March 31, 2009

Annual Capitol Hill Science Fair A Great Success

The Coalition for National Science Funding, of which CRA is an active member, held its annual Science Exhibition on Capitol Hill last week. It was once again a great success with a room full of hundreds of attendees and a number of Congressmen visiting exhibits. For the first time, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attended, spoke briefly on the importance of funding basic science research, and received many thanks from the community there for her efforts to see science funded as part of the stimulus bill and the FY 09 Appropriations. Other members of Congress who attended included Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) pictured here. Overall, the event was very successful in spreading the message that federally funded science research makes important contributions and discoveries in all scientific fields.



Also pictured are Dr. Gregory Abowd of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Dr. Gillian Hayes of the University of California, Irvine who represented CRA with an exhibit on “Behavior Imaging and Autism” that drew a great deal of interest from attendees and the other participants. The exhibit showcased research on using sensors in toys and video imaging to monitor the developmental progress of children with autism and other developmental disorders.

The event, a science fair for Congress and staff, had 35 booths manned by researchers representing universities and scientific societies featuring some of the important research funded by the National Science Foundation.

Posted by MelissaNorr at 03:25 PM
Posted to CRA | Events | FY09 Appropriations | Funding | Policy

March 05, 2009

FY 09 Omnibus Details: Further Increases for Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 10, 2009

Action Alert!: Stimulus Headed to Conference!



Now that the Senate has narrowly passed its version of the economic stimulus, the bill will head to conference with the House to work out some of the significant differences between the two versions -- including significant differences in how the science investments in the bill are handled. The conference represents our last chance to influence the level of science funding contained in the stimulus. We are asking for your help urging your representatives in Congress to support the levels of funding for science contained in the House version of the bill. Please call or fax your representatives today to express your support for research and research infrastructure funding in the bill.


Both the Senate and the House have now passed their own versions of the "American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act" (H.R. 1), but each version contains substantially different levels of funding for key science agencies.The version passed by the House contains significantly more funding for research and research infrastructure than the Senate-passed version. It provides "catch-up" funding for NSF, DOE Office of Science, NIH, and NIST that would put those agencies back on a trajectory that would double their budgets over the next 7 years -- a budget trajectory that was authorized by the 2007 "America COMPETES Act" but never funded. The House version of this stimulus bill includes:

  • $2 billion in science funding at DOE's Office of Science, including $100 million for Advanced Scientific Computing Research;
  • $3 billion for NSF, of which $2.0 billion would go into core research programs, $300 million to the Major Research Instrumentation program and an additional $200 million to academic research facilities modernization;
  • $100 million for NIST's core research programs, $300 million for facilities, and another $70 million for the Technology Innovation Program and $30 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership;
  • $1.5 billion to NIH for grants to improve university research facilities and another $1.5 billion in new research funding.
In contrast, the Senate version provides no funding for DOE's Office of Science and just $330 million for DOE Labs (and no additional funding for Advanced Scientific Computing Research); $1.0 billion less than the House for NSF core research, $250 million less for Major Research Equipment and Construction, and $50 million less for Education and Human Resources; and $25 million less for NIST.


The most important thing you can do now is call or fax your representatives in the House and Senate and urge them to support the House funding levels for science in the conference. A sample letter you can use can be found here (rtf).

Please complete it using your own information and FAX it to your Representative and Senators offices as soon as possible. Please also fax a copy of your letter to CRA'S Melissa Norr at 202.667.1066 -- having copies of letters from our community is incredibly helpful in our advocacy activities on the Hill.

To identify your Representative and Senators visit Write Your Rep and the Senate Directory.

If you have any trouble figuring out your Members of Congress or their contact information, please don't hesitate to contact Melissa ( for help.


Now is not the time for contacting the agencies involved with proposals for spending these potential increases. If and when these increases are realized, the agencies will put in place processes to accept proposals for funding -- and CRA will keep you informed. But, until then, the agencies are sharply limited in the advice and help they can provide. Please instead focus your efforts on ensuring that your representatives in Congress have heard from you on the importance of supporting research and research infrastructure!

