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 months...as 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 mnorr@cra.org 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.

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. CQ.com (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 GovExec.com 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.

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 http://futureofinnovation.org/PDF/Benchmarks.pdf (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 (www.futureofinovation.org), 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."

October 02, 2006

Homeland Security Appropriations

The Homeland Security Appropriations were passed last week before Congress went home to campaign. The news is mixed with the total appropriations for R&D coming in at $838 million —more than either the House or the Senate recommended individually. The cyber security R&D program will see an increase of $3.3 million to $20 million, up from $16.7 million in FY2006. While it's nice that there's an increase to the cyber security account, the level is still well below "adequate," as PITAC pointed out last year in its report on the federal cyber security research effort Cyber Security R&D: A Crisis of Prioritization. Ed Lazowska, former Chair of PITAC, put it nicely in this interview with CIO Magazine last year:

Most egregiously, the Department of Homeland Security simply doesn't get cybersecurity. DHS has a science and technology (S&T) budget of more than a billion dollars annually. Of this, [only] $18 million is devoted to cybersecurity. For FY06, DHS's S&T budget is slated to go up by more than $200 million, but the allocation to cybersecurity will decrease to $17 million! It's also worth noting that across DHS's entire S&T budget, only about 10 percent is allocated to anything that might reasonably be called "research" rather than "deployment."
Hopefully, this is high on the agenda of the Department's new Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Telecommunications, Greg Garcia, who was appointed to the post on September 18th.

Further bad news in the R&D section is that University Programs received $50 million, which is less than the $62 million appropriated last year and below the President’s request of $51.9 million.

Congress used the appropriations bill to express its displeasure with the way Homeland Security S&T has been managed and its expectation that things must improve if S&T is to get any increased appropriations in the future. In fact, Congress expressly withheld $50 million from the R&D budget until the office presents, and Congress approves, “a report prepared by the Under Secretary of Science and Technology that describes the progress to address financial management deficiencies, improve its management controls, and implement performance measures and evaluations.” They also included language requiring a hearing within 60 days of enactment on “the University-Based Centers of Excellence Program goals for fiscal year 2007 and outcomes projected for each center for the next three years.”

As the bill has not yet been signed by the President (although it is expected to be), the Department is operating under a continuing resolution extending the FY2006 budget numbers.

Posted by MelissaNorr at 03:51 PM
Posted to FY07 Appropriations | Funding | Policy | Research | Security

September 27, 2006

Compromise Reached on FY 07 Defense Approps; Cognitive Computing Suffers Cut

Last night, the House overwhelming approved a compromise version (pdf) of the FY 2007 Defense Appropriations bill after House and Senate negotiators agreed last Friday to mitigate some of the significant cuts in the Senate version. As we've noted previously, a key area of concern for the computing research community was the large cut by the Senate to DARPA's Cognitive Computing program, particularly their $60 million cut to "Integrated Cognitive Systems" account. As we pointed out then, the cuts to the ICS account run counter to the recent concerns of Congress, PITAC, and DOD Defense Science Board, who all have raised strong concerns about the shift of DARPA resources away from fundamental research at universities, especially in information technology. The Cognitive Computing program is one area where DARPA has responded positively to those concerns.

While the community attempted to resist the cuts, the compromise version of the bill still contains a $30 million reduction from the President's requested level for Integrated Cognitive Systems for FY 2007 -- part of a $159 million reduction to DARPA's overall requested budget. While these cuts to the requested budget are not good, they are a marked improvement from the Senate numbers, which included a $433 million cut to DARPA's requested budget. Fortunately, even with the cut to its requested budget, Cognitive Computing will still see an increase over its FY 06 estimated level (about 10.6 percent).

The Senate had also approved a $14 million cut to the requested budget for the Information and Communications Technology line. That cut was mitigated to $8 million in the conference report ($3.9 million from the Responsive Computing Architectures account, $1 million from Security-Aware Systems, and $3 million from the Automated Speech and Text Exploitation in Multiple Languages account).

Overall, 6.1 (Basic) research at DOD fared pretty well (5.6 percent increase over FY 06) and 6.2 (Applied) overall did OK, too (2.2 percent increase). 6.1 "Defense-wide" (DARPA and OSD, basically) went up 14.8 percent, and 6.2 "Defense-wide" went up about 3.5 percent. 

The folks at the Coalition for National Security Research have put together a handy little chart of the various DOD R&D accounts in the bill (thanks to Jason Van Wey of MIT). You can get it here (pdf).

