The House and Senate appropriations committees met last week to
divide the $600 billion pie for FY 2001, and at the end of
process, the subcommittees funding NSF and NASA both came up
short. The chairmen of the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies
appropriations subcommittees are now faced with essentially doing
more with less, with the possible outcome being disappointing
budgets for NSF and NASA.

This slice of the pie, or the 302(b) allocation, is an inside-
the-beltway matter with reverberations that will be felt by
researchers, veterans, the poor, and the environment. Here is
the problem: the Congressional Budget Office calculates that
$78.4 billion is needed to maintain the current level of services
for the programs under the jurisdiction of the VA, HUD, and
Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittees. The House and
Senate subcommittees will have only $76.2 billion, a reduction of
more than $2 billion. This becomes even more difficult since the
CBO estimate makes no allowance for inflation, or for disaster
aid and renewal of HUD housing contracts.

Senate VA, HUD subcommittee chairman Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-
MO) seemed to know what was in store for him last week before
going to the meeting where he would be given his allocation. He
called it “an impossible situation…we do not have an allocation
that will allow us to do what we must do.” Allocations for the
Energy and Water Development subcommittees funding DOE are also
below the current level of services, although by not nearly the
same degree. The allocation for the subcommittees funding the
Department of Commerce is also lower than necessary to fund
current programs.

Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew highlighted the
impacts that the budget plan would have on S&T in a speech
delivered in Washington last week. Asking, “will we invest in
science and technology to sustain prosperity in this new
economy?”, Lew criticized what he called “an oversized tax cut.”
He continued, “Unfortunately, for the annual funding measures
that must be completed this year, Congress has left itself with
inadequate resources to pass responsible appropriations bills for
2001.” “In the VA/HUD appropriations bill, we can see how the
congressional budget forces untenable choices between meeting our
commitments to the past, present and future. Overall, this bill
is cut by 8 percent. If VA medical programs are protected, as
both Congress and our budget call for, the cut to remaining
programs exceeds 10 percent.” “VA/HUD funding at levels
consistent with the congressional budget simply does not provide
adequate resources to fund housing, science, environmental
protection and veterans programs, along with the many other
important programs such as AmeriCorps, our national service
program.” Among the “key areas that appear to be shortchanged,”
according to Lew: “a $480 million reduction to the National
Science Foundation, resulting in almost 18,000 fewer researchers,
educators and students receiving NSF support…” and “no new
resources for long-term research in supercomputing or in the area
of Nanotechnology.”

Efforts are also being made on Capitol Hill to boost S&T
spending. Twelve senators sent letters to Senate appropriators
requesting that they “assign a high priority to scientific
research in the FY 2001 appropriations process.” The senators
wrote, “Shortchanging science in this year’s appropriations
process would be worrisome since much of our current economic
success results from past federal investment made in basic
research.” “We must also work to ensure balanced growth in
fundamental research support across all scientific disciplines.
This is particularly important because progress in one area of
science often leads to unexpected advances in other areas. For
example, many recent breakthroughs in biomedical research and
information technology would not have been possible were it not
for earlier efforts in the physical sciences and engineering.
These cross-disciplinary advances require support for science
across all the federal mission agencies….”

The letter, sent to the Senate appropriations subcommittee
chairs, was signed by Senators Lieberman (D-CT), Frist (R-TN),
Abraham (R-MI), Bingaman (D-NM), Schumer (D-NY), Snowe (R-ME),
Roberts (R-KS), Bayh (D-IN), Rockefeller (D-WV), DeWine (R-OH),
Kennedy (D-MA) and Dodd (D-CT).

Chairman Bond and subcommittee Ranking Minority Member Barbara
Mikulski (D-MD) said last week that they would continue to work
to improve their allocation, an action that their House
counterparts will also take. For now, OMB Director Lew warns
that “the president simply cannot and will not sign” key
appropriations bills likely to result from the current
congressional budget plan.

Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
The American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095