASA's basic science mission, referred to by many as its crown jewel, results in significant scientific findings. Ironically, the administration recently proposed that planned spending for these accounts be cut by more than $3 billion over the next few years, a decision NASA Administrator Michael Griffin admitted was made solely for budgetary reasons. How is this internally consistent for the administration?

    If done for the right reasons, a successful plan to invest new resources in scientific research can have a positive impact. Without discipline and focus, however, Congress is doomed to repeat the same mistakes, fund more failed programs and expand federal bureaucracy.

    America's technology-driven economy grows despite, not because of, government intervention. That is a lesson we all need to learn before trying to "fix" what ails us.

  • While we could quibble with a lot of that -- the difference between "basic" and "applied" research is often not so cut and dried as he implies, authorizing NSF's doubling sent an important signal, etc -- it's hard to imagine getting a more favorable endorsement from a fiscal conservative of the portions of the ACI we care most about. It's certainly a more thoughtful response to the President's plan than a recent conservative think tank take, which ignored the R&D portion of the ACI completely....

    Anyway, even if you disagree with the perspective, Sununu's OpEd is worth reading.

    April 24, 2006

    Budget Update: Really Wonky, But Some Good News at the End

    The Congressional Budget Resolution -- the first real step in the annual appropriations process -- has not gotten off to the smoothest of starts. The budget resolution is Congress' response to the President's budget request and, if passed, would set the total level of discretionary spending the appropriators would have to hand out over the course of passing their annual appropriations bills. Beyond that top-level number, the rest of the resolution isn't incredibly significant. The budget resolution is divided into a number of "budget functions" that describe general areas of federal discretionary spending. "Function 250," for example, is the "General Science, Space and Technology" account, from which NASA, NSF, DOE Office of Science and DHS S&T would ostensibly receive their money. In truth, however, the budget functions described in the Congressional budget resolution only loosely correlate to the final agency appropriations levels.

    [Here's the wonky digression....] If the House and Senate agree on a budget resolution, that top-level discretionary number becomes binding. It's what's called the 302(a) allocation, and it would represent the total amount of discretionary funding the government has available to spend this year. From that number, the House and Senate leadership and the respective Appropriations committees have to decide how that money gets parceled out to the appropriations subcommittees, each responsible for a single appropriations bill this year. Confusingly, the subcommittee jurisdictions don't line up neatly with the budget functions laid out in the resolution, however. Three different subcommittees, for example, are responsible for agencies that receive funding from the Function 250 account mentioned above: the Science, State, Justice, Commerce (or, more confusingly, just the Commerce, Science, Justice committee in the Senate) subcommittee; the Energy and Water subcommittee; and the Homeland Security subcommittee. Since the budget resolution doesn't specify funding levels for particular agencies, the appropriators and leadership sort of, well, wing it when it comes to parceling out the 302(b)s. Ok, it's not quite winging it, but they do only use the budget resolution to "advise" the process, not direct it explicitly.

    So, why does this all matter then? And what's going on with the budget resolution this year?

    The budget resolution is a prime indicator of the political climate for various funding issues. It's the first clear opportunity we get to assess the mood of the two parties -- and maybe more importantly, the various factions within the parties -- towards funding the programs we care most about. This year's budget resolution so far tells us that funding for science has strong support in the Senate, strong support from the House Democrats, and not much obvious support from the House GOP leadership. This isn't terribly surprising given recent events, but it's also not terribly encouraging as we move forward with the appropriations process.

    Here's where we stand:

    The Senate passed its version of the FY 07 budget resolution in mid-March. Included in the Senate resolution is enough funding for the President's American Competitiveness Initiative, plus some additional spending -- $16 billion over the President's proposed discretionary cap of $873 billion, in part to make up for cuts in Health and Education proposed in the President's budget.

