On October 19, Congress sent President Clinton a final
FY 2001 VA-HUD appropriations bill (HR 5482) that gives a nearly 14
percent increase to the National Science Foundation (NSF). The final
bill boosts NSF's budget by $529 million or 13.6 percent to $4.4
billion. Although the Clinton Administration requested an even larger
$675 million increase, the final appropriation nevertheless represents
the largest dollar increase in NSF's history and allows for increases
of more than 20 percent for two NSF ressearch directorates and more
than 10 percent for most of the others. Total NSF R&D climbs
13.4 percent to $3.2 billion (see Table;
NSF R&D excludes education and training programs, and overhead costs).
Although neither the information technology (IT) research initiative
nor the new nanotechnology initiative received as much as NSF had requested,
both initiatives received substantial increases over last year's funding.
[President Clinton signed the bill into law on October 27.]
The final VA-HUD bill provides nearly $83 billion for
discretionary programs, well above the FY 2000 total of $79 billion
but slightly below the $84 billion Administration request. Similarly,
the final bill provides NSF with a substantial increase over FY 2000,
but falls short of the request. The bill also funds R&D programs
in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) and the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), as well as other programs in the Department of Veterans Affairs
and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
When introducing his budget request in February, President Clinton made NSF the centerpiece of his budget for R&D, which placed a strong emphasis on achieving a better balance among science and engineering disciplines. Although a series of large increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has resulted in an emphasis on biomedical and life sciences research in recent years within the federal research portfolio, the FY 2001 budget proposed large increases for R&D programs in non-life sciences disciplines. Because NSF is the only R&D funding agency responsible for the entire range of science and engineering disciplines, with a particular emphasis on fundamental research and non-life sciences disciplines, the budget request singled out NSF for an unprecedented $675 million or 17.3 percent increase in its total budget to $4.6 billion. The requested increase was spread across the breadth of NSF's research portfolio, with special attention to the agency's leading role in several multi-agency initiatives.
Congress falls $146 million short of the request, for
a total NSF budget of $4.4 billion, but this is still a substantial
increase of $529 million or 13.6 percent over FY 2000. NSF's R&D
funding, which excludes NSF's education and training activities and
overhead costs, totals $3.2 billion in FY 2000, an increase of $384
million or 13.4 percent (see Table).
The final appropriation far exceeds the earlier House and Senate-proposed
funding levels, which would have provided only a 4 percent and 10 percent
increase, respectively, for NSF's R&D. This matches the pattern
of other conference reports, which have generally provided far more
for R&D programs than either the House or Senate bills, and in many
cases more than the President's request. (For details of House appropriations
for NSF, please see the June 8 AAAS R&D Funding
Update; for details of Senate appropriations, please see the September
20 AAAS R&D Funding Update.)
The Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account,
which funds most of NSF's R&D, receives $3.4 billion, 13.2 percent
or $392 million above the FY 2000 funding level but $191 million below
the request. (Although the R&RA appropriation is not distributed
by directorate, the report accompanying the final VA-HUD bill contains
several paragraphs of instructions on how the money should be distributed;
the directorate-level figures in the Table
are AAAS interpretations of the congressional instructions.)
Two directorates receive increases of approximately 20 percent over the past year. The big winner is the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate, which receives $485 million for an increase of 24.8 percent. Although CISE requested an even larger $529 million appropriation, the final budget should allow CISE to dramatically expand both its core research programs and its participation in a key Administration initiative. Congress allocates $215 million for funding within R&RA, most of which is in CISE, for the information technology research (ITR) initiative. This program funds basic, long-term IT research and is the heart of NSF's lead role in the multi-agency Information Technology R&D initiative. Although the $215 million appropriation falls short of the request for $280 million, it is more than double the $90 million for FY 2000. Another big winner is the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate, which receives $177 million, slightly more than the request, for an increase of 20.9 percent. The bill includes new funds to start a Children's Research Initiative within SBE, with instructions for NSF to expand this effort in the FY 2002 budget request and in future years.
Another Administration initiative, the new Nanotechnology initiative, receives $150 million for NSF's leading role in the multi-agency effort, far above the FY 2000 funding level of $97 million though substantially less than the request for $217 million. Most of NSF's nanotechnology effort will be funded through the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) directorate (up 11.6 percent to a $846 million total) and the Engineering (ENG) directorate (up 8.6 percent to $415 million). (The final multi-agency budgets for the initiatives are not yet known because Congress has not completed action on the budgets for some of the participating agencies.) MPS also receives $94 million for astronomical sciences facilities support, $15 million more than NSF had requested.
