WASHINGTON – Top Administration officials testified today before the House Science Committee on the President’s proposed research and development (R&D) budget for fiscal year (FY) 2006.  The witnesses were: Hon. John Marburger III, Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Hon. Samuel Bodman, Secretary of Energy; Hon. Arden Bement, Director, National Science Foundation; Hon. Theodore Kassinger, Deputy Secretary of Commerce; and Hon. Charles McQueary, Undersecretary for Science and Technology, Department of Homeland Security.

The opening statements of Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Environment, Technology, and Standards Subcommittee Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Energy Subcommittee Chairman Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Research Subcommittee Chairman Bob Inglis (R-SC) follow.

Statement of Chairman Boehlert

“I want to welcome everyone here to what might be seen as the official opening of budget season for the House Science Committee.  I am pleased to say that we will be hearing this morning from most of the top science officials in the federal government.

“I am especially gratified to welcome Secretary Bodman here this morning.  His presence here signals the new cooperative, science-oriented leadership he will be bringing to the Department of Energy (DOE).  I know that we will have the same productive relationship with Sam Bodman at DOE that we did when he was Deputy Secretary of Commerce, and I’m pleased to have him back in this Committee’s orbit.

“But while I am delighted to have so much talent arrayed before us this morning, one would hardly describe the tone of this morning’s hearing as “festive.”  The budget proposal before us raises serious questions about our nation’s direction in the coming years.

“While the President’s budget proposal for R&D (research and development) can legitimately be seen either as a glass half full or a glass half empty, no one could describe it as a glass that is filled enough to satisfy the nation’s thirst for scientific advancement.

“Let me elaborate.

“The budget is a glass half full in that R&D as a whole has fared better, and basic research has fared no worse, than non-defense domestic discretionary spending as a whole.  In other words, it would be unfair to describe the attitude behind this budget as in any way “anti-science.”  We are living through a period of stringent austerity, and the science budget reflects that rather than any hostility toward science.

“There are also some grace notes in the otherwise dirge-like tone of the budget.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) gets one of the largest increases in the budget, although not enough to keep pace with inflation, especially after the Coast Guard transfer is subtracted.  And the internal laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a top priority for this Committee, would receive a 12 percent increase.

“But this budget is also a glass half empty.  Key science agencies, most notably perhaps DOE’s Office of Science, would see their budgets cut.  NSF education programs would be cut by 12 percent – about as misguided a policy as one could imagine.  I should say Congress tried going down this foolhardy path with regard to NSF in the early 1980s and quickly reversed course.

“And perhaps most disturbingly of all, the outlook for the outyears seems to be more of the same. 

“Now, I don’t doubt that science growth will have to be restrained in this budget environment.  We might have to eliminate some programs, such as the oil and gas research programs the Administration has targeted. 

“But I think we have to think long and hard about whether it is in the long-term interest of the United States to have a multi-year period of real dollar cuts in spending on R&D.  And we also have to think more clearly about what our priorities are in a period of restrained growth – a topic I’ll be returning to at tomorrow’s hearing on NASA’s budget.

“With so much at stake, I’m eager to turn to our witnesses – although they may no longer feel so eager themselves.  I understand that each of them has devoted large portions of their careers to creating a healthy, effective federal science establishment.  It’s our job to help them get more “wallet” to go with their “will” – to hearken back to a phrase from the first President Bush.

“Let me just end on a more positive note.  For us to review the budget effectively, we need the maximum amount of information from the Administration.  In the past, one of our frustrations has been getting accurate numbers for what was being spent on the inter-agency high performance computing program, another of this Committee’s priorities.  Dr. Marburger and Josh Bolten and I had a flurry of correspondence on this last year.

“I’m pleased to say that this year those numbers arrived here on time, as required by law.  So I want to thank Dr. Marburger and his staff and the staff at OMB and the relevant agencies for working cooperatively with us on this.  It will make all our jobs easier, and it reflects the great working relationship we have, even as we may disagree on some budget decisions.  So, please communicate my thanks to all involved with that.”

Statement of Chairman Ehlers

“Chairman Boehlert, I am pleased that we are here today to discuss one of our most pressing of national issues, the federal government’s investment in science and technology. 

“Science and technology are critical to our economic prosperity and national security. Economists have attributed much of our nation’s improvement in productivity in recent years to the results of research and development.  Productivity improvement and technological breakthroughs spurred the longest period of economic expansion in our nation’s history, and they hold the key for stimulating our economy now as well as protecting our nation through application of such advancements.

“I understand that the FY 2006 budget request represents the Administration’s priorities of space exploration and national defense.  I am pleased to see that the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology budget is enhanced by more than 10 percent, as well as the Administration’s substantial commitment to the exploration program at NASA.

“I would like to address three parts of the budget request in particular; the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

“The Department of Energy’s Office of Science funds 40 percent of our nation’s physical science research.  Research in these areas has led to many new economic and medical advancements including, among others, new energy sources, the Internet, cell phones and laser surgery.  To maintain our economic, technical, and military pre-eminence, the federal government must continue to support research in these areas.  The FY 2006 budget request for the Office of Science is $3.46 billion – a decrease of almost 4 percent from the FY 2005 enacted level.  I was disappointed to learn that the plans for the new Rare Isotope Accelerator (RIA) as well as the BTev physics facility at the Fermi National Laboratory have been postponed indefinitely, in light of the lack of funding for these projects. RIA is tied for number three priority for large facilities ranked by the Department, and is essential for our country to maintain leadership in nuclear science research.

