On June 7, the House Appropriations Committee drafted
an FY 2001 VA-HUD appropriations bill that would provide mostly level
funding for R&D programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF),
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA), and the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). Although the Clinton Administration requested a $675 million
or 17.3 percent increase to the total NSF budget, the House would provide
[$526 million less than the request for a total NSF budget of $4.0 billion,
which would still be $149 million or 3.8 percent more than FY 2000.
NSF's R&D would be cut well below the request, and would total
$3.0 billion, up 3.9 percent over FY 2000] in sharp contrast to a 19.8
percent requested increase (see Table).
Most of the research directorates, especially computer sciences, would
receive large increases though smaller ones than requested.
[On June 21, the full House approved the bill after
making several amendments, including one that reduced NSF's polar research
programs by $18 million to pay for an increase in housing programs.]
The House FY 2001 VA-HUD bill would provide $76 billion for discretionary programs, an increase over the $72 billion FY 2000 total, but the increase would go mostly to the bill's veterans and housing programs, leaving flat funding for most R&D programs. The President requested a far higher $85 billion for the bill's programs, including substantial increases for NSF and a smaller one for NASA, but because Congress chose to allocate only $605 billion for total discretionary spending compared to the President's $622 billion, while at the same time increasing defense spending more than the President, Congress has far less money than the President to allocate for domestic programs such as the ones in the VA-HUD bill.
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.
[The House VA-HUD bill would award $4.0 billion to
NSF, an increase of $149 million or 3.8 percent that would have been
considered generous in other years. But the proposed appropriation falls
far short of the request. NSF's R&D funding, which excludes NSF's
education and training activities and overhead costs, would total $3.0
billion, an increase of 3.9 percent or $111 million (see Table).]
The Research and Related Activities (R&RA)
account, which funds most of NSF's R&D, would receive $3.1 billion,
[5.4 percent or $159 million more than FY 2000.] Although the appropriation
would be [$423 million] less than the request, the House bill would
generally follow NSF's stated priorities on how to distribute the funds
among the research directorates. The big winner would be the Computer
and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate, which
would receive $439 million for an increase of 13.1 percent. While this
would be far less than the requested 36.2 percent increase to $529 million,
the House appropriation should allow CISE to expand its investments
in the multi-agency Information Technology R&D initiative,
currently funded at $1.7 billion, though not at the 34.5 percent rate
as requested. Because the House has not yet acted on appropriations
for the Department of Energy (DOE), it is unclear how much money the
House would provide for the complete initiative.
Other research directorates would receive substantial increases, though once again less than requested. The Biological Sciences (BIO) directorate would receive $450 million, an increase of 8.6 percent, while programs in the mathematical and physical sciences, engineering, earth sciences, and social sciences would receive increases between 6 and 8 percent. As a result, NSF should be able to boost significantly its investments as the leading agency in the Nanotechnology Initiative. NSF's portion of the multi-agency initiative is planned to go from $97 million in FY 2000 to a requested $217 million. Though the House plan would not allow for the full request, it should still allow NSF to nearly double its current investment.
The only program within R&RA to decline would be Integrative Activities, which would fall 32.5 percent from $129 million to $87 million. The request was for a smaller cut to $119 million. The House would grant most of the request but would zero out the $32 million request for the Opportunity Fund, which supports innovative cross-disciplinary research and education, because of budget constraints.
The Major Research Equipment account, which funds construction of large-scale scientific facilities, would receive $77 million, far less than the $139 million request. The House would provide no funds for the Terascale Computing Systems project (request: $45 million), part of the Information Technology Research initiative. The FY 2000 budget of $36 million provides funds to build an initial terascale (trillions of operations per second) computing site. The bill states that the FY 2001 request for a second site should wait until the first site is operational. The House would provide the full requested amounts for the Millimeter Array, the Large Hadron Collider, the South Pole Station, and the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, but would save money by providing no funds for the requested new starts of the USArray and SAFOD, and the National Ecological Observatory Network.
NSF's Education and Human Resources programs would receive $694 million, slightly below FY 2000 and well below the $729 million request. Although the House would provide the full requested amounts for Educational System Reform, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and most other EHR programs, the House bill would find savings by reducing the requests for Undergraduate Education and Graduate Education. Because these programs requested substantial increases, the House appropriations would still represent increases over FY 2000.
[The VA-HUD bill was approved by the full House on
June 21 after long, contentious debates between Democrats and Republicans.
Most proposed Democratic amendments to boost funding levels failed.
A few amendments to shift funding betweeen programs were approved, including
one to reduce NSF polar research by $18 million in order to boost funding
for housing programs.] The Senate has not drafted its version yet. The
House bill is likely to draw a veto threat because its funding levels
fall far short of the request, and because it would eliminate the Corporation
for National and Community Service, one of the Clinton Administration's
high-priority programs. Because of the unusually strong leverage the
President has in this election year, it is likely that final funding
levels for VA-HUD bill programs will be far higher than House-proposed
levels before the appropriations process is over. Although it is likely
that additional funds will be found for NSF programs, especially if
the Senate VA-HUD bill proposes higher funding levels, it appears unlikely
that Congress will agree to the full requested increase.
- June 8, 2000 (revised June 22)
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
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Washington, DC 20005
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