    On March 29, the House Budget Committee passed a more parsimonious version of the resolution, sticking to the President's cap, but not guaranteeing budget space for the President's ACI. In the House version, the account that would include funding for the ACI-targeted agencies (NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science) along with funding for NASA -- the "Function 250" account, for which the President requested $26.3 billion -- would receive $300 million less than the President's request. (In contrast, the Senate included $100 million more than the President's request for Function 250 in their budget resolution.)

    The House leadership was hoping to vote on their resolution two weeks ago, before the Congressional "Spring/Easter Break." However, that process faltered when two factions of the GOP -- the moderates and the appropriators -- rebelled and threatened to vote against the measure. The moderates don't believe the measure provides enough discretionary spending for their priorities (which, for some, include fully-funding the ACI), the appropriators are concerned about language that would force them to get approval from the budget committee before considering any "emergency supplemental" spending bills, which have proven to be attractive vehicles for pork. So the leadership pulled the resolution without allowing a vote and decided to take advantage of the two-week spring Congressional recess to try to make some deals. The leadership plans to continue working this week to strike a deal with enough GOP members to put the resolution to a vote again next week.

    Failing to get a deal done could have serious consequences. In the House, it's actually not too big a problem. In the absence of a deal, the House leadership can "deem" a budget with an $873 billion discretionary cap. It opens them up to charges of being a "do-nothing" Congress from the Democrats and isn't a great showing by Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) in his first budget negotiation, but for all practical purposes, the House leadership would probably be fine with the $873 billion figure.

    The Senate doesn't have the ability to "deem" a final number, however, so failing to reach an agreement would mean that the Senate would be forced to use the FY 07 budget number contained in the FY 06 Budget Resolution passed last year -- which would set the discretionary number at $866 billion, $7 billion below the President's request and $23 billion below the number the Senate passed last month. Finding $23 billion to cut in the President's budget won't be easy, and unfortunately, one juicy target would be the increases proposed as part of the ACI.

    So, the science community is hoping that a deal can be struck to get the House and Senate numbers a little closer together. The computing community is part of the effort to urge the House leadership to include funding for ACI in the budget resolution, citing the ACI's importance to computing research and computing research's significant contribution to current and future American competitiveness. The leadership and supporters of the computing research community have taken advantage of this opportunity to put the case to the House Leadership, at a time when they can take a relatively easy step to address it (all told, the increase for R&D in the ACI is less than $1 billion). Here's the letter (pdf) that resulted (and was delivered on Friday):


    April 21, 2006

    The Honorable Dennis Hastert
    U.S. House of Representatives
    Washington, D.C. 20515

    Dear Speaker Hastert,

    As leaders and supporters of the computing research community, we write to express our concern that the proposed House Budget Resolution does not assume full funding for President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative. We respectfully request that Congress embrace this initiative by fully funding the President’s request in the budget resolution.

    Numerous high-profile reports have pointed out the significant challenges that America faces from fierce and growing global competition. The President’s plan recognizes the critical linkage between the federal investment in fundamental research and the rise in innovation that will be required to respond to these challenges. The President’s call for increasing investment in basic research in the physical sciences represents a historic opportunity to secure the Nation’s leadership in research in information technology and other physical sciences and help ensure America’s future competitiveness.

    The computing research field is a very concrete example of how federal investments in fundamental research drive economic growth. The field has a long history of creating revolutionary technologies that have enabled entirely new industries and driven productivity growth so critical to U.S. leadership in the new economy. A 2002 National Academies report found that federal support for computing research helped create 19 multibillion-dollar industries and made America the global leader in information technology. Further, several noted economists, including Alan Greenspan have cited the key role that information technology continues to play in driving U.S. productivity. Flat or declining agency budgets supporting computing research have created a significant concern within our community that we will cede these gains and our leadership by putting future innovation at risk.

    The President’s American Competitiveness Initiative provides more funding for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the core labs program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Each agency plays an important role in funding computing research. While the House Budget Resolution does increase funding for sciences broadly, it is not clear that the increase will be enough to fund the President’s initiative. We specifically ask that the budget resolution allocate enough funding to ensure the President’s proposal can be met during the appropriations process.

    Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to working with you as the Budget Resolution and appropriations for these agencies move through Congress.


    The American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI)
    The Association for Computing Machinery, U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM)
    Cisco Systems, Inc.
    The Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC)
    The Computing Research Association (CRA)
    The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA)
    Intel Corporation
    Microsoft Corporation
    The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)

    Thanks especially to Cisco, Intel and Microsoft who put some of their political capital on the line to sign on to this important message. Their presence is very good news for our efforts and lends considerable weight to this letter.

    Also good news is the fact that the President continues to tour the country making the case for the ACI. Last week the President stumped on the issue at a high school in Maryland, at Tuskegee Institute, and at Cisco in Silicon Valley. Tom Abate of the San Francisco Chronicle has coverage of the President's visit to Cisco. The visit spawned this very supportive editorial in the San Jose Mercury News. Here's a snippet:

    As the president himself pointed out at Tuskegee University on Wednesday, it was through federally funded research that ``the Internet came to be.'' Other fruits of government-funded research include search technologies that spawned companies like Google, microprocessors breakthroughs that turned Apple, Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics into powerhouses, and countless technological advances that delivered enormous benefits to the economy. Future research in new energy technologies, for example, could help reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and turn the nation into a world leader in clean energy.

    And without the investment, America's eroding ability to compete globally is certain to deteriorate further. Nations such as China and India, Russia, Ireland and countless others are emerging as economic powers in part because they are willing to invest in themselves, in the education of their children and in the training of their workers.


    The seeds of America's prosperity over the past few decades were planted in the late 1950s, when the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union prodded President Eisenhower to call for massive investments in education, infrastructure and research. The time to secure our children's prosperity is now.

    The President's continued efforts and the support of industry (pdf) are crucially important in getting ACI enacted and the funding levels called for in the initiative appropriated. As that last pdf points out, the amounts we're talking about here are not large -- indeed, in the context of the federal budget they are quite literally a rounding error -- and yet the potential payoff is dramatic. Hopefully the leadership will figure that out as they decide on their allocations....

    March 02, 2006

    House Republicans Ignore R&D in Innovation and Competitiveness Bill

    Demonstrating how much work remains to be done with the House Republican leadership, the House Republican "High-tech Task Force" led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) today introduced its "Innovation and Competitiveness Act," which wholly ignores the central recommendation of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative, two bi-partisan bills in the Senate, the National Academies "Gathering Storm" report, and just about every high-tech industry association (pdf), by not including any commitment to increase funding for fundamental research in the physical sciences.

    Instead, Goodlatte's bill

    is a comprehensive piece of legislation to get Congress engaged in the business of promoting innovation in America by creating additional incentives for private individuals and businesses to create and rollout new products and services so that America will remain the world leader in innovation," said Goodlatte. "This legislation also recognizes that government sometimes is the problem - not the answer to the problem - so it also addresses government-imposed hurdles to innovation."
    Here's what's included:
    • Business activity tax simplification;
    • Attorney accountability changes;
    • An Innovation Scholarship Program;
    • "Promotion of R&D" by making permanent the research credit; increase in rates of alternative incremental credit; alternative simplified credit for qualified research expenses'
    • Health care choice provisions;
    • and, Health IT promotion.


    The bill was actually previewed yesterday at a press conference of the High Tech Working Group attended by a whole slew of Republican House members and the entire Republican House leadership, including Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and new majority leader John Boehner (R-OH). Among the attendees, the only one who mentioned anything about the need to increase research funding in the physical sciences was Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). Boehlert emphasized that this innovation package wouldn't be the only one moving through the House this summer and that he would make sure research funding was addressed in the innovation/competitiveness bills before his committee and in the deliberations of the appropriators this year.

    Still, this has very bad "optics," as they say. The House leadership is clearly behind an innovation plan that bears little resemblance to the one introduced by the President and endorsed by Republicans in the Senate. The House Republican leadership has now had two opportunities to be supportive of bipartisan innovation efforts molded on the recommendations of the NAS and others, and has chosen not to be supportive both times. The first was Majority Leader Boehner's biting response to a Democratic innovation event held last month, which we covered here.

