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Government Affairs Program ACTION ALERT

House Members Seek to Put NSF Budget on Doubling Path

(Posted 5-15-02: Updated 6-4-02)

UPDATE -- In total 132 representatives signed onto the "Dear Colleague" letter that was sent to House Appropriators on May 28th.. In addition to the six authors and fifty-six signatures originally reports, an additional 70 signed onto the letter: Robert Andrews (D-NJ, 1st), Brian Baird (D-WA, 3rd), Richard Baker (R-LA, 6th), Thomas Barrett (D-WI, 5th), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD, 6th), Doug Bereuter (R-NE, 1st), Rod Blagojevich (R-IL, 5th), David Bonior (D-MI, 10th), Robert Bordki (D-PA, 3rd), Leonard Boswell (D-IA, 3rd), Sherrod Brown (R-OH, 13th), Ken Calvert (R-CA, 43rd), Dave Camp (R-MI, 4th), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Bob Clement (D-TN, 5th), Christopher Cox (R-CA, 47th), Elijah Cummings (D-MD, 7th), Danny Davis (D-IL, 7th), Susan Davis (D-CA, 49th), Peter DeFazio (D-OR, 4th), William Delahunt (D-MA, 10th), John Dingell (D-MI, 16th), David Dreier (R-CA, 28th), Anna Eshoo (D-CA, 14th), Lane Evans (D-IL, 17th), Harold E. Ford, Jr. (D-TN, 9th), Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD, 1st), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX, 20th), Bart Gordon (D-TN, 6th), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL, 4th), Jane Harman (D-CA, 36th), Amo Houghton (R-NY, 31st), Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 5th), Steve Isreal (D-NY, 2nd), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX, 18th), William Jefferson (D-LA, 2nd), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH, 11th), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI, 1st), Ron Kind (D-WI, 3rd), Tom Lantos (D-CA, 12th), Sander Levin (D-MI, 12th), John Lewis (D-GA, 5th), Stephen Lynch (D-MA, 9th), Frank Mascara (D-PA, 20th), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY, 4th), Betty McCollum (D-MN, 4th), Jim McCrery (R-LA, 4th), Cynthia McKinney (D-GA, 4th), Martin Meehan (D-MA, 5th), Dennis Moore (D-KS, 3rd), James Moran (D-VA, 8th), Grace Napolitano (D-CA, 34th), Solomon Ortiz (D-TX, 27th), Donald Payne (D-NJ, 10th), Nick Rahall (D-WV, 3rd), Charles Rangel (D-NY, 15th), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 16th), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL, 18th), Bobby Rush (D-IL, 1st), Tom Sawyer (D-OH, 14th), Rob Simmons (R-CT, 2nd), Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY, 28th), Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th), Bart Stupak (D-MI, 1st), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA, 10th), John Tierney (D-MA, 6th), Tom Udall (D-NM, 3rd), Maxine Water (D-CA, 35th), Diane Watson (R-CA, 32nd), and Anthony Weiner (D-NY, 9th).

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

IN A NUTSHELL: A bipartisan group of representatives are seeking a 15% increase for the National Science Foundation in fiscal year 2003, putting the agency on track to double its budget in five years as has been done for the National Institutes of Health. Such an increase would make it possible for Congress to fund the EarthScope initiative and build other key geoscience programs. As part of the doubling effort, these representatives are sending a "Dear Colleague" letter to the House Appropriations Committee at the end of this week. Constituent calls are needed to get as many of their colleagues as possible to co-sign the letter. Geoscientists in the districts of Appropriations Committee members can play a particularly key role in supporting this effort.


Efforts are underway in the House of Representatives to put the National Science Foundation (NSF) on the same budget-doubling track as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Ask most any Member of Congress and they will say that they support the work of NSF, which is widely regarded as a well-managed agency that supports important work.  But NSF does not evoke the passionate support that biomedical research engenders. In contrast to NSF's creeping rise in funding, NIH is about to receive the last installment of planned increases -- endorsed by both the Clinton and Bush administrations -- that have doubled the agency's budget in five years.  The imbalance between federal funding of biomedical research spending and other scientific research has reached the point where the proposed increase for NIH in fiscal year (FY) 2003 is larger than the entire NSF research budget.