The only account within R&RA to decline is Integrative Activities (IA), which receives $111 million, $18 million less than FY 2000. The final VA-HUD bill boosts funding for Major Research Instrumentation program within IA to $75 million, $25 million more than both FY 2000 and the request. The program supports the acquisition and development of research instrumentation in academic institutions. But IA's Opportunity Fund, a program to support small-scale, innovative, and cross-disciplinary projects outside directorate boundaries, receives no funds although NSF had requested $32 million. Also, IA funding declines because funding for the Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE) initiative, funded at $50 million in IA in FY 2000, moves to the Biological Sciences (BIO) and Geological Sciences (GEO) directorates in FY 2001. The BE initiative receives $75 million in FY 2001, which falls short of the $124 million request despite the 50 percent boost over FY 2000.
The Major Research Equipment account, which funds construction of large-scale scientific facilities, receives $122 million, less than the $139 million request but nearly a third more than FY 2000. The final bill provides the requested $45 million in FY 2001 for the Terascale Computing Systems project, part of the Information Technology R&D initiative. The FY 2000 budget of $36 million provided funds to build an initial terascale (trillions of operations per second) computing site, while the FY 2001 appropriation provides funds to build a second site. Congress trims the request by providing no funds for the requested new starts of the EarthScope and the National Ecological Observatory Network, but the other projects, which include the Large Hadron Collider, upgrades for the South Pole Station, and the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, receive their full requested funding.
NSF's Education and Human Resources programs receive $787 million, well above both FY 2000 and the $729 million request. The earlier Senate bill had taken NSF to task for not providing sufficient support for smaller research institutions and minorities, and added funding for NSF programs in these areas. The final bill generally follows the Senate's lead. The final bill boosts funding for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) from $60 million to $75 million and adds another $10 million to fund the Office of Innovative Partnerships. Both programs assist research institutions and states that have traditionally been underrepresented in federal R&D funding. The final VA-HUD bill also boosts funding for NSF programs for minorities, and raises funding for the Graduate Research Fellowships program from $52 million to $55 million. This increase should allow NSF to raise the annual stipend from $16,200 to $18,000 while allowing 900 awards in the next competition instead of a planned decrease to 850. There are also increases for several programs targeted to various categories of minority-serving institutions and scientists and engineers from underrepresented minorities.
Figure 1. (click on the image to view
or download a full-size PDF version of the chart)
The generous FY 2001 appropriation continues the recent trend of large increases for NSF. Figure 1 shows the recent history of NSF's budget for R&D and compares the final appropriated budgets with the requests. The lower line shows that the NSF budget grew steadily in the 1980s and until FY 1995, but then stagnated and even declined because of severe budget pressures in the mid-1990s as the federal government restrained discretionary spending to achieve a balanced budget. But the chart also shows that the NSF budget resumed its long-term growth trend after FY 1998, when the government entered the current age of surpluses. The FY 2001 increase brings NSF R&D to an all-time high. The upper line shows that nearly every year, NSF has requested more than Congress ended up appropriating, a trend that holds true in FY 2001.
Figure 2. (click on the image to view or download a
full-size PDF version of the chart)
NSF is the only federal agency with responsibility
for research in all major science and engineering fields. As shown in
Figure 2, NSF has a balanced research portfolio covering the
breadth of science and engineering. In most fields, NSF is the largest
or second-largest source of federal funding.
Figure 3. (click on the image to view or download a
full-size PDF version of the chart)
Although well balanced, NSF's mix of support for various
disciplines has varied over time. The long-term growth trend in NSF's
budget has not affected all disciplines equally. Figure 3 shows recent
trends in NSF support for selected disciplines. While NSF support
for physical sciences, life sciences, and environmental sciences has
stagnated or declined in recent years, NSF budget increases have mostly
fed dramatic increases in NSF support for the engineering sciences and
mathematics/computer sciences, corresponding to growing NSF interest
in information technology research and increased support for engineering
research centers and other engineering-related projects. The large increases
of FY 2000 and FY 2001, which are not pictured in Figure 3, should eventually
show up in the data as large increases for NSF support across all the
disciplines, though support for the computer sciences will continue
to increase faster than support for other disciplines.
The large increase for NSF in FY 2001 may be the first
year of an effort by NSF congressional supporters in Congress to double
the NSF budget in five years. Over the summer, several Senators led
an effort to publicly commit Congress to that goal, patterning their
effort after a similar commitment made three years ago by NIH supporters
to double the NIH budget over five years, an effort that has so far
stayed on track. The FY 2001 budget increase could be seen as the first
installment of a series of 14 to 16 percent increases, but NSF appropriations
will still have to be decided annually by future Presidents and Congresses.
The final VA-HUD bill emerged from conference last week, and
was approved by the House and Senate on October 19. Attached to the
bill is a revised version of the Energy-Water bill, which had been vetoed
by the President. [President Clinton signed the VA-HUD/Energy-Water
bill into law on October 27.]
-October 24, 2000 (updated November 1)
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005