“I intend to work with my colleagues on this Committee, the
Budget Committee and the Appropriations Committee, as well as the
Administration, to start building up these budgets now.” – Rep.
Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)

As the House Science Committee met on April 25 to hear testimony
on the FY 2002 budget requests for NASA, NSF, NOAA, and DOE’s
Office of Science, committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) was
adamant in his determination to get federal science funding
increased above the request for the coming year. Although
somewhat mollified by indications that the White House recognized
the inadequacy of the science investment and planned to “do better
next year,” Boehlert vowed that “we’re going to do our level best
to convince our colleagues in Congress to pay more attention” to
issues of concern to the committee, including adequate investment
in science, a balanced research portfolio, and interagency
cooperation. He noted that it was important for agencies to
collaborate to leverage investments and avoid wasteful duplication
of research efforts, but added that “no amount of interagency
coordination will make for a robust program if its individual
components are not adequately funded.” Boehlert expressed
particular concern over the requests for the DOE Office of Science
and for NSF, and later commented that “NSF stands for ‘Not
Sufficient Funds.'”

NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, whose agency budget would
increase 2 percent to $14.5 billion, testified that “the
Administration’s FY 2002 request…is a solid and businesslike
plan,” which would require deliberate prioritization to “live
within our means.” He acknowledged that this would include
cutting lower priority Space and Earth science program elements in
order to enhance funding for Mars exploration and follow-on Earth
Observing measurements. NSF’s budget would grow by 1.3 percent,
to $4.47 billion, under the request. According to NSF Director
Rita Colwell, the highlight of the foundation’s request is the 11-
percent increase for Education and Human Resources, to increase
graduate student stipends and initiate the Math and Science
Partnerships program to improve education in those areas. Science
programs within DOE would receive a total of $3.2 billion under
the request. James Decker, Acting Director of DOE’s Office of
Science, reported that funding for his office’s programs “has, in
constant dollars, remained somewhat flat over the past decades and
new opportunities must be balanced against existing commitments
and stewardship of mission critical research.” NOAA Administrator
Scott Gudes stated that NOAA’s budget request would decline by
$60.8 million, to $3.2 billion. Within this request, he said,
“NOAA proposes essential realignments that allow for a total of
$270.0 million in program increases in critical areas such as
infrastructure, severe weather prediction, coastal conservation,
living marine resources, and climate.”

All four witnesses described many diverse, productive
collaborations with other federal S&T agencies, both through
formal mechanisms such as the cabinet-level National Science and
Technology Council, and at the interpersonal level by program
managers and researchers. The panel agreed that the one-on-one
interactions may be the most vital to effective collaborations.
Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) also questioned the level of cooperation
with the State Department; both Colwell and Goldin responded that
their agencies have supplied scientists to the State Department on
a temporary basis.

Smith asked about the redirection of $110 million in NSF education
money to support the President’s new $200 million Math and Science
Partnerships. The question was echoed by Boehlert, who applauded
the program but said his enthusiasm was “tempered” because only
$90 million for the partnerships is new funding and the rest is
taken from existing programs. Colwell replied that the money “was
not being wrenched out of” NSF K-12 and undergraduate programs,
but the partnerships fit well with the direction of NSF’s
education programs and gave the foundation “an opportunity to step
back,” review, and build on the best aspects of the current

Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD) inquired about the directive in the
budget for a Blue Ribbon panel to consider moving NSF’s astronomy
responsibilities to NASA. Colwell and Goldin agreed that
astronomy has been an area of many fruitful collaborations between
NSF and NASA. Goldin thought it was inappropriate for the
agencies to comment on the issue. “It’s an area where both
agencies work so well together…that I wouldn’t want to see a
degradation in the relationship,” he said. Rep. Nick Lampson (D-
TX) asked Goldin whether constraining space station costs would
result in deleting or deferring content needed to make it a
productive research facility and whether research would remain a
station priority. Goldin believed that the station would “be able
to have a good solid research program,” although “maybe not as
much as we wanted.” He did not expect the funding constraints to
result in greater taxpayer costs later. As an aside, Boehlert
remarked that “a little dose of realism would help” in looking at
long-term station costs.

Boehlert pressed the witnesses to describe what additional
investments they would make if they received additional funding in
FY 2002, and what opportunities would be lost if they did not. As
representatives of the Administration, the witnesses were
reluctant to criticize the proposed budget. In addition to NSF’s
priority areas of information technology, nanoscience,
biocomplexity, education and workforce issues, and graduate and
postdoctoral stipends, Colwell also listed emerging areas of
mathematics, as well as grant size and duration. Saying that he
wanted to focus on revolutionary, not evolutionary, technologies,
Goldin cited information technology, nanotechnology, and
biotechnology. He said universities were another essential area
needing increased investment, particularly in the physical
sciences and engineering. Decker noted that many DOE Office of
Science programs had experienced reductions or increases below
inflation which, over decades, had “taken a toll.” He stressed
the need for infrastructure investment, to improve facilities and
increase their utilization. Gudes responded that the NOAA budget
request was “investing in the right things,” including
infrastructure and supercomputing.

It was obvious that most members of the Science Committee are
eager to do all they can to get science funding increased in this
year’s appropriations process. It will remain to be seen what
influence they, as members of an authorizing committee, will have
on the appropriators.


Audrey T. Leath

Public Information Division

The American Institute of Physics


(301) 209-3094