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Government Affairs Program ACTION ALERT

Senators Needed to Support Increased NSF Funding

(Posted 4-6-01)

This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: Building on an effort begun last year, Senators Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) have prepared a "Dear Colleague" letter calling on the Senate leadership to support doubling the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget over the next five years.  Bond and Mikulski -- the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds NSF -- are asking their peers to sign on to the letter that they plan to send to Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).  AGI urges geoscientists to contact their senators -- ideally in the next two weeks -- and recommend that they sign on to the Bond-Mikulski letter. The text of the Senators’ "Dear Colleague" letter is attached as is a statement by the Coalition for National Science Funding.


Few details will be available about the president’s budget until this coming week, but it is clear that non-biomedical science programs are likely to receive virtually flat funding for fiscal year (FY) 2002.  Concerned that momentum for science will be lost, Senators Bond and Mikulski are asking their Senate colleagues to join with them to double the NSF budget over the next five years.  Their "Dear Colleague" letter states: "In the fiscal year 2001 appropriation, this important agency received a significant increase that could start it down the road toward doubling its budget."

The first step toward achieving the doubling goal is to make room in the budget for such an increase. On April 4th, Bond and Mikulski offered an amendment to the Senate's FY 2002 budget resolution -- the blueprint for allocating congressional spending -- to do just that. The amendment, co-sponsored by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) and others, would add $1.44 billion to Function 250 -- the budget category for funding of general science, space and technology -- to accommodate substantial increases above the FY 2001 level for NSF, NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE).  The amendment passed by unanimous consent, opening the door for Senate appropriators (led by Bond and Mikulski) to provide a 15.3% increase for NSF in FY 2002 and close to $500 million for both NASA and DOE programs when they develop their FY 2002 appropriations bills this summer.

Please do not be put off by the fact that the Bond-Mikulski letter primarily emphasizes the role NSF-funded basic research has played in medical advances. They are seeking to build on popular support for biomedical research that has led to large increases for the National Institutes of Health. The FY 2001 increases benefited all NSF research directorates, of which Geosciences is the second largest, and future increases can be expected to do the same.  A statement released in January by the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), to which AGI and several of its member societies belong, provides other, non-medical examples of the importance of NSF funding.  Similar to the Bond-Mikulski letter, CNSF urges Congress to provide NSF funding levels that will put the agency on the path to doubling in five years. The full text of the CNSF statement is attached below (For more about CNSF, visit

Please write or call your senators to urge them to sign on to the Bond-Mikulski letter and support science funding. The senators have not set a deadline for signatures, but action in the next two weeks would be most effective. The U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 will connect you to your senator's office. You should specifically refer to the March 12th Bond-Mikulski "Dear Colleague" letter and include a brief example of how geoscience research has benefited society -- for example, better understanding of natural hazards and resulting improvements in mitigation. We recommend hard-copy letters as many Hill offices do not yet have an effective means of handling e-mail. Use the format:

The Honorable __________
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

Please let us know of any contacts you make --, fax 703-379-7563, voice 703-379-2480 ext. 212, or AGI Government Affairs Program, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302.

"Dear Colleague" Letter From Bond and Mikulski

March 12, 2001

Dear Colleague:

Last year, 41 senators agreed to co-sign a letter to Majority Leader Lott and Democratic Leader Daschle proposing that the budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF) should be doubled over a five-year period.  In the fiscal year 2001 appropriation, this important agency received a significant increase that could start it down the road toward doubling its budget.

We continue to believe that investing in basic research should be a keystone of our strategy for economic growth, a better-educated workforce, technological leadership, improved public health, prevention of disease, and national security.  As the only federal agency whose primary mission is to support fundamental scientific research, NSF is best positioned to advance this strategy.  For these reasons, we are asking once again for your signature on the enclosed letter to the two Senate leaders.

To sign the letter, or if there are any questions, please contact Cheh Kim of Senator Bond's staff at 224-7858 or Paul Carliner of Senator Mikulski's staff at 224-7231.

Thank you for considering this.

Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, Chairman
Barbara A. Mikulski, Ranking Member


Senator Trent Lott
Majority Leader
S-230 Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Senator Tom Daschle
Democratic Leader
S-221 Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Majority Leader Lott and Democratic Leader Daschle:

We are writing as longtime supporters of investments in fundamental research and education -- the building blocks of the new economy. Just as we have worked collectively to double the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over five years, we believe that we must continue a parallel effort to double the budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF) over five years. It is our strong belief that the success of NIH's efforts to cure deadly diseases such as cancer depends heavily on the underpinning research supported by NSF. The NSF supports fundamental research that contributes to the nation's health and well-being. In the fiscal year 2001 appropriation, the Congress provided this crucial agency with the largest budget increase in its history, which put the agency on the path of doubling its budget in five years.

