Congress has passed and sent to President Clinton the FY 2001
VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill. The
National Science Foundation’s budget was increased by 13.6%, an
amount which NSF Director Rita Colwell said “represents the
largest dollar increase the Foundation has ever received, in
real or constant dollars.”

For perspective on this increase, note that a year ago, Congress
approved an 8.4% increase for NSF. For FY 2001, the president
requested a 17.1% increase.

NSF’s new budget is $4.426 billion. This is more than half a
billion dollars over last year, or $529 million.

Within this total budget are several major categories of
spending. The Research and Related Activities account increased
by 13.2% to $3.350 billion. This is about 2/3 of the requested
increase. In the conference report, specific amounts of money
are provided for some programs (see below). NSF is instructed
to distribute remaining funds “proportionately and equitably,
consistent with the ratio of the budget request level.” After
allowing for the specified funding, this 2/3 figure can be very
roughly applied to the original requests to suggest the final
percentage increases for the subactivities tracked by FYI. With
these caveats, the subactivity increases originally requested by
NSF were: physics was to have increased by 18.0%, materials
research by 15.4%, astronomical sciences by 13.7%, engineering
by 19.6%, and geosciences by 19.5%. The final subactivity
budgets will be determined by NSF and approved by Congress in
the FY 2001 operating plan.

For some programs, a calculation is not necessary because
Congress specified the funding. These programs are: $65
million for plant genome research, $215 million for the
information technology initiative, $75 million for the
biocomplexity initiative, $75 million for major research
instrumentation, $1 million toward a new research vessel, and $5
million for a Children’s Research Initiative. Of particular
interest to physicists and astronomers is $150 million
designated for the new nanotechnology initiative and $94.9
million for facilities within the astronomical sciences
activity. Regarding the latter, the conference report cites the
Arecibo Observatory, the Green Bank Telescope, the Very large
Array, the Very Long Baseline Array, “and other facilities in
need of such attention on a priority basis.”

Besides Research and Related Activities, there is another budget
for Major Research Equipment. There is both good news and bad
news. First the good news: “The conference agreement provides
the budget request level for all ongoing projects,” including
$45 million for the development and construction of a second
teraflop computing facility and $12.5 million for the continued
production of the High-Performance Instrumented Airborne
Platform for Environmental Research. The bad news: “Budget
constraints have forced the conferees to not approve funding for
two new starts for fiscal year 2001 . . . the U.S. Array and San
Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth, and the National Ecological
Observatory Network. This decision was made without prejudice
and does not reflect on the quality of research proposed to be
developed through these two programs.”

Another major budget is that for Education and Human Resources.
Congress approved an increase of 13.9%, as compared to the 5.0%
requested by NSF. The new budget is $787.4 million, up by $96.5
million. As was done with the Research and Related Activities
budget, funding was specified for some programs, including $75
million for EPSCoR, $10 million for the Office of Innovative
Partnerships, and specified amounts for a variety of other
programs and initiatives. Remaining funding is to be
distributed proportionately and equitably, consistent with the
original budget request.

Also specified is funding for Polar Programs. NSF had requested
an increase of 12.8%; the final bill provides 8.9%. This
increase of $22.6 million brings FY 2001 funding to $275.6

NSF Director Colwell released a statement expressing her
appreciation to all of those involved in supporting the new
budget. She stated: “This increase also puts us on the path
towards doubling the NSF budget in five years, a goal
championed by Senate VA-HUD Chairman Kit Bond, Ranking Member
Barbara Mikulski, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and more
than 40 members of the Senate.”

Colwell continued, “This historic achievement validates the
Administration’s commitment to investing in fundamental research
and education – and I thank President Clinton, Vice President
Gore, Science Advisor Neal Lane, OMB Director Jack Lew and his
staff for their leadership in helping to achieve such a great
result. It was truly a team effort. While the VA-HUD agreement
did not reach the President’s request for NSF, the funding level
provided is extraordinary and demonstrates how support for
fundamental research and education is truly bipartisan.

“Along with Senators Bond and Mikulski, I personally thank House
Subcommittee Chairman Jim Walsh and Ranking Member Allan
Mollohan for their constant, steadfast support of NSF. I also
thank all the VA-HUD subcommittee members in both the Senate
and the House, House Full Committee Chairman Bill Young, Ranking
Member David Obey along with Senate Full Committee Chairman Ted
Stevens and Ranking Member Robert Byrd for their excellent
leadership and consistent support of the Foundation’s
investments in research and education. They are true champions
for these critical investments in the nation’s future
investments that will help improve the health, prosperity and
well-being of all citizens in the 21st century.

“I also recognize the extraordinary efforts of leaders in the
science and engineering community, as well as those in industry
and academia on behalf of the Foundation’s budget request. This
result is due to the exceptional contributions of so many
individuals, both at the National Science Foundation and in the
broader community. I am grateful to all those individuals and
organizations that have helped make this budget a reality.”


Richard M. Jones

Public Information Division

American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3095