February 06, 2009

Microsoft's Ballmer Tells House Dems We Need STEM Ed, Research Investments

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke today at the House Democratic Caucus Retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia, and urged the Members present to support investments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and increase federal support for basic research. The STEM ed investments are really the government's investments in human capital, he said, which are necessary because in "today's knowledge-driven world, innovation will depend on people who are actually technologically sophisticated, have strong critical thinking skills, and have expertise in math and science and engineering."

He also called for greater investment in the nation's science and technology infrastructure -- in the basic research that powers innovation.

I came in, flew in red eye, was a little groggy this morning when I got here.  I sat down with the speaker at 8:00 AM, and she woke me right up.  She said there are four things I want you to make sure you understand are a priority: science, science, science, and science.  I was awake by the end of the fourth science for sure, and I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly.

Science and technology is the backbone for productivity and innovation; has been, not always information technology, but science and technology has been a driver of economic success.  Government investment in science and engineering as a percentage of GDP is half, in this country, what it was in 1970, and it would be growing rapidly, particularly in countries in Asia, off a small base albeit, but in places like India and China and Korea the trend is the other direction.

We need to pursue breakthroughs over the coming years in green technology, alternative energy, bioengineering, parallel computing, quantum computing.  Without greater government investment in the basic research, there is a danger that important advances will happen in other countries.  This is truly I think not only an issue of competitiveness, but also in a sense of national security.  Companies like ours and others can do our fair share in terms of funding of basic research, but government needs to take the lead.

The whole speech is worth reading. It's great. I only wish that it could have been heard by members of the Senate who are still debating whether science funding -- including a $1.4 billion increase for NSF -- ought to be included in the Senate version of the stimulus package.

Basic research is the most powerful engine for innovation in the U.S. economy. Allowing it fall out of a stimulus bill designed to jumpstart our short and long-term economic recovery is just shortsightedness of the worst kind.

Update: (2/7/09) -- Maybe the Senate was listening.

February 02, 2009

Action Alert!: Urge Your Representatives to Support Science in the Stimulus!

Today we're asking members of our Computing Research Advocacy Network (CRAN) -- and anyone else with an interest in seeing fundamental research and research infrastructure budgets reflect their critical importance to the long-term health of U.S. economy and quality of life -- to contact their representatives in Congress and urge their support for science funding in the nearly $900 billion stimulus bill now making its way through Congress. Here's the full text of the Action Alert we've sent our CRAN members:



Congress is preparing to pass economic stimulus legislation that contains significant funding increases for scientific research (including computing) and research infrastructure. It is critical to urge your Members of Congress to support the scientific investments in the bill. (This is not the time to contact the agencies with proposals for spending these increases. There is no additional money right now. And there won't be if we as a community fail to make our voices heard in Congress.)


The American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by the House of Representatives last week provides "catch-up" funding for NSF, DOE Office of Science, NIH, and NIST that would put those agencies back on a trajectory that would double their budgets over the next 7 years -- a budget trajectory that was authorized by the 2007 "America COMPETES Act" but never funded. The House version of this stimulus bill includes:

  • $2 billion in science funding at DOE's Office of Science, including $100 million for the Advanced Scientific Computing;
  • $3 billion for NSF, of which $2.0 billion would go into core research programs, $300 million to the Major Research Instrumentation program and an additional $200 million to academic research facilities modernization;
  • $100 million for NIST's core research programs, $300 million for facilities, and another $70 million for the Technology Innovation Program and $30 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership;
  • $1.5 billion to NIH for grants to improve university research facilities and another $1.5 billion in new research funding.
These numbers are incredibly good for the research community and we need your help to make sure that this funding makes it through the rest of the process. The Senate version of the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act does NOT include all of this funding so your assistance in contacting Capitol Hill will be critical to maintaining this level of funding in the conference process.


The most important thing you can do now is call or write your representatives in the House and Senate and urge them to support the House funding levels for science. A sample letter you can use can be found here (rich text file) -- please complete it using your own information and FAX it to your Representative and Senators' offices as soon as possible. Please also fax a copy of your letter to CRA'S Melissa Norr at 202.667.1066 -- having copies of letters from our community is incredibly helpful in our advocacy activities on the Hill.

