FY2007 National Science Foundation Appropriations (3-28-07)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense " NSF serves as the funding source for about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by Americas colleges and universities. Key programs of interest to the Earth sciences include NSF's Geosciences Directorate within the Research and Related Activities and Math and Science Partnerships program within the Education and Human Resources.
NSF fulfills its mission chiefly by issuing limited-term grants -- currently about 10,000 new awards per year, with an average duration of three years -- to fund specific research proposals that have been judged the most promising by a rigorous and objective merit-review system. Most of these awards go to individuals or small groups of investigators. Others provide funding for research centers, instruments and facilities that allow scientists, engineers and students to work at the frontiers of knowledge. NSF's goal is to support the people, ideas and tools that together make discovery possible.
Equipment that is needed by scientists and engineers but is often too expensive for any individual or group to afford is also funded by NSF. Examples of such major research equipment include EarthScope, giant optical and radio telescopes, Antarctic research sites, high-end computer facilities and ultra-high-speed connections, ships for ocean research, sensitive detectors of very subtle physical phenomena, and gravitational wave observatories.
Another essential element in NSF's mission is support for science and engineering education, from pre-school through graduate school and beyond. The educational programs supported by the Education and Human Resources division is integrated with basic research to help ensure that there will always be plenty of skilled people available to work in new and emerging scientific, engineering and technological fields, and plenty of capable teachers to educate the next generation.
For analysis of hearings held by Congress on NSF appropriations, click here.
Arden Bement, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) presented an upbeat summary of the fiscal year 2007 (FY 2007) budget. His presentation contained various shades of green backgrounds which he indicated emphasized growth at NSF. NSF's budget will indeed grow by almost 8% as part of President Bush's "America's Competitiveness Initiative" that was announced in the State of the Union address. The initiative follows many of the recommendations of the National Academies report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," and is also consistent with legislation introduced in Congress in December 2005 and January 2006. Bement concluded by noting that NSF is among the top three federal agencies in grant management and that at NSF "we know what to do with increased funding". Below are the basic numbers for how NSF investments in future innovations will be spent in the coming year if the President's budget is supported in Congress.
The President's FY 2007 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) provides a positive boost of 7.9% over FY 2006 levels for a total of $6.02 billion. Research and Related Activities would receive a 7.7% increase to $4.666 billion, Education and Human Resources would receive a 2.5% increase to $816 million and the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would rise by 26% to $240 million. Among the major National Science and Technology Council crosscuts, the Climate Change Science Program would rise by 4.3% to $205 million. Other crosscuts that would receive increases include the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the Networking and Information Technology and the Homeland Security.
The Geoscience Directorate would grow by 6% over FY 2006 levels to $744.85 million. Atmospheric Sciences would increase by 5% to $227 million, Earth Sciences by 8.7% to $152.3 million, Ocean Sciences by 6.5% to $307 million and the Innovative and Collaborative Education and Research (ICER) would grow by 0.3% to $58.6 million. The major facilities investments related to the geosciences include the completion and initial operations of the High-Performance Instrumental Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER), $27.4 million to complete construction of EarthScope, $42.88 million to complete construction of the Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel, $13.5 million to begin construction of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) and $56 million to begin construction of the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV).
The Office of Polar Programs would increase by $49 million from $389 million in FY 2006 to $438 million in FY 2007. The office is requesting $57 million to maintain 2 of the 3 icebreakers that were transferred from the Coast Guard to NSF for maintenance and operation in FY 2006. NSF's budget statement indicates the icebreakers need significant maintenance and repair and they are awaiting a National Academies study of the condition of the icebreakers before making any final decisions about their long-term use. The office will also fund about $8 million in research grants and $8 million in logistical support for the International Polar Year.
NSF also provided projections of the number of people involved in Geoscience Directorate activities and the success rates of funding. People including senior researchers, other professionals, post-doctorates, graduate students and undergraduate students involved in activities in FY 2005 is estimated to be 10,446, for FY 2006 about 10,450 and in FY 2007 about 11,100. The statistics on competitive awards estimate that there were 1,321 awards in FY 2005 with an acceptance rate of 28%, for FY 2006 about 1300 with a rate of 27% and in FY 2007 a projected number of 1350 with a rate of 28%. The number of research grants is projected to grow from 1002 in FY 2005 to 1050 in FY 2007 with the annualized average award rising from $147,857 in FY 2005 to $149,000 in FY 2007.