Senate approval of the conference bill is expected today and the President is expected to sign the bill. When signed, the bill will represent the only one of the 13 annual appropriations bills necessary to fund the operations of government that Congress will have completed before the start of the new fiscal year October 1st. Congress also hopes to complete work on the FY 07 Homeland Security Appropriations bill before it recesses at the end of the week (so that members can return to their states/districts in time for last-minute campaigning before the November elections), but it's not clear whether that will happen. We'll have further details on the Homeland Security bill conference as soon as they become available....

Posted by PeterHarsha at 12:23 PM
Posted to FY07 Appropriations

September 15, 2006

CRA Members Visit Capitol Hill

As part of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), CRA brought participants to the 2nd annual CNSF Fall Hill Visits Day this week. The overall visits brought over 80 people from many scientific disciplines to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and staff regarding NSF funding. Robert Constable from Cornell University, Mary Jane Irwin from Penn State University, Joe Kearney from the University of Iowa, Charles Nicholas from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Michael Oudshoorn from Montana State University, below with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), ably represented CRA and met with 30 Congressional offices to emphasize the importance of NSF funding to computer research and innovation. The participants shared their personal research and funding stories and many others from their universities. The message was well received on the Hill with many offices encouraging participants to follow up in the future with stories or problems involving research and funding.

Baucus and Oudshoorn1.jpg As we’ve noted before, meetings between scientists and members of Congress and their staff are an incredibly effective tool in keeping Congress interested and engaged in the needs of scientists. The examples of research done in a particular district are invaluable to a member of Congress and can be a real boon for science when it comes time for appropriations votes. It’s also important to point out that Congressional offices will not turn away constituents who ask for a meeting although it often means you will meet with a staff member instead of your Senator or Representative. Don’t discount those meetings—Congressional staffers are the eyes and ears of their bosses!

We highly encourage all members of the CRA community to get in touch with their Congressional delegation, either by visiting Washington, DC or going to their local offices. If you have any questions or concerns about setting up appointments or meeting with Congressional staff, please let us know. We’re happy to help any way that we can.

Posted by MelissaNorr at 02:28 PM
Posted to CRA | FY07 Appropriations | Funding | People | Policy | Research

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 28, 2006

Senate Appropriators Target Cognitive Computing, IT Research Again

Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved its version of the FY 2007 Defense Appropriations bill and once again, as they did last year, included a significant cut to DARPA's "Cognitive Computing" program. In addition, the SAC approved cuts to both the "Information and Communications Technology" account and even the "Computer Science Study Group" activity at DARPA.

Here are the details:

Information and Communications Technology: President requested $243 million in his budget for ICT in FY 07, an increase of $47 million (or 24 percent) over FY 06.

The House included $243 million in their version of the FY 07 Defense Approps.

The SAC approved $229 million, a cut of $13.4 million, or 5 percent, vs. the request -- an increase of $34 million over FY 06 (17 percent).

Programs that would suffer cuts are "Responsive Computing Architectures" (-$3.9 million), "Security-Aware Systems" (-$3 million) and "Automated Speech and Text Exploitation in Multiple Languages" (-$6.5 million).

Cognitive Computing Systems: The President requested $220 million for FY 07, an increase of $57 million (35 percent) over FY 06.

The House included the full $220 million in their bill.

The SAC approved $149 million, a cut of $70.8 million (32 percent) vs. the request, and a cut of $14 million over FY 06 (9 percent).

Programs targeted are "Integrated Cognitive Systems" (-$60 million), "Learning Locomotion and Navigation," (-$3.8 million) and "Improved Warfighter Information Processing" (-$7 million).

In addition, SAC cut the Computer Science Study Group at DARPA -- established this year to help expose young faculty to DOD-oriented problems in computer science -- from the requested level of $6.6 million in FY 07 to $3 million.

This is obviously bad news. While the ICT cut is really just the slowing of the rate of growth of ICT programs, the cuts to Cognitive Computing represent a real scaling back of the program -- back to FY 05 budget levels.

CRA will be working to oppose the cuts along with representatives from a number of the institutions affected. (The cut to the Integrated Cognitive Systems account alone would impact more than 20 universities and research institutions.)

The SAC bill may come before the Senate as early as Tuesday, August 1st. Senate leadership hopes to have debate on the bill wrapped up by the end of the week, before Congress sets off on its annual August recess. The next chance to contest the cut would then be during the conference for the bill, which could happen in September.