    It will be interesting to see how members of the high-tech industry associations, for whom this Goodlatte plan is ostensibly for, react to this approach. They were, after all, very much supportive of the President's ACI, the Senate bills, and the Democratic Innovation Agenda (which are all very similar). They've gone above and beyond the call of duty in making increased support for research a priority in their own advocacy efforts. But they're needed again. It's time for those companies who believe in this cause to pick up the phone and tell the Republican leadership what's missing from their plan.

    February 21, 2006

    ACI: Details of the NSF, DARPA and DOE Office of Science FY07 Requests

    As promised, we've got some further detail on the individual agency budget requests for FY 2007 and what those requests might mean for computing research.

    But before diving into that, I thought I'd point out that the FY 2007 NITRD Budget Supplement produced by the NITRD National Coordinating Office is now available in a pre-print version (pdf). We'll have more details on that when we get a chance to tear through it a bit. I'll just note for now that it indicates NITRD will increase 7.7 percent in FY 07 (versus the 2.0 percent indicated in the President's budget and the 9.4 percent indicated in the OSTP documentation...see the whole sordid story here). But, the supplement is the most comprehensive look at the actual contributions of the participating agencies, so we'll consider that the "number of record."

    Anyway, the descriptions below come from my forthcoming Computing Research News article on the budget submission. Previous issues are available online.

    National Science Foundation
    NSF would continue to be the lead agency in the NITRD program in the President's plan, making the largest contribution at $904 million in FY 2007. NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate (CISE) would continue to be home of the largest share of that investment with a budget of request of $527 million, an increase of 6.1 percent over CISE's FY 2006 current plan. The CISE investment is spread relatively equally between its Computing and Communication Foundations activity ($123 million in the request, an increase of 16.5 percent over FY 2006), Computer and Network Systems ($163 million, an increase of 15.2 percent), and Information and Intelligent Systems ($119 million, an increase of 15.1 percent). The double-digit increases to these programs are made possible by both the 6.1 percent overall increase for the directorate and funding freed up as grants under the old Information Technology Research (ITR) program - which officially ended in FY 2004 - continue to expire. ITR expenditures in FY 2007 would decline by 17 percent to $122 million under the current plan.

    Also included in the CISE budget request in FY 2007 is $10 million for the agency's new Global Environment for Networking Innovations program (detailed by Peter Freeman, NSF Assistant Director for CISE, elsewhere in this issue). The GENI proposal - a plan for a $300 million computer science facility and $40 million research program -- faces an internal NSF design review on February 22, 2006. The results of that review will determine whether the project stays on track for presentation to the National Science Board in the coming year, with the aim of securing approval for consideration for inclusion in FY 2009 budget request.

    The overall NSF contribution to Cybersecurity and Information Assurance would also grow significantly under the President plan. The budget request boost NSF's Cyber Trust program $10 million to $35 million in FY 2007, bringing NSF's total contribution to information assurance research to $97 million (an increase of 26 percent).

    Proposed investments in NSF's Office of Cyber Infrastructure (to be headed by University of Michigan professor and computer scientist Daniel Atkins) account for $182 million of NSF's NITRD share in FY 2007, an increase of $55 million, or 44 percent, over FY 2006. The great bulk of that increase -- $50 million - would begin the acquisition of a new “petascale” computing system.

    The remainder of NSF's investments in NITRD programs would come from the other research directorates, which on average received about the same level of overall increase as did CISE (about 6 percent vs. FY 2006). One notable exception is the Engineering directorate, which would grow 8.0 percent in the President's request, largely due to the establishment of a new $20 million Improvised Explosive Device Detection research program. Freeman said that program should provide opportunities for computer science researchers, especially those in artificial intelligence and sensors, to compete for funding.