NSF supporters in the House have revived efforts to achieve a similar doubling plan for the foundation, starting with a 15% increase of $720 million above its FY 2002 funding.  Leading the charge are several members of the House Science Committee. Physicists Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Ranking Minority Member Ralph Hall (D-TX), along with long-time federal research supporters Reps. Constance Morella (R-MD) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), have written a "Dear Colleague" letter (text below) asking the House Appropriations Committee to put NSF on a doubling trend.  Signatures are being collected until May 17th. The letter is addressed to Representatives James Walsh (R-NY) and Alan Mollohan (D-WV) -- the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA/HUD and Independent Agencies, which has jurisdiction over NSF. The timing is critical as the subcommittee is expected to release its funding bill shortly after the Memorial Day recess.

This year in particular, the geosciences have a major stake in boosting NSF's funding levels. The president's request includes the EarthScope initiative, a first-ever opportunity for the solid earth sciences to tap into NSF's Major Research Equipment (MRE) account, which funds capital-intensive research projects. Because congressional appropriators have already made clear that they intend to restore funding for several existing MRE projects not included in the president's request, EarthScope will only be included if the overall funding level goes up on the order of this 15% proposal. For more on EarthScope, see the cover story from the April 2002 issue of Geotimes at and an accompanying Political Scene column on the funding challenge at The project web site is

The letter to appropriators is part of a broader effort by the House Science Committee to support NSF doubling. The chairman of the committee's Research Subcommittee, Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI), introduced the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 (H.R. 4664) at a well-attended press conference on May 7th. The bill would authorize increases for the next three years that track with a five-year doubling. Such funding, of course, would be contingent upon congressional appropriators following through with the dollars, but passage of the bill would put Congress on record in support of this goal.  Two days after being introduced, the bill was the topic of a subcommittee hearing and vote.  The full committee is scheduled to vote on May 22nd. An AGU alert on this topic provides additional details on the release of this bill at The Senate will hold hearings on NSF reauthorization later this month.

These efforts dovetail with the recommendations of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), to which AGI and several of its member societies belong. A statement released in February by CNSF requested a 15% increase for NSF in FY 2003 and laid out how these additional funds could be used by the agency to support core science, increase grant size and duration, and build major research equipment and facilities, while continuing to support administrative initiatives and improving education.  The statement (available at was signed by more than seventy professional societies and universities.  This group also has been supportive of a reauthorization bill that would double the NSF budget over the next five years. This afternoon, CNSF is hosting an exhibition and reception on Capitol Hill to showcase NSF-sponsored research to Members of Congress and their staff. AGI is co-sponsoring an exhibit prepared by the IRIS Consortium on the EarthScope initiative.

What You Can Do

Please call, fax, or email your representative this week to urge then to sign onto the Ehlers-Boehlert letter to support a 15% increase for NSF. The U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 will connect you to your representative's office.  E-mail correspondence can be sent through and direct telephone numbers can be obtained at The more signatures on the Dear Colleague letter, the more weight it will carry with the Appropriations Committee. Signatures will be accepted until close of business this Friday, May 17th.

If you are in the district or state of a member of the House or Senate Appropriations Committees (listed below), please contact your representative in the next week. Also, they will be back in their districts during the week of Memorial Day, which is a very good time to schedule an appointment without having to travel to Washington. For more on communicating with Congress, see

Ehlers/Boehlert Dear Colleague Letter

Dear Chairman Walsh and Ranking Member Mollohan:

We are writing as longtime supporters of fundamental scientific research and education. Science and technology fuel the growth of our economy, provide the means of our national security, and inspire our children. Yet many of the benefits we reap today stem from wise investments made decades ago. We believe that we must now increase the budget of the National Science Foundation the only Federal agency devoted to supporting basic research in science, math, and engineering across all fields and science and math education at all levels in order to provide the discoveries, technologies, and workforce necessary for the future prosperity of our nation.

As the war against terrorism has demonstrated, technology is key to America's strength. Laser-guided precision bombs exist today because of basic research performed a half-century earlier, long before the many applications of the laser were realized. As pointed out by the Hart-Rudman Commission on National Security, 'the inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S. national security over the next quarter century than any potential conventional war that we might imagine.'

