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Doubling of NSF budget over five years proposed. (From the Hill).

House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y) and Research Subcommittee Chairman Nick Smith (R-Mich.) have proposed a National Science Foundation (NSF) reauthorization bill that would set the agency on a track to double its budget over the next five years.

Calling NSF research critically important to the economy, national security, health, and education, Boehlert presented the bill (H.R. 4664) at a May 7 press conference alongside a bipartisan group of cosponsors, including the ranking member of the research subcommittee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.). The legislation would provide annual 15 percent increases for NSF over the next three years, boosting its budget from $4.8 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2002 to $7.3 billion in FY 2005. If the budget continued on this trajectory, it would reach $9.6 billion in FY 2007, twice the total for FY 2002.

"Congress has quite properly committed to doubling the budget of the National Institutes of Health," Boehlert said. "But NIH does not and cannot fund the full range of research activities the nation needs to remain prosperous and healthy. NSF has the broadest research mission of any federal science agency and the clearest educational mission. It needs the funding that goes with that expansive--and expensive--mandate."

The funding provided by the bill would be spread fairly evenly across the agency, with mathematics and nanotechnology research singled out for particularly large increases. The legislation would also encourage greater transparency in procedures for selecting major research projects and better cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in funding astronomy research.

The scientific community has responded enthusiastically to the proposal. Earlier in 2002, the Coalition for National Science Funding, which represents more than 70 scientific and engineering societies and universities, recommended a 15 percent budget increase for NSF in FY 2003.

The bill's aims, however, cannot be achieved without the support of the Appropriations Committee, and key House appropriators have not embraced the goal of doubling NSF funding.

In the Senate, on the other hand, the idea has widespread support. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the chair and ranking member of the subcommittee that allocates funds for NSF, have lobbied hard in recent years for more NSF funding. In 2000, more than 40 senators signed a letter circulated by Mikul ski and Bond supporting the doubling of the agency's budget.

The Bond-Mikulski push follows Senate passage in 2000 of an authorization bill to double federal funding for all civilian R&D and a January 2001 recommendation by the Hart-Rudman commission on national security to double the entire federal R&D budget by 2010. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) recently called for doubling civilian R&D funding.

Asked whether the Office of Management and Budget supports his bill, Boehlert said that he is involved in discussions with the White House and expects "no major difficulty moving forward on the course that we're chaffing."
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Publication:Issues in Science and Technology
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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