    Department of Energy, Office of Science
    The Department of Energy's contribution to the NITRD effort would grow to $387 million in FY 2007 in the President's plan, an increase of nearly 33 percent over FY 2006. The focus of much of the DOE SC investment will be on “leadership-class” computing efforts. The President's budget calls for $103 million in DOE SC towards the goal of deploying petascale computing systems by the year 2010. The Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program would be funded at $319 million in FY 2007, an increase of $84 million, or 36 percent, over FY 2006.

    Computing research at DARPA would grow significantly under the President's plan, gaining back ground lost in the FY 2006 Defense Appropriations process when $55 million was cut from the agency's Cognitive Computing program. DARPA's two main computing research efforts, the Information and Communications Technology account and the Cognitive Computing Systems account are both slated for substantial gains in the President's budget. ICT would grow $47 million to $243 million in FY 2007, an increase of 24 percent. Cognitive Computing Systems would grow $57 million to $220 million in FY 2007, an increase of 35 percent.

    Overall, DARPA would see its budget increase by $400 million to $3.3 billion in FY 2007, a 14 percent increase. Basic research would grow to $151 million, which is more than the FY 2006 level of $133 million, but still under the $165 million spent in FY 2005. DARPA applied research would increase to $1.5 billion (vs. $1.4 billion in FY 2006), and advanced technology development would grow to $1.6 billion (vs. $1.4 billion in FY 2006).

    February 15, 2006

    First Speedbumps for President's Competitiveness Initiative?

    ACM's Cameron Wilson has the scoop on the USACM Technology Policy Blog about some potentially troubling signs ahead for the President's new American Competitiveness Initiative. Cameron focuses on the reaction of newly-elected House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) to a Democratic "innovation" event on the Hill today. Boehner disparaged the event and, more importantly, the Democratic innovation agenda -- a fact that's troubling because, well, it's really quite similar to the President's proposal. Cameron's got all the details.

    There are, of course, other hurdles/speedbumps/large potholes in the ACI's road to enactment. There's the fact that the life sciences community is upset that NIH's budget would be held flat under the President's plan. There's also some tension with the NASA folks, which could prove tricky in the Senate as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Science and Justice, Richard Shelby (R-AL), is an avowed NASA supporter. Then there's the congressional earmarking process, the annual fight about NIST's ATP and MEP programs, and other fights over the rise in discretionary spending generally. In short, it's still quite the battle ahead. We'll try to keep you informed....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:06 AM
    Posted to American Competitiveness Initiative

    February 06, 2006

    President's Budget: NITRD Numbers for FY07

    The President's budget request for FY 2007 has just been released and we'll be dissecting it and providing our analysis as we get through it. But I wanted to post a quick snapshot of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program, the federal government's multi-agency IT research and development effort, because 1) it's the number of greatest concern to the computing research community and 2) it highlights the near-fruitlessness of trying to track the federal investment in IT R&D on a year-to-year basis.

    For FY 07, the President is requesting $3.09 billion in aggregate funding for NITRD, an increase of $930 million over the FY 06 budget request -- a huge increase. However, in that peculiar DC way, that's only a 2 percent increase over FY 06 actual. That's because the baseline budget has changed significantly since the Administration last calculated its IT R&D expenditures. The Department of Defense apparently discovered it was funding a lot more IT R&D than it previously thought -- $851 million more in FY06 than it spent in FY05 an increase of more than 400 percent.

    How can this happen? Well, each agency is responsible for determining what its own contribution to the NITRD program actually is. If the criteria that agency uses to determine whether a particular expense is IT R&D related or not changes, the department's contribution can change dramatically. Does it mean that there actually will be $851 million more available to researchers in FY06 than there was in FY05? Not likely, but I'd sure like to get my hands on the spreadsheet used to produce that number. Perhaps we'll get a better look when the NITRD coordinating office releases its annual "blue book" report for FY07.

