House Subcommittee Approves Substantial Increase for the National Science Foundation

By Cameron
June 14, 2006

Update: USACM and the Computing Research Association released a joint statement regarding Congress’ support of increased research funding. The release can be found here.

This morning the Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee passed its proposal for funding several key science agencies during the next fiscal year. The numbers for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) look good. The bill reflects full funding for the President’s “American Competitiveness Initiative” request. From the committee’s release:

“National Science Foundation receives $6 billion, the full amount requested as part of the American Competitive Initiative and an increase of $439 million above FY06. Includes $4.6 billion for research, $334.5 million above FY06; and $832.4 million for science education, $16.2 million above the request”

“$627 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including $104 million to fully fund the American Competitiveness Initiative, and $92 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program.”

The overall figure for NIST actually represents a cut from last year because of issues associated with the Advanced Technology Program (which NIST runs) and earmarks not related to the agency’s mission. The key point is that the core lab program (funding intramural research) is the one receiving the $104 million increase. The annual fight over whether to fund ATP and earmarks will likely continue to the end of the year. The issue will be protecting the core lab program during that fight.

The committee also bumped up funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which, as a tactical matter, is probably a good thing. Much grief was heard from Congressional quarters about the Administration’s budget for NASA, which could have put pressure on the NSF and NIST increases to make up the difference. I’m not enough of a NASA expert to know whether the bump is big enough to relieve the pressure (probably not), but it is a good sign. Upon further review it looks like the subcommittee actually proposed less than the Administration’s budget for NASA, but gave it more funding than last year. My sense is that this probably won’t help with NASA supporters looking for offsets to boots the agency’s budget.

The legislation will now have to wind its way through the legislative process and probably won’t be finalized until late fall.