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NSF Likely Winner if Congress Passes Budget this Summer

July 17, 2006

Based on the two versions of the FY 2007 budget working their ways respectively through the House and Senate, the National Science Foundation (NSF) appears to be positioned to receive its first significant increase in funding in many years. Both chambers' versions of the NSF appropriations provide increases above the FY06 appropriations in excess of 7 percent, with the full House approving an increase of 7.9 percent in June. The version approved last Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee provides a 7.4 percent increase to the nation's leading agency for science. Much of the increase is consistent with the President's request to support his American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI).

NSF's appropriations are included in H.R. 5672, the Commerce-Justice-Science bill. More information is available at: http://thomas.loc.gov

The full Senate Appropriations committee report was not available online before the Digest's deadline, but the following description of the Senate Appropriations Committee action on the NSF appropriations was reported by the Association of American Universities:
Within the NSF total, the bill would provide $4.646 billion for Research and Related Activities (R&RA), $315 million above FY06 funding.  This is $19.53 million below the Presidents request, an amount that is transferred from research to education programs.

The committee report recommends $101.2 million for the Plant Genome Research Program, the requested amount of $50.74 million for operations of the National Radio Astronomy Observatories, and full funding for NSFs lead role in the National Nanotechnology Initiative.  The report also expresses strong support for the FY07 funding request for the NSF Office of International Science and Engineering, which promotes international research collaborations.

For Education and Human Resources, the $19.53 million transferred from the Research and Related account would give the directorate a total of $835.75 million, which is $3 million above the House-approved level, and $39 million above FY06 funding.

The committee report says that the committee is fully supportive of the NSF research funding in the ACI but believes that the ACI neglects the education work NSF does in support of research across the country.  Broadening participation to underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities, in the sciences will only further the goals of the ACI as proposed in the budget request.

For that reason, the $19.53 million transferred from the Research and Related account would:  add $10 million to the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), for a total of $110 million; add $2 million to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities program, for a total of $32 million; add $3 million to the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program, for a total of $43 million; and add $4 million to the STEP/Tech Talent Expansion program, for a total of $30 million.

For Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, the bill would provide $237 million, which is $3 million below the request, the same as the House-approved level, and $46 million above FY06 funding.  The $3 million reduction from the request is a result of not funding the LC130 Judgment Fund.

Another useful summary of the Senate report is available at: http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/092.html

Differences between House and Senate versions of the budget will be reconciled in conference, after full Senate consideration of the bill. Passage of NSF appropriations by the full Congress before the fiscal year starts Oct. 1 is uncertain as House members will turn their attention to the election cycle. Senate leadership is also considered up for grabs this fall. More information on H.R. 5672 will be available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app07.html