To identify your Representative and Senators visit Write Your Rep (House) and the Senate Directory

If you have any trouble figuring out your Members of Congress or their contact information, please don't hesitate to contact Melissa ( for help.


Now is not the time for contacting the agencies involved with proposals for spending these potential increases. If and when these increases are realized, the agencies will put in place processes to accept proposals for funding -- and CRA will keep you informed. But, until then, the agencies are sharply limited in the advice and help they can provide. Please instead focus your efforts on ensuring that your representatives in Congress have heard from you on the importance of supporting research and research infrastructure!

It is important that we generate letters from as many institutions as possible. Because the Senate has come out with sharply reduced numbers in their version of the bill, there will be temptation in the conference process to reduce or trade away big science increases for gains elsewhere in the bill. Significant participation rates in this effort will help keep the pressure on Members to continue to support science in the bill.

If you're not currently a member of the Computing Research Advocacy Network, joining is easy!

We'll have more updates as the process moves forward. But the community needs your support now!

Update: (2/7/09) -- Thanks to all who have participated so far -- here are the details on the final Senate bill.

January 26, 2009

Senate Stimulus Highlights Released

We've seen the House version of the 2009 stimulus bill. Now we've gotten our first glimpse of the highlights (though no full text) for the Senate version. As expected, the numbers in the Senate version are not as generous as the House numbers. Here is the breakdown:

The Department of Energy: The Senate highlights show $40 billion “for development of clean, efficient, American energy” but no breakdown on how that will be spent or how much might go to basic research.

The National Science Foundation: $1.4 billion for grants and infrastructure at NSF which is less than the $3 billion in the House version.

Additionally, NASA and NIH each get $1.5 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively, but NIST would not receive any additional funds in the Senate bill. A handy comparison chart is available at Inside Higher Education. We will have more here as the full text of the Senate bill is released and we can do a more thorough breakdown and comparison.

Update: More detail about the final Senate bill

January 15, 2009

More Detail on 2009 House Dem Stimulus and Recovery Plan

The House Appropriations Committee has released the bill text (pdf) and the accompanying committee report (pdf) for the Stimulus and Recovery Plan released today. They provide a little finer view of what's actually in the stimulus bill. But ultimately, the House appropriators and leadership have left some discretion to the agency management to decide how to spend the new funding, which is probably a good thing. In summary, though, this looks awfully good to us and will likely go a long way towards recharging the Nation's innovation engine.

Here's what we know:

The Department of Energy  --- The Office of Science would see an increase of $2 billion under this plan. Called out specifically in the bill (but not in the accompanying report) is a $100 million increase for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program. The only other program in Science to get a specific call-out is the brand new Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), which would receive $400 million. The rest is presumably up to the Director's discretion.

Additionally in DOE Energy Programs, the Smart Grid Investment Program, which would support efforts to add IT and other intelligence to the power grid, would receive a $4.5 billion increase under the plan.

The National Science Foundation -- NSF would see an increase of $3 billion overall (so, it would become an ~ $9 billion agency, for one year, at least -- more on that below). Of the $3 billion, $2.5 billion would go to the Research and Related Activities Account, home of NSF's core research efforts. Of that $2.5 billion, 300 million would go to the Major Research Instrumentation program and an additional $200 million for academic research facilities modernization. This leaves an additional $2.0 billion to be spread among the research directorates for their core programs!

NSF's Education and Human Resources program would see a $100 million boost -- $60 million for Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships and $40 million to the Math and Science Partnerships program.

NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would see a boost of $400 million to start "approved projects" or projects that are close to completing their design review, though none are named in the bill or the report.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology -- NIST would see a boost of $100 million to its core research programs, plus another $100 million to be split between the Technology Innovation Program (TIP - the revamped Advanced Technology Program), and $30 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. In addition, NIST would get $300 million for facilities repair and construction, so maybe they'll actually be able to keep that $100 million for core research, instead of using it to pay for broken buildings or ATP/TIP/MEP.

The National Institutes of Health -- NIH would receive $1.5 billion for grants to improve university research facilities and another $1.5 billion in new research funding.