“I’d also like to specifically address the FY 2006 budget request for the National Science Foundation, which is tasked with promoting the progress of science; advancing the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and securing the national defense. The NSF FY 2006 budget request of $5.6 billion is a 2.4 percent increase over FY 2005 appropriations; however, it is $2.9 billion below the authorized funding level necessary to complete the commitment Congress made to double NSF funding in 2002.  I continue to support this doubling commitment, and I regret that in this austere budget environment it may not be immediately possible to fulfill this obligation.

“NSF is the only federal agency dedicated solely to supporting basic scientific research.  NSF funding accounts for one-fifth of all federal support for basic research and 40 percent of physical science research at academic institutions.  Nearly 90 percent of these awards are made through a competitive, merit-review process that ensures that excellent and innovative research is being supported. Furthermore, NSF consistently receives the highest rating from OMB for the efficiency and excellence of its programs. 

“NSF is also the primary federal supporter of science and math education; it underwrites the development of the next generation of scientists and engineers. I am particularly concerned about the trend of the current budget request that reduces the Education and Human Resources budget at the Foundation by more than $104 million, or 12 percent. This dramatic decrease is unparalleled in other parts of the federal science and technology portfolio. Decreasing awards in education, or eliminating any new awards entirely, seems very shortsighted when we are currently facing the challenge of adequately preparing our students to enter science and technology fields. I have worked very hard to maintain the Math and Science Partnership program at NSF, where grants are awarded on a peer-reviewed basis that complements the strengths of a research-based organization. The FY 2006 request for the Math and Science Partnerships of $60 million will only allow continued funding for the programs that were started in previous years, eliminating the future of an incredibly important program to determine how our students learn the subjects of math and science.

“Though research grant funding is relatively stable in the FY 2006 budget request, the grant proposal success rate at NSF continues to decline as the number of applications rises. The decrease from 33 percent of funded proposals in FY 2000 to an estimated 20 percent in FY 2005 contributes to my concern about what type of effect this may have on innovative, young researchers struggling to maintain their careers in such a competitive environment. As a larger percentage of worthy work is not funded, I believe that such an environment will adversely affect those considering entering science and technology fields. Maintaining a higher success rate through reducing the number of solicitations or other similar means is a disservice to our national needs and sends the wrong message to those exploring the edge of science and technology innovation.

“On a more positive note, I am pleased that the President is requesting $426 million, or a 12 percent increase, for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories. NIST has a proven track record in research and development on standards and measurement techniques that help U.S. industries become more globally competitive and retain leadership in cutting-edge technologies.  I am particularly pleased that the request includes $19 million in funding for an Advanced Manufacturing research initiative.  This initiative is aimed at speeding the development of industrial applications of nanotechnology and streamlining manufacturing standards.  It will help small and medium-sized manufacturers and has goals very similar to the Manufacturing Technology Competitiveness Act which I passed through the House last Congress. 

“However, I am very concerned about a different manufacturing program at NIST.  The President’s FY 2006 budget request cuts the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program by over 50 percent to $46.8 million.  I have worked very hard over the years to help my colleagues in Congress understand that MEP is vital to retaining American competitiveness and American jobs, and I believe they appreciate the value of this program.  Yet each budget cycle the Administration proposes to significantly cut this program, which the Department of Commerce itself recognized as a valuable program in a 2004 report on manufacturing.  Diminishing funding for MEP will devastate small and medium-sized manufacturers and in the long run severely hurt our competitive edge in the manufacturing sector.

“I am supportive of the President’s FY 2006 budget request of $3.5 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  While this represents a nearly $300 million (or 8 percent) decrease from the FY 2005 enacted level, the reduction is from the elimination of congressionally directed projects. 

“In summary, I cannot emphasize enough that I believe funding for science and technology must be a priority in the FY 2006 budget. While the overall request for NSF is in the right direction, I am very concerned about the cuts to the education programs and I will continue to work to highlight the importance of critical programs like the Math and Science Partnerships. I am pleased with the Administration’s request of $426 million for the NIST labs and pledge to work with my colleagues to see that request fully funded.”

Statement of Chairman Biggert

“The fact of the matter is that we simply cannot meet today’s energy needs – much less tomorrow’s – with yesterday’s energy infrastructure and technologies.  That’s why we must invest in basic and applied research at the Department of Energy.

“Unfortunately, the budget for the DOE Office of Science is a disappointment.  It would reduce funding for the Office of Science by almost 4 percent below the level appropriated by Congress in fiscal year 2005. 

“Congress has clearly demonstrated that it supports increased funding for the DOE Office of Science, the nation’s primary supporter of research in the physical sciences.  Congress recognizes that this research is the foundation for so many advanced energy technologies, and also contributes to our economic, national, and homeland security.

“I will continue to take an active role in seeing that Congress appropriates a proper amount of funding in fiscal year 2006 for both basic and applied research at the DOE.”

Statement of Chairman Inglis

“In his budget, the President is attempting what we all must do – he’s focusing resources on the most needful priorities.  Simple investing must give way to thoughtful investing. Investments in innovation make sense. Our future depends upon innovation.”