    Anyway, the good news is the NITRD program is slated for continued growth in FY07 (despite the widely fluctuating baseline numbers). Overall, the program will increase 2 percent, higher than any of the other government-wide "crosscutting" research programs (Nanotechnology will actually see a 2 percent decline, though that's subject to some of the same odd DOD accounting changes; and the Climate Change program is flat). NSF would see a 12 percent increase in its NITRD funding, and DOE would see an increase of 23 percent.

    Update: (2/7/06 9:45pm) - I really should just trash this entry and start over, but it seems somehow more appropriate to leave the big strikethrough section for posterity.

    After consulting with Simon Szykman, who heads the National Coordinating Office for NITRD, I've got a little better information on what is actually going on with the widely fluctuating budget numbers in the NITRD cross-cut. I can't say I completely understand all the reasons, but I at least have some sense of what's going on. Apologies to Simon if I screw this explanation up. This is likely uninteresting to all but the most hard-core federal funding geeks, but to me, it's a great lesson in how tricky it is to rely on aggregate funding totals for any insight into federal policy.

    In the early '90s the decision was made -- for reasons I don't yet know -- to exclude a number of programs in DOD from being counted as part of what would become the NITRD "cross-cut." In particular, IT R&D investments at the DOD service labs -- Air Force Research Lab, Army Research Lab, Naval Research Lab -- weren't included in the "Defense" line and weren't calculated as part of the overall NITRD program.

    For the FY 07 budget, the White House Office of Management and Budget (the gatekeepers for the budget process in the executive branch) reviewed the program accounting and decided that the legacy way of reporting the NITRD cross-cut was no longer accurate. To describe the full breadth of the federal government's NITRD investments, R&D spending in the DOD service labs had to be included. So OMB produced this chart -- which ran in the original version of this post -- and included it in the Analytical Perspectives (pdf) supplement to the FY 2007 Budget Request. (Though I added the first column, "FY 05 (est)," just for comparison's sake.)

    Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program
    dollars in millions
    OMB version
    $ change
    % change
    1Estimated expenditures in the FY 06 Budget Request.

    Obviously, we'll have much more as we get a little more time to dive into the budget. Stay tuned...

    Now, as we've figured out, this spread of numbers isn't very useful for year-to-year comparisons. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy realized this, too, so they now keep a second set of numbers which uses -- roughly -- the same set of agencies and programs that had been the norm until FY 07. Here's the OSTP version:

    Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program
    dollars in millions
    OSTP Version
    FY 06
    $ change
    % change

    You'll note that when the military services are pulled from the numbers, DOD actually appears to receive an increase in the request versus FY06, which seems to indicate that the service labs don't fare particularly well in the President's budget. Szykman indicated that the DOD numbers for FY06 and FY07 in this chart also include, for the first time, funding from the DOD High Performance Computing Modernization Office. This isn't new money.

    Finally, you'll note that some of the non-DOD numbers have changed in the second chart. According to Szykman, that's likely due to further refinement as the chart worked its way through OMB to final release. Apparently the OSTP version is the "newer" version, and therefore its numbers are likely to be more accurate.

    Presumably, we'll have the final word when the NITRD NCO releases its FY07 Budget Supplement (the "Blue book," which is now -- of course -- red) sometime in the next few weeks.

    So what's the take-away from all of this? I don't really know, honestly. OSTP indicates that NITRD is up 9.4 percent in the President's request over last year, but that includes additional funding in the calculation for FY07 that isn't really new money. The OMB numbers indicate it's more like 2.0 percent, but those numbers include a whole bunch of funding that's apparently never been considered before.

    Update: (2/8/06 8:39 am) - Ok, final update to this post. After some additional clarification from Szykman, it does appear that the OSTP-indicated increase of 9.4 percent is an accurate estimate of the status of the NITRD "legacy" programs OSTP is tracking. We'll have further details in future posts about what exactly that 9.4 percent increase includes. But for now, maybe what's most important for computing researchers is the knowledge that the traditional three big supporters for fundamental computing research -- NSF, DOE and DOD/DARPA -- all would see increases in the coming year under the President's plan.