So, this all looks really good to us. However, in our meetings with congressional staff over the last couple of weeks, there has been some concern about managing expectations about the sustainability of any of this funding beyond the stimulus. There are no promises that this stimulus funding will establish a new baseline funding level for these science agencies. There is the possibility that this truly is "one and done." The report language doesn't speak to that directly, but seems to suggest that the idea with this influx of research funding in what was thought to be simply an "infrastructure" bill is to reestablish a trajectory towards the doubling targets in the America COMPETES Act. If that's the case, we should expect that future appropriations bills will start with a funding level of $9 8 billion for NSF, for example (because $1 billion of the $3 billion increase is for a "one-time" infrastructure investment, while the remaining $2 billion is a research investment), and not revert back to the $6 billion pre-stimulus level. Hard to know exactly what the intent is and it's hard to reach the appropriations staff to hear it from them directly. So what we have is the language for NSF, which is posted below for your own interpretation.

In other news, the "pre-conferencing" -- or the bulk of negotiations between the Senate and House over differing priorities -- for the FY 2009 omnibus appropriations bill is done, but the leadership is holding off moving it until after the stimulus is finished. We're getting mixed signals on that one, too. While it's likely the FY 09 Omnibus will include funding for science above the FY 08 levels (which were flat or a cut compared to FY 07), it might not be as much as either the House or Senate appropriations committees have separately agreed on in early versions of the bill because of the need to pay for other significant disagreements elsewhere in the bill. A dispute over what the Senate percieves as a $500 million shortfall in funding for the U.S. Census in the House version of the bill is one such sticking point that could impact science funding levels.

And then there's the matter of the FY 10 budget, which will be released in skeletal form in early February and then fleshed out significantly by the new Administration in April. If the FY 10 budget numbers use the stimulus-increased numbers as the new baseline -- if they ignore the FY 09 approps numbers, which were marked up pre-stimulus, in other words -- then we really will be on the trajectory to realize the promise of COMPETES. If, however, they use the FY 09 approps levels as the baseline for FY 10, then it will mean that the stimulus funding for research was just a one-time bump, and we'll likely have a near impossible task getting anywhere near those numbers again in FY10.

In any case, that's what we know from a couple quick reads of the bill and report and conversations with congressional staff over the last week or so. None of this is a done deal until the ink is dry, and there will be much fighting about the final program levels before this is passed sometime between President's Day and St. Patrick's Day.... but it's a very very nice place to start.

More detail as we learn more. Oh, and the NSF report language follows after the jump.

NSF Language:

Research and Related Activities Recovery funding: $2.500 billion

Sustained, targeted investment by NSF in basic research in fundamental science and engineering advances discovery and spurs innovation. Such transformational work holds promise for meeting the social, economic, and environmental challenges facing the Nation, and for competing in an increasingly intense global economy. To meet these challenges, the America COMPETES Act proposed to double funding for the NSF in seven years. The funding provided in the recovery will return and exceed appropriated levels to the levels assumed in the COMPETES Act. The $2.5 billion proposed for research and related activities (R&RA) is estimated to support an additional 3,000 highly-rated, new awards and would immediately engage 12,750 senior personnel, post doc-, graduate and undergraduates. In addition, the funds provided are expected to restore the funding rate for NSF awards to pre-2000 levels. Since fiscal year 2000, NSF’s funding rate has declined from over 30 percent to 25 percent. This investment would restore the funding rate to 32 percent.

Within the R&RA appropriation, $300 million is provided for the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program. The MRI program, in an effort to increase research and training in institutions of higher education, museums and science centers, and non-profit organizations, assists with the acquisition and development of shared research instrumentation that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs. When awards are made, instruments are expected to be operational for regular research use by the end of the award period. The funding provided in the recovery bill will address a key recommendation of a 2006 National Academies report on “Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities” (ARIF) to expand the MRI program so that it includes “mid-scale” instrumentation whose capital costs are greater than $2 million.

