American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Update on Congressional Support for Increased Science Funding (10-20-98)

Most Recent Action:
On October 8th, the full Senate passed S. 2217, the Federal Research Investment Act, by a unanimous vote. The bill attracted 35 co-sponsors by the time it passed. Although action is complete for the 105th Congress, the bill sponsors are likely to reintroduce it early in the 106th Congress, quickly pass it through the Senate, then focus their efforts on having it enacted into law.

On August 6, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced H.R. 4514, a companion bill to S. 2217, a bill to double federal R&D spending over 12 years. Hill sources indicated that Wilson was encouraged to introduce the bill by fellow New Mexican and S. 2217 cosponsor Senator Pete Domenici. The bill has been referred to several committees, which may take up the bill after the House returns from the August recess.

The Senate Commerce Committee passed S. 2217 on July 29. The bill to double federal funding for civilian research and development (R&D) was unveiled a month earlier during a press conference by co-authors Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV). They were accompanied by co-sponsors Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Phil Gramm (R-TX), and John Breaux (D-LA)  The bill "establishes a long-term vision for Federal funding of fundamental scientific and pre-competitive engineering research."  It outlines a doubling in funding for non-defense R&D over the next twelve years, from the current 2.11% of the budget to 2.6% of the budget. 

The bill recommends that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy commission the National Academy of Sciences to develop methods to evaluate federally funded R&D. The bill also instructs the Administration to provide -- in conjunction with the budget request -- a detailed summary of the amount of R&D in the budget and a strategy for achieving the doubling by 2010. These provisions are aimed at strengthening the evaluation of research and development. They follow the intent of the Government Performance and Results Act, which instructs agencies to develop goals, methods to achieve these goals, and conduct assessments of the success of programs. The Academy study is intended to improve the accountability of agencies conducting R&D because the outcomes of R&D are often difficult to predict and do not follow standard performance measures. The bill calls for the termination of programs that are determined to be below the acceptable level of success for two fiscal years in a row, with certain exceptions.

The press conference was well attended by the press and the science community, who heard statements from the bill co-sponsors, as well as Dr. Francis Lawrence, President of Rutgers University; Dr. D. Allan Bromley, Past President of the American Physical Society and Science Advisor to President Bush; and Dr. Joan Shields, Chairman of the Board of the American Chemical Society.  In her statement, Dr. Shields noted that the forerunners for the more comprehensive Federal Research Investment Act, S. 2217, have helped to path the road for the new bill.

S. 2217 builds upon an earlier bill introduced by Sen. Phil Gramm, S. 1305 the National Research Investment Act of 1998, which in turn was a modification of the earlier S. 124, the National Research Investment Act of 1997.  The bill, co-sponsored by 18 Senators, was referred in October 1997 to the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, where it has seen no action.  In hopes of expediting the process of reviewing the bill, several senators decided to work together to write a more comprehensive research and development bill that would be referred to the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.  Under the leadership of Senator Frist, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space, the group of senators composed an updated version of S. 1305 that "includes strong accountability provisions and a framework for evaluating federal programs."  The new bill, S. 2217, adds the Departments of the Interior and Transportation to the list of 12 federal agencies included in S. 1305.

Additional summaries of the press conference are available from the Ecological Society of America and the American Institute of Physics.

Previous Action:
The Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space held a hearing on S. 1305, the National Research Investment Act of 1998, on April 28. The bill, which calls for a doubling of federal support for most civilian science agencies over the next ten years, was introduced at a press conference last October by Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX). The press conference also featured a science community statement in support of doubling support f or research in the coming decade. For more information AGI's efforts to gain additional cosponsors for S. 1305, visit our website.

Across the Hill, Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a companion bill, unveiled HR 3660, on April 1, 1998. The bill has been referred to the Committees on Science; Commerce; and Agriculture. In addition, Rep. Vern Ehlers has engaged leading scientists in several hearings regarding House Science Committee study on the future of federal science policy. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) testified before the House Budget Committee in favor of increases for science, and at the same hearing Rep. George Brown (D-CA) pushed his science-friendly "Investment Budget".