    From OSTP:

    High-end computing (HEC) continues to be a major focus of NITRD. DoE's Office os Science (DoE SC), NSF and NASA are all engaged in developing and/or operating leadership class computing systems as recommended in the 2004 Federal Plan for High-End Computing, with the goal of deploying petascale computing systems by the year 2010. The DoE SC 2007 investment of $103M in leadership class computing, coupled with NSF's investment of $50M in their Office of Cyber Infrastructure, will ensure that U.S. scientists and researchers have access to the most powerful computational resources in the world. Similarly, NASA continues to emphasize high-end computing within its NITRD portfolio through the operation of the Project Columbia supercomputer. All three agencies have pledged to make a portion of their leadership class computing systems available to other Federal users and the larger research community.

    A 9% increase in support for advanced networking research in 2007, primarily by NSF, DARPA and DoE SC, will ensure that large-scale networking technologies will keep pace with the rapid development of petascale computing systems, so that the results of petascale computations are immediately accessible for analysis.

    The 2007 Budget also includes significant increases in long-term fundamental research in cyber security and information assurance, as recommended by the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. Budget increases in cyber security and information assurance for NSF (+28%), DHS (+43%) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (+11%) will support substantial new research activities to help secure the Nation's information infrastructure, including fundamental research, and support for large-scale cyber security test beds and data sets.

    We'll have more on some of the agency-by-agency specifics as we get a chance to pour through the budget documents a little closer. As this episode points out, even a close reading of the documents isn't always enough. And to think, if it's this difficult to figure out the dollar amounts involved in this cross-agency program, imagine how difficult it is to coordinate research priorities and research activities....

    Stay tuned.

    February 02, 2006

    American Competitiveness Initiative: First Numbers Posted

    We have so much to catch up on in the wake of the President's State of the Union speech and his introduction of an American Competitiveness Initiative that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. So let me start to wade through the torrent of new material.

    First, the White House has posted the supporting documentation for ACI online. I'm still working my way through the document, but figured I should get the word out as soon as I could.

    One interesting aspect of the document is that includes the FY07 budget numbers for NSF, NIST and DOE Office of Science, so we don't need to wait until Monday to see how each of the agencies fared. In it we learn that NSF will see a 7.8 percent bump to $6.02 billion, an increase of $440 million over FY 06.

    DOE Office of Science actually does a little better, growing 14 percent to $4.10 billion in FY 07, an increase of $500 million.

    NIST "Core" (Labs + Construction...not ATP or MEP) will decline $30 million from FY 06, but in twisted Washington DC logic, that's actually an increase of 24 percent. The White House claims to have stripped $137 million in earmarks to the NIST budget from FY 06, so it's actually an increase of $100 million in NIST core R&D.

    Here's a handy chart showing not only the proposed increases for next year, but the 10 year commitment the President is proposing (chart stolen from the President's proposal).

    I'd also like to include a lengthy quote from the President's speech today at 3M in Minneapolis -- the first of his "post-SOTU road show" speeches focused on competitiveness -- that I found particularly, well, amazing. It would have been hard impossible to have imagined these words coming from the President even two months ago. (And apologies to History majors for the slight in the speech...hope it doesn't apply to English majors, too):

    I want to talk about another important issue, and I've come to 3M to highlight this issue. And the truth of the matter is, in order to stay competitive, we have got to lead the world in research and development, and got to lead the world in having people -- scientists and engineers that are capable of helping America stay on the cutting edge of technology. And 3M is a perfect place to come. (Applause.)

    There's an economic reason why we need to do this. The economic reason why we got to stay on the leading edge of technology is to make sure that people's standard of living here in America goes up -- that's what it is. And there's a direct correlation by being the most innovative country in the world and how our citizens live.

    Secondly, the second practical application to make sure we've got young scientists and engineers coming up, is that if we don't have people that have got the skill set to fill the jobs of the 21st century, because we're in a global world and a competitive world, they're going to go somewhere else. And so I want to talk about an initiative to make sure America remains competitive.