Keep a watch here for the latest details in the effort to oppose the cuts. The case we laid out last year remains true today:

Research in learning, reasoning, and cognitive systems is focused on intelligent intrepretations of signals and data, on controlling unmanned vehicles, and on amplifying human effectiveness. Its aim is to reduce U.S. casualties by providing improved command and control and tactical planning against adversaries, as well as improved training systems. Work in this area includes research responsible for the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) -- a software system currently deployed and very widely-used in Iraq to coordinate battle plans and integrate multiple intelligence reports, providing U.S. forces the capability to plan, execute and replan much faster than the enemy's decision cycle and cited by Secretary Rumsfeld as the major contributor to victory in the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It's also cricital to the research and development of autonomous, unmanned vehicles that amplify our warfighting capability while reducing the number of U.S. forces in harm's way. Cutting support so significantly for this research will hamper advancements in defense-related IT in the short- and long-term and will slow technological advancements essential to current and future military operations in Iraq and around the globe.

It also runs completely counter to recent concerns of Congress, PITAC and the DOD's Defense Science Board. All three bodies have raised strong concerns about the shift of DARPA resources away from fundamental research at universities, especially in information technology. The Cognitive Computing program is one area where DARPA has responded positively to these concerns.

Anyway, this is a bit of a dark cloud over the otherwise very positive news we've received all year long (topped by the House and Senate both approving full funding for the ACI in their approps bills), but we've got a reasonable chance of mitigating this somewhat, provided we start moving now. 

Update: (Aug 1, 2006) -- It appears now that the Senate won't be able to begin consideration of its version of the FY 2007 Defense Appropriations bill until after the August recess -- which is good news because it gives us a bit more time. However, it also means we're a bit more likely to see another omnibus appropriations bill at the end of the session, which poses its own set of challenges....

Update 2: (Aug 1, 2006, 9:30 pm) -- So, I should have known that as soon as I posted the update above, the situation would change. The Defense Appropriations bill came to the floor this afternoon and debate will continue for the remainder of the week. The plan is to finish it before the August recess begins -- which means the Senate leadership would like to have it done by Friday or the weekend. One positive is an amendment planned by Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) that would appropriate an additional $45 million for basic research accounts at DOD. Here are the details:

  • $12 million in additional funds for Army University Research Initiatives (PE 0601103A)
  • $13 million in additional funds for Navy URI (PE 0601103N)
  • $5 million in additional funds for Air Force URI (PE 0601103F)
  • $6 million in additional funds for the DARPA (PE 0601101E) for its University Research Program in Computer Science and Cybersecurity
  • $9 million in additional funds for the SMART National Defense Education Program (PE 0601120D8Z)
  • This amendment is very similar to an amendment Kennedy and Collins introduced to the Defense Authorization early this summer, which passed unanimously after gaining the co-sponsorship of 21 other senators. We'll pass along further details as we get them.

    Update 3: (August 7th) -- The Senate didn't manage to finish up debate on the Defense Approps bill before the recess, so they'll take the bill up again when they return in September. No word on the fate of the Kennedy-Collins amendment, but it appears we've got some time to buttress support for it and for heading off the cuts to Cognitive Computing and ICT....

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 05:14 PM
    Posted to FY07 Appropriations | Funding | Policy

    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....

    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 23, 2006

    Good Allocation for Science from Senate Appropriations

    The Senate Appropriations Committee released its FY07 subcommittee allocations and there was some good news for the Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee. The subcommittee can give a decent bump to NSF and NIST with the $51 billion allocated. The allocation is slightly more than the $49.633 billion the President requested and 3.2% above FY06. However there are some Senators on the committee who are intent on restoring funding to NASA and NOAA that was cut in the President's Budget Request so we may not see the increase in NSF that we want when the subcommittee puts out a bill.

    In recent blog posts, CRA discussed the House Subcommittee for Science, State, Justice, and Commerce for fully funding the ACI. However, we warned that there could be a floor fight on this legislation also because of the NASA and NOAA cuts as well as other programs that were reduced in the President's Budget Request.

    Posted by MelissaNorr at 02:22 PM
    Posted to FY07 Appropriations

    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: http://cra.org

    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.
    web: http://acm.org

    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.
    web: http://www.acm.org/usacm

    # # #

    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 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 06, 2006

    President's Budget: NSF

    NSF has released its budget as well. Rather than reproduce it, here's the NSF-produced summary table (pdf).

    Key points:

    I'll have more detail after I return from NSF's budget rollout briefing at 3 pm.

    Posted by PeterHarsha at 01:02 PM
    Posted to FY07 Appropriations

    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.”