The National Science Foundation estimates that academic institutions have about $3.6 billion in deferred projects to repair and renovate science and engineering research space (fiscal year 2005 Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities). About half of these deferred projects are in the biological and medical sciences, and about half are in other sciences and engineering. These projects are included in institutional capital plans. The recovery package includes $200 million to restart its facilities program covering physical and other sciences and engineering at the Nation’s institutions of higher education, museums and science centers, and non-profit organizations.

December 16, 2008

Pelosi, Holt Reiterate Support for Science

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) spoke of their intent to increase federal support for science at Princeton University yesterday as part of the university’s “Innovation Agenda” roundtable. Both Pelosi and Holt have been vocal in their support of basic science research in the past but under the Bush Administration have struggled to translate that support into appropriations levels that match the America COMPETES authorization levels. It’s a potential problem moving forward as well as Pelosi stated:

"I have said over and over again, if you want to know the agenda for this new Congress, remember four words: science, science, science and science," Pelosi said. However, referring obliquely to current crises, she warned there would be competition for resources in the coming months and that supporters of science must become active advocates for science research funding.

Holt, a physicist and former Princeton staff member, pointed out the economic importance of research, stating:

"We should make a commitment as a nation to research and development," said Holt, a physicist and former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. "Science and scientific research," he continued, "are not luxuries to be engaged in in plush times, but rather they are the basis for economic growth, economic prosperity and quality of life."

Princeton has a press release with more details on the event here.

October 23, 2008

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

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

US Innovation: On the Skids

Dear Mr. President: Let’s Talk Tech

October 14, 2008

ITIF Breakfast with Dr. Erica Fuchs

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

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

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

September 30, 2008

DARPA's Tether Continues to Lose His Fight with Congress

From the explanatory statement for the Continuing Resolution that will fund government agencies until March 6, 2009:

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

The fiscal year 2009 budget request for DARPA is $3,285,569,000, an increase of $326,493,000, more than 10 percent, over the fiscal year 2008 appropriated program of $2,959,076,000. In recent years, DARPA has repeatedly underexecuted its funded program level, executing a fiscal year 2005 program that was nine percent below the appropriated program and a fiscal year 2006 program that was twelve percent below the appropriated program. Based on program execution to date, DARPA will likely continue that trend for the fiscal year 2007 and 2008 programs. While DARPA's continued underexecution can partially be explained by its fiscally responsible management approach of withholding funds from projects that fail to demonstrate progress, doubts exist about DARPA's ability to responsibly manage such a large increase. Therefore, the bill provides $3,142,229,000, a reduction of $143,340,000 from the request. The Director of DARPA is directed to provide to the congressional defense committees not later than 60 days after enactment of this Act a report that details by program element and project the application of undistributed reductions made in this Act....

Wired's Noah Shactman, writing for the Danger Room blog, has more.

Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:34 AM
Posted to FY09 Appropriations | Funding | Policy | R&D in the Press

September 23, 2008

House Dems Want to Punt Approps Until March 2009

The House is apparently moving to pass a continuing resolution for the FY 09 appropriations until March 6, 2009 -- essentially deferring any decision on final appropriations levels to the new Congress and Administration. This is not unexpected -- we've been talking about this since February -- but it's still bad news. Under this plan, most federal agencies (including federal science agencies) would see their funding restricted to the FY 08 level until at least March -- halfway through the 09 fiscal year. This is especially unwelcome news for science agencies, which saw FY 08 funding levels that were essentially cuts vs. FY 07 levels (which weren't spectacular either). 

There are lots of factors involved here, so the final endgame still isn't known. We've assumed for most of this year that we were going to get a CR because the dynamics between the Bush administration and the Democratically-controlled Congress are just as bad as they were last year when we saw the FY08 appropriations meltdown. But add to the mix now the desire of Congress not to come back after the November election, indecision in the Senate over their way forward (Democrats there still want to pass a large emergency supplemental that's now looking pretty unlikely), and the impact of a $700 billion bailout for the financial services sector, and we really don't have a clue how this is going to shake out. 