    The first element is, is that for the federal government to continue its role -- oh, by the way, when we went on the tour, so I asked, how you doing? Fine. What do you do? This. Where did you get your education? We met engineers and chemists and physicists. I didn't meet any history majors. (Laughter.) I met people who are incredibly capable, smart thinkers that are able to take their brainpower and come up with ways to make practical products that changes Americans' lives. And so -- and the federal government has a role in this, and our taxpayers have got to understand a good use of your taxpayers' money is to promote research and development -- research into the physical sciences.

    Again, I'd repeat to you that if we can remain the most competitive nation in the world, it will benefit the worker here in America. People have got to understand, when we talk about spending your taxpayers' money on research and development, there is a correlating benefit, particularly to your children. See, it takes a while for some of the investments that are being made with government dollars to come to market. I don't know if people realize this, but the Internet began as the Defense Department project to improve military communications. In other words, we were trying to figure out how to better communicate, here was research money spent, and as a result of this sound investment, the Internet came to be.

    The Internet has changed us. It's changed the whole world. It's an amazing example of what a commitment to research dollars can mean. The iPod -- I'm a bike guy and I like to plug in music on my iPod when I'm riding along to hopefully help me forget how old I am. (Laughter.) But it was built -- when it was launched, it was built on years of government-funded research and microdrive storage, or electrochemistry, or single compression -- signal compression. See, the nanotechnology research that the government is helping sponsor is going to change the way people live.

    And so what I said to the Congress was, let's be wise with taxpayers' money. Let's stay on the leading edge of technology and change, and let's reaffirm our commitment to scientific innovation. I think we ought to double the federal commitment to the most basic critical research programs in physical sciences over the next decade.

    This year alone we're proposing $6 billion go to the National Science Foundation to fund research in physics and chemistry and material science and nanotechnology. We're proposing $4 billion goes to the Energy Department's Office of Science to build the world's most powerful civilian supercomputer. We're proposing $535 million to the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology to research electronics information technologies and advanced computers.

    I wouldn't be proposing this if I didn't believe that there will be tangible benefits for the American people. We may not see them tomorrow, but your children will see them. We're staying on the leading edge of technology for a reason. If America doesn't lead, if we try to kind of forget that we're in a competitive world, generations of Americans won't be able to realize the standard of living that we've been able to realize.

    So that's just the first speech on the topic. He plans to deliver a few more. Also, I wouldn't get too hung up on the examples of research he mentions for the agencies -- it's not a comprehensive list. I'm far more interested in the overall message of the speech.

    Anyway, we sort of need to enjoy this moment while we can. As one congressional staffer put it this morning, "Today is the best it's going to get." There are some tactical issues that will make realizing the full extent of the President's plan problematic. Come Monday and the actual release of the President's budget, some constituencies will feel slighted and there will be some hurdles to clear in Congress. But that's a post for tomorrow or Monday.

    Today I'm still reveling in what has to be considered one of the bigger wins for the science community, and more importantly, for the nation, in quite some years.

    Update: (5:02 pm 2/2/06) -- The House Democratic response is great -- very positive:

    February 02, 2006

    Pelosi Statement on President’s Competitiveness Speech

    Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement this afternoon in response to President Bush’s speech on American competitiveness in Minnesota today:

    “In September, House Democrats launched the Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America Number One.  With this Innovation Agenda, House Democrats laid down a challenge to the President and to Congress to renew our commitment to the public-private partnerships that will secure America's continued leadership in innovation and unleash the next generation of discovery, invention, and growth.

    “I am glad that the President addressed this vital issue in his State of the Union Address, and in Minnesota today.  House Democrats are ready to work with the President to move our country forward and keep America competitive – nothing could be more important.

    “We must now go beyond words and speeches and make the commitment in next year’s budget to a sustained investment in technological innovation and educational excellence to ensure that our country remains competitive against formidable international competition and generates high quality jobs throughout the 21st century.  Nothing less is at stake than America’s economic leadership.”