S. 1305: National Research Investment Act of 1998

At a well-attended Capitol Hill press conference on October 22nd, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) and co-sponsors Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) unveiled S. 1305, the National Research Investment Act of 1998. S. 1305 is a modification of a bill introduced by Gramm earlier this Congress, S. 124, discussed below. Both bills call for a doubling of federal support in most civilian science agencies over the next ten years. Gramm worked with Lieberman to give the new bill a more bipartisan appeal. The addition of Domenici, who chairs the powerful Budget Committee as well as the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Energy, bodes well for the bill's future impact. Gramm is actively seeking support from scientists to encourage their senators to sign on as additional co-sponsors.

Agencies included in the bill are NIH, NSF, NIST, NASA, NOAA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EPA, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Education. The bill does not include defense-related research nor does it include research in the Department of the Interior. The latter reflects Gramm's continued concern over the activities of the former National Biological Service, now the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. Gramm's earlier S. 124 also failed to include Interior. AGI is working to have the bill amended to include this department. S. 1305 also excludes the Department of Transportation.

S. 1305 is an authorization bill that, if passed, would give Congress the authority to appropriate increased funds for the agencies covered in the bill. The actual appropriations, however, would take place through a number of separate appropriations bills each year. The value of S. 1305 then is principally symbolic, putting Congress and the President on record in support of significant increases for science without obligating them to spend a dime.

On December 4, the four cosponsors of S. 1305 sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to use the FY 1999 budget "to establish a bipartisan national consensus on doubling non-defense federal R&D over the next ten years." The letter from Senators Gramm, Lieberman, Domenici, and Bingaman follows:

Dear Mr. President:

In a 1995 letter to Senate leaders you wrote, American history clearly demonstrates the importance of American leadership in science and technology to the future of our nation. Investments in science and technology drive economic growth, generate new knowledge, create new jobs, build new industries, ensure sustained economic and national security, and improve our quality of life. Indeed, over the past 50 years, innovation has accounted for as much as half of the nation's economic growth. Today, millions of Americans hold high-skilled, high-wage jobs in industries that have grown as a result of far-sighted public and private investment in R&D.

We believe, as you do, that investment in research is a requirement for maintaining robust economic growth and a high standard of living into the next century. We have recently introduced S.1305, The National Research Investment Act of 1998, which seeks to double the federal investment in basic scientific, medical, and pre-competitive engineering research over a ten year period beginning in FY98.

As you have pointed out, past federal investments in research and development have yielded enormous benefits to society, spawning entire new industries that now represent a substantial fraction of our gross domestic product. Several recent studies indicate that the social return on these investments is actually increasing as technological advance becomes an ever more significant driver of economic growth. It is imperative, in our opinion, that we reverse the recent trend toward decreased federal investment in basic and pre-competitive research if we are to sustain robust growth over the next several decades.

S.1305 is an important declaration of principle, but it will require ten years of patient follow-through if its goals are to be realized. Your ability to articulate effectively the link between R&D investment and growth will be an essential element of these efforts. We believe that this winter is a critical time for establishing R&D investment as a national priority. Both political parties have largely cleared the decks with respect to the agendas they have been pursuing for the last two years and both are seeking new political initiatives to advance. Moreover, recent changes in the projected five-year revenue outlook give both parties more room to maneuver within the confines of the balanced budget agreement.

Mr. President, your FY99 budget request represents the first and best opportunity to establish a bipartisan national consensus on doubling non-defense federal R&D over the next ten years. We urge that you take the lead on this important issue and include significant increases in R&D investment in your request, particularly for the twelve federal agencies specified in S.1305.

We look forward to working with you to increase federal research investments and further economic growth.