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, Former Speaker Gingrich, the Committee for Economic Development, and many other respected experts from across the political spectrum. Business Week cautions: "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. Ideas first conceived in the labs of NSF-funded researchers now permeate our daily lives. These include Internet browsers, Doppler weather radar, fiber optics, earthquake hazard mitigation, even the geographic information systems used to coordinate rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. NSF-funded scientists discovered the cause of the ozone hole, found planets around other stars, created nanoscale carbon "buckyballs", and have garnered over 100 Nobel Prizes.

NSF is also vital to supplying our nation with scientists, engineers, and skilled technological workers. NSF provides grants to college-level scientists for cutting-edge research and technology. These scientists train students, many of whom then go into industry and become a crucial part of the knowledge transfer between universities and industry. A five-year study released in 1997 showed that technology transfer from academic research added more than $21 billion supporting 180,000 jobs to the American economy each year.

There has never been a more critical or opportune time to bolster the education of America's children. NSF's math and science education programs work at the pre-college level to raise the scientific and technological literacy of our children, who are tomorrow's workers, teachers, consumers, and public citizens. NSF further aims to improve the skills and content knowledge of K-12 math and science teachers through innovative programs like the Math and Science Partnerships. 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.

Responding to recent medical and biological breakthroughs, and new opportunities to cure disease, the Federal government this year completes a 5-year, $13.7-billion effort to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health. Yet, related technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), 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 comparison, funding for this complementary work of NSF has fallen dangerously out of balance. In fact, this year the proposed $3.7-billion increase to the NIH budget is larger than the total research budget of NSF.

We ask you to address this imbalance and strengthen science and technology research, development, and education by increasing the NSF budget to $5.5 billion for FY2003 ($720 million over its FY2002 level). The increase would be used to expand core science programs, enabling NSF to begin funding highly ranked grant proposals that are turned down solely for lack of funding. It would also fully fund K-12 education programs that have been authorized by the House, as well as large facility projects that have already been approved by the National Science Board. We believe that Congress' long-term goal should be to at least double the resources currently available to NSF.

In addition to the six lead authors mentioned above, the current list of signatures include:
CALIFORNIA -- Joe Baca (D-CA, 42nd), Howard Berman (D-CA, 26th), Lois Capps (D-CA, 22nd), Bob Filner (D-CA, 50th), Michael Honda (D-CA, 15th), Barbara Lee (D-CA, 9th), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, 16th), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 8th), Adam Schiff (D-CA, 27th), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA, 6th); COLORADO -- Mark Udall (D-CO, 2nd); CONNECTICUT -- Rosa DeLauro (D-CT, 3rd), John Larson (D-CT, 1st); GEORGIA -- Sanford Bishop, Jr. (D-GA, 2nd); HAWAII -- Neil Abercrombie (D-HI, 1st); ILLINOIS -- Jerry Costello  (D-IL, 12th), Timothy Johnson (R-IL, 15th), William Lipinski (D-IL, 3rd); IOWA -- James Leach (R-IA, 1st); MAINE -- Thomas Allen (D-ME, 1st), John Baldacci (D-ME, 2nd); MASSACHUSETTS -- Michael Capuano (D-MA, 8th), Barney Frank (D-MA, 4th), James McGovern (D-MA, 3rd), Edward Markey (D-MA, 7th), Richard Neal (D-MA, 2nd); MICHIGAN -- John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI, 14th), Dale Kildee (D-MI, 9th), Lynn Rivers (D-MI, 13th), Nick Smith, (R-MI, 7th); NEW JERSEY -- Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ, 6th); NEW YORK -- Gary Ackerman (D-NY, 5th), Eliot Engel (D-NY, 17th), Felix Grucci, Jr. (R-NY, 1st), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY, 26th), Michael McNulty (D-NY, 21st), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY, 8th); NORTH CAROLINA -- Bob Etheridge (D-NC, 2nd), Mike McIntyre (D-NC, 7th), David Price (D-NC, 4th), Melvin Watt (D-NC, 12th); OREGON -- David Wu (D-OR, 1st); PENNSYLVANIA -- William Coyne (D-PA, 14th), Michael Doyle (D-PA, 18th), Joseph Hoeffel (D-PA, 13th), Curt Weldon (R-PA, 7th); TEXAS -- Ken Bentsen (D-TX, 25th), Lloyd Dogett (D-TX, 10th), Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX, 15th), Nick Lampson (D-TX, 9th); VIRGINIA -- Rick Boucher (D-VA, 9th), Tom Davis (R-VA, 11th); WASHINGTON -- Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7th), George Nethercutt, Jr. (R-WA, 5th); and WISCONSIN -- Tammy Baldwin (D-WI, 2nd), Mark Green (R-WI, 8th).