As the Council on Competitiveness has noted: "For the past 50 years, most, if not all, of the technological advances have been directly or indirectly linked to improvements in fundamental understanding." Business Week adds: "What's needed is a serious stimulant to basic research, which has been lagging in recent years. Without continued gains in education and training and new innovations and scientific findings the raw materials of growth in the New Economy -- the technological dynamic will stall." NSF's impact over the past half century has been monumental – especially in the field of medical technologies and research. The investments have also spawned not only new products, but also entire industries, such as biotechnology, Internet providers, E-commerce, and geographic information systems. Medical technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, digital mammography and genomic mapping could not have occurred, and cannot now improve to the next level of proficiency, without underlying knowledge from NSF- supported work in biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, and computer sciences.

In 1993 support made it possible to detect the cause of a deadly hantavirus outbreak in the American Southwest. NSF-supported research on plants led to the discovery of Taxol, a derivative of Yew trees that is effective against certain cancers. The benefits of NSF research to medical science and technology has been recognized by leading doctors such as the former heads of the NIH, Harold Varmus and Bernadette Healy, and the President of the Institute of Medicine, Kenneth Shine. New NSF support for research in nanotechnology, high-speed computing, plant genome research, biocomplexity, and cognitive neuroscience will further advance the state of technological change and improve our quality of life through creation of new products, a better understanding of how humans behave, and how our ecological systems can survive.  Furthermore, every generation requires a group of skilled and innovative scientists and engineers to make the new discoveries that propel society into the future. NSF's educational programs from pre-kindergarten to graduate school train the next generation of inventors and discoverers.  For industry, this is the best type of technology transfer.

Lastly, NSF programs have become important resources for broadening the participation of under-represented groups such as minorities and women in the fields of science, math, and engineering.  Further, NSF programs such as the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the Innovation Partnerships program have become critical resources for strengthening the research and development infrastructure of many rural and small states. Senators may disagree about the precise mix of fiscal and monetary policies that will ensure a continuation of America's current economic prosperity. But there is a growing consensus that investing in fundamental scientific research is one of the best things we can do to keep our nation economically strong. This fact has been recognized by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, NASDAQ President Alfred Berkeley, the Committee for Economic Development, and many other widely respected experts. For all these reasons, we hope you will join us in continuing a five-year goal of doubling the budget of National Science Foundation by fiscal year 2005.


Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, U.S. Senator
Barbara A. Mikulski, U.S. Senator

CNSF Letter of Support for Increased NSF Funding (January 2001)

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), a group of eighty scientific, engineering, and professional societies, universities, and corporations, commends Congress and the Administration for providing the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the largest dollar increase in the agency’s history. The Coalition appreciates the efforts of Senators Christopher “Kit” Bond and Barbara Mikulski to double the NSF’s budget, and the support of Representatives James Walsh and Alan Mollohan for the NSF. We applaud the goal of doubling the NSF budget and the FY 2001 appropriation clearly sets us on the right path.

To maintain this momentum, CNSF strongly urges the Administration and Congress to provide no less than $5.1 billion, a 15% increase, for the NSF in FY 2002. We believe this increase to be a necessary step toward doubling the NSF’s budget by 2006.

Our national knowledge base in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering is increasingly important to broad economic and social interests. Doubling the NSF budget by 2006 will fund the crucial investments that the agency makes in key components of this vital knowledge base. These funds will permit investments in the basic research needed to rejuvenate and stimulate core disciplines of science, mathematics, and engineering, which are the underpinnings of technological innovation.

The primary source of federal support for non-medical basic research in colleges and universities, the NSF is the only federal agency whose mission consists of comprehensive support for the sciences and engineering. Equally important are investments in people who will apply new knowledge and expand the frontiers of science and engineering. Through its support of research and education programs, the agency plays a vital role in training the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Currently, the NSF must decline almost as many highly-rated grant proposals as it can fund. Increased funding for the NSF will not only enable the funding of more outstanding proposals that will help broaden the nation’s knowledge base, it will also enable the agency to increase the size and duration of its grants.

Over the past half century the NSF has had monumental impact on our society. The NSF investment has paid dividends in building the infrastructure of the individual scientific disciplines, as well as laid the groundwork for innovative interdisciplinary research to meet modern day scientific and technical challenges. Many new methods and products arise from the NSF investment in research, such as geographic information systems, World Wide Web search engines, automatic heart defibrillators, product bar codes, computer aided modeling (CAD/CAM), retinal implants, optical fibers, magnetic resonance imaging technology, and composite materials used in aircraft. NSF-sponsored research has triggered huge advances in understanding our planet’s natural processes, which lead to providing a sound scientific framework for better decision-making about earth's natural environment. These methods, products, and advances in understanding accrue from basic research performed over many years, not always pre-determined research efforts aimed toward a specific result. Furthermore, the NSF traditionally receives high marks for efficiency – less than four percent of the agency’s budget is spent on administration and management.

For these reasons, CNSF highly recommends that Congress and the Administration continue to invest in NSF by providing, at a minimum, $5.1 billion for FY 2002, and work to double the NSF’s budget by 2006.

Alert prepared by Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: Association of American Universities, Coalition for National Science Funding and the American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News.

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

Posted April 6, 2001

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