Phil Gramm, Joseph I. Lieberman, Pete V. Domenici, Jeff Bingaman

The Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space held a hearing on S. 1305 on April 28, 1998. Subcommittee Chairman Bill Frist (R-TN) stated that mandatory spending is undermining federal research and development. He believes that R&D spending should be "responsible, responsive, and sustainable." Ranking Member Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) also voiced his support for the sentiment of increasing federal support R&D in S. 1305, but stated that he was "torn by a message bill rather than an appropriations bill." He said that it is important for the scientific community to come together, but would prefer a bill that is more flexible and therefore has a better chance of being passed.

Three of the four original cosponsors of S. 1305 -- Senators Bingaman, Gramm, and Lieberman -- testified in support of the bill. Sen. Gramm spoke about how the lack of a constituency for science has hurt science funding, as other constituent groups lobby to obtain funds. He cited the statement in support of increased funding by over 100 scientific society presidents as a good example of how the community can come together. Senator Lieberman echoed Frist's comments about the effect of mandatory spending on science funding and the need to double funding now. Senator Bingaman testified that he sees the bill as an organizing vehicle to rally support for science.

Acting OSTP Director Kerri Ann Jones testified in support of science funding and the importance of science as shown in the President's budget request. She responded to questions about the role of a tobacco settlement in the budget by stating that the tobacco revenues play a small part in this years funding, but a greater role in coming years. If the tobacco settlement does not come to fruition, she continued, then the Administration will look for other offsets for its proposed increases for science and technology. She also clarified a goal to move towards a 50:50 division between defense and non-defense research. The final panel of witnesses, composed of Dan Peterson, DAP & Associates; Dr. Judith Rodin, University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Albert Teich, American Association for the Advancement of Science, focused on the role of universities, technology transfer, and outyear projections of federal R&D funding.

Decade of Investment
The senators were joined at the press conference by presidents of a wide variety of scientific and engineering societies who released a "Unified Statement on Research" calling on Congress and the President to double federal funding for research in the next decade. The statement was endorsed by 106 organizations, including AGI and six of its Member Societies, that collectively represent over 3 million scientists and engineers. Although related to the Gramm/Lieberman bill, the science community effort is broader, encompassing both civilian and defense-related research, including the Departments of Interior and Transportation.

American Physical Society President D. Allan Bromley described the unified statement as a call for a renewed commitment to investment in science and technology. At the press conference, the geosciences were represented by AGU President Sean Solomon. This show of unity by the scientific community is an outgrowth of an effort this spring in which nearly 50 scientific organizations signed on to a joint statement calling for a 7 percent increase in federal research spending for fiscal year 1998.

The "Unified Statement on Research" and related documents are available on the American Chemical Society web site.

Gingrich, Brown Call For Boosting Science Budgets

The day after the press conference described above, House Speaker Newt Gingrich testified before the House Budget Committee on the topic of what do with a budget surplus. With the final deficit for fiscal year 1997 at $22.6 billion (down from a projected $126 billion), the prospect of budget surpluses is not unthinkable. Gingrich listed science, defense, and transportation as his three priority areas to receive increases. It must be noted, however, that those specific areas came after reduction of the national debt and tax relief.

At the same hearing, House Science Committee Ranking Member George Brown (D-CA) testified in support of his "Investment Budget," which would increase federal science and technology spending by 5 percent for each of the next five years. More specifics on Brown's proposal are available from the House Science Committee Democrats' web site.

S. 124: National Research Investment Act of 1997

Introduced by Sen. Phil Gramm on one of the first days of the 105th Congress, S. 124 is quite similar to the current S. 1305. Even their titles are the same except for the year. The earlier bill had four co-sponsors in addition to Gramm: Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS). For more information on S. 124 and Gramm's comments at its introduction, see the following FYI's from the American Institute of Physics:

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs and Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs Intern.

Last updated October 20, 1998

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