House Appropriations Committee

Robert Aderholt (R-AL, 4th) *
Henry Bonilla (R-TX, 23rd)
Allen Boyd (D-FL, 2nd)
Sonny Callahan (R-AL, 1st)
James E. Clyburn (D-SC, 6th)
Bud Cramer, Jr. (D-AL, 5th) *
Duke Cunningham (R-CA, 51st)
Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT, 3rd)
Tom DeLay (R-TX, 22nd) *
Norman D. Dicks (D-WA, 6th)
John Doolittle (R-CA, 4th)
Chet Edwards (D-TX, 11th)
Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO, 8th)
Sam Farr (D-CA, 17th)
Chaka Fattah (D-PA, 2nd) *
Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ, 11th) *
Virgil Goode (I-VA, 5th) *
Kay Granger (R-TX, 12th)
Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY, 26th)
David L. Hobson (R-OH, 7th) *
Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD, 5th)
Ernest J. Istook, Jr, (R-OK, 5th)
Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL, 2nd)
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH, 9th) *
Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI, 1st)
Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-MI, 15th)
Jack Kingston (R-GA, 1st)
Joe Knollenberg (R-MI, 11th) *
Jim Kolbe (R-AZ, 5th)
Ray LaHood (R-IL, 18th)
Tom Latham (R-IA, 5th)
Jerry Lewis (R-CA, 40th)
Nita M. Lowey (D-NY, 18th)
Carrie P. Meek (D-FL, 17th) *
Dan Miller (R-FL, 13th)
Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV, 1st) *
James P. Moran (D-VA, 8th)
John P. Murtha (D-PA, 12th)
George R. Nethercutt, Jr. (R-WA, 5th)
Anne Northup (R-KY, 3rd) *
David R. Obey (D-WI. 7th)
Martin Olav Sabo (D-MN, 5th)
John W. Olver (D-MA, 1st)
Ed Pastor (D-AZ, 2nd)
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 8th)
John E. Peterson (R-PA, 5th)
David E. Price (D-NC, 4th) *
Ralph Regula (R-OH, 16th)
Harold Rogers (R-KY, 5th)
Steven R. Rothman (D-NJ, 9th)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA, 33rd)
José E. Serrano (D-NY, 16th)
Don Sherwood (R-PA, 10th)
Joe Skeen (R-NM, 2nd)
John E. Sununu (R-NH, 1st) *
John Sweeney (R-NY, 22nd)
Charles H. Taylor (R-NC, 11th)
Todd Tiahrt (R-KS, 4th)
Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN, 1st)
David Vitter (R-LA, 1st)
James Walsh (R-NY, 25th) *
Zach Wamp (R-TN, 3rd)
Roger F. Wicker (R-MS, 1st)
Frank R. Wolf (R-VA, 10th)
C. W. Young (R-FL, 10th)

* Member of VA/HUD/Independent Agencies Subcommittee overseeing NSF

Senate Appropriations Committee

Robert F. Bennett (R-UT)
Christopher S. Bond (R-MO) *
Conrad Burns (R-MT) *
Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) *
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Larry Craig (R-ID) *
Mike Dewine (R-OH) *
Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) *
Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND)
Richard J. Durbin (D-IL)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Tom Harkin (D-IA) *
Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) *
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI)
Tim Johnson (D-SD) *
Herb Kohl (D-WI) *
Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA)
Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) *
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) *
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) *
Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)

* Member of VA/HUD/Independent Agencies Subcommittee overseeing NSF

The U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 will connect you to your representative or senator's office.  E-mail correspondence can be sent through and direct telephone numbers can be obtained at

Alert prepared by Margaret A. Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: American Geophysical Union ASLA 02-12, American Institute of Physics FYI #53, and American Physical Society.

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

Posted May 15, 2002; Updated June 4, 2002

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