CRA has joined a couple of efforts in recent days urging Members of Congress to consider funding science agencies at COMPETES levels in the FY09 CR, but the science advocacy community in general isn't holding its breath about this. Frankly, I only really see one scenario in which science funding might recover quickly: if Obama wins in November and the Democrats hold or add to their majority in Congress.* If McCain wins or the House GOP makes gains, the dynamic for science funding doesn't really change. In fact, things may get worse for science funding in the short term as McCain has indicated that, if elected, he would call for a one year "freeze" on federal discretionary spending -- holding all government programs to their FY 08 funded levels -- to give time to his Administration to "evaluate each and every program, looking at which ones are worthwhile and which are a waste of taxpayer dollars" (according to Ike Brannon, an economic and senior policy advisor to McCain). Such a freeze would not be welcome news for science agencies looking for relief after suffering real-dollar cuts in FY 08 for the second straight year.

*There's one more caveat to the scenario and that's the unknown impact of the $700 billion bailout, both on the federal budget itself and, just as importantly, on the mindset of policymakers. It's such a big number -- more than 2/3rds of the Federal discretionary spending budget -- that it's hard to rationalize as part of the budget process. But, even if it's a one-time hit against the total deficit (even if the total hit isn't yet known) and not a big factor in the mechanics of the appropriations process, it sure seems likely to amplify deficit politics. How much that mindset change might impact how future appropriations work out is anyone's guess.

In any case, we'll pass along more details as we learn them. For subscribers, has the details of the CR.

Posted by PeterHarsha at 11:32 AM
Posted to FY09 Appropriations

September 17, 2008

Basic Energy Research Press Event

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

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

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

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

Update: Watch the full press event here.

August 26, 2008

NSF Study Confirms that Federal R&D and CS Funding Decreased for Second Straight Year

The Chronicle of Higher Ed yesterday covered the release of a National Science Foundation Info Brief on the decline of U.S. funding for academic research for the second straight year, noting that NSF declares the decline "unprecedented for this data series, which began in 1972."

Though federal funding for academic research technically increased from FY 2006 to FY 2007 by 1.1 percent to $30.4 billion in constant dollars, once adjusted for inflation the "increase" actually represents at 1.6 percent decline. This follows a 0.2 percent adjusted decrease between FY 2006 and FY 2005. And, though NSF isn't reporting it yet, we already know (barring a surprising 2nd second emergency supplemental appropriations) that FY 2008 will continue that negative trend.

The Chronicle piece notes that industry's support for academic research has ramped up and actually covered most of the federal decline overall. But that was not the case in Computer Science, which still saw a decrease of 1.4 percent in academic funding from all sources. It remains to be seen how some recent highly-publicized university-industry partnerships in computing will affect FY 08 and beyond, but at this point, every little (and big) bit helps.

As the Chronicle piece also points out, it's also too soon to know how the next President might handle the situation. What we do know is that the FY 2009 appropriations bills that Congress ought to be moving in advance of the Oct 1, 2008 beginning of the fiscal year are hopelessly mired in budget politics that won't likely get resolved until post November at the very earliest (and more likely next February or later). That's more bad news for science, which was again slated for big increases in those FY 09 bills. We'll keep an eye on all developments here and keep you posted.

June 30, 2008

Supplemental Signed By President

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

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

June 12, 2008

House CJS Committee Approves Big Increase for NSF...

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

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

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

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

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

April 29, 2008

National Academies Convocation on Gathering Storm Two Years Later

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

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

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

April 17, 2008

WSJ Op-Ed on Missing Leadership in Science

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

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

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

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

April 16, 2008

Rumors Swirl Around Supplemental

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

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

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

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

April 02, 2008

AEA Cyberstates 2008 Report Released

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2008

Gates Tells Congress to Support Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 06, 2008

FY09 House Budget Resolution

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



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

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

March 05, 2008

Help Urge Congress To Support Increases in Science, Computing Research

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

Members of the Computing Research Advocacy Network:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Chairman Mollohan and Ranking Member Frelinghuysen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 07, 2008

FY 09 Budget Close-Up: National Science Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 05, 2008

FY 09 Budget Close-up: DOE Office of Science

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

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

The high-performance computing number includes:

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

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

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

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

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

February 04, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agency budgets:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details to come.

January 28, 2008

Standing "O" for Basic Research

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

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

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

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

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

January 25, 2008

FY 2008 Omnibus: Damage Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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