During the questions and answers period, Arden Bement was asked about
how much of NSF research will focus on energy issues. He replied that
there were activities in several directorates that were focusing on
hydrogen fuel technology and advanced chemical processes for renewable
energy resources. Bement responded to a query about the impact on
grants of the additional funding by estimating that there would be
about 500 additional grants and 50 to 100 additional graduate fellowships
affecting about 6,000 people. Responding to questions related to education
programs, he offered support for undergraduate programs and indicated
that the Math and Science Partnership program will see a 27% cut because
there will be no new starts in FY 2007. A final question about the
Antarctica icebreakers closed the discussion with Bement indicating
that the icebreakers have not been refurbished and NSF will have to
rely on the Coast Guard and others for logistical support at the south
On June 29, 2006, the House approved the Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2007 (H.R. 5672), which provides appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The House generally followed the President's budget request and NSF would receive a 7.9% increase compared to last year's total budget. The House did deviate from the request on some activities, most notably the House would provide $16 million more than the request for science education. More details about how funds would be distributed among various programs and justifications for these distributions are given below and available in the House Report (109-520) on the bill.
Research and Related Activities
The House would provide $4,665.95 million for Research and Related Activities, the same as the President's request. The House expressed their support for basic research and the President's initiative in the report, stating: "The Committee strongly supports the increased funding for basic scientific research proposed in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative for fiscal year 2007. The increase provided for fiscal year 2007 is intended as the first year of a ten-year doubling of the Federal investment in innovation-enabling research supporting high-leverage fields of physical science and engineering."
The House also provided additional guidance about how NSF should deal with their responsibilities for icebreaking services in the Polar programs. NSF was given responsibility for the operation and maintenance of icebreaking services in fiscal year 2006 and the report language offered the following instructions for meeting their responsibilities in FY 2007:
"The recommendation includes language providing up to $485,000,000 for Polar research and operations support, as requested. The recommendation continues the appropriation of funding to NSF for the procurement of polar icebreaking services related to NSF's mission. The Committee expects the NSF to continue to reimburse the Coast Guard for icebreaking services related to NSF's mission in fiscal year 2007. The appropriation of this funding to NSF does not transfer to NSF the responsibility for maintenance and long-term modernization costs of the Coast Guard icebreaking fleet, as such action would irresponsibly jeopardize the nation's primary source of funding for critical basic scientific research. While using Coast Guard capabilities may be necessary to meet fiscal year 2007 requirements, the Committee expects NSF to continue efforts in pursuit of alternative, more economical, icebreaking solutions for 2007 and beyond. The Committee directs NSF to pursue the most cost-effective means of obtaining icebreaking services in the Antarctic for the 2006-2007 season, including, but not limited to, reimbursing the Coast Guard on a mutually agreed upon basis for the operations and maintenance of the U.S. polar icebreaking fleet. The Committee also strongly encourages NSF to continue to study and develop alternative and innovative means of meeting the logistics requirements of maintaining permanent research stations in Antarctica."
Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction
The House would provide the following distribution of $237.5 million for major equipment and facilities: "The Committee recommendation includes requested funding for five continuing projects, as follows: $47,890,000 for Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA); $27,400,000 for EarthScope; $28,650,000 for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory; $42,880,000 for the Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel; and $9,130,000 for South Pole Station Modernization. In addition, the recommendation includes initial funding for three new project starts, as follows: $56,000,000 for the Alaska Region Research Vessel; $13,500,000 for the Ocean Observatories Initiative; and $11,800,000 for the National Ecological Observatory Network. The recommendation does not include $3,000,000 requested to reimburse the Judgment Fund of the U.S. Treasury."
Education and Human Resources
The House recommended $832 million for Education and Human Resources, about $16 million more than the President's request and $63 million more than the FY 2006 enacted level. The additional $16 million would be derived from reductions in Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (-$3 million for the Judgement Fund described above) and in the Salaries and Expenses (-$13 million). The funds for education would be distributed among the following programs as described in the House report:
"The recommendation includes $21,000,000 for the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, an increase of $11,000,000 above the request. The Noyce Program provides scholarships to math and science majors in return for a commitment to teaching. Improving undergraduate education is a key to increasing the American technological workforce, improving overall science literacy, and strengthening K-12 math and science education. The recommendation also includes an increase of $5,000,000 above the request for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), for a total program level of $105,000,000.
The Committee recommendation also includes: $25,000,000 for Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships; $46,000,000 for Math and Science Partnerships; $46,500,000 for Advanced Technology Education; $26,500,000 for STEM Talent Expansion Program; $107,000,000 for Discovery Research K-12; $30,000,000 for Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program; and $40,000,000 for Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation."
Full text of the appropriations bill (H.R. 5672) and the committee
report (House Report. 109-520) can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.
The House Science, State, Justice and Commerce Subcommittee of the
House Appropriations Committee
is chaired by Representative Wolf
(R-VA). Other members include Reps. Taylor
(R-NC), Kirk (R-IL), Weldon
(R-FL), Goode (R-VA),
LaHood (R-IL), Culberson
(R-TX), Alexander (R-LA),
Mollohan (D-WV), Serrano
(D-NY), Cramer (D-AL),
Kennedy (D-RI) and Fattah
The Senate did not complete action on the Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2007 before the 109th Congress adjourned on December 15, 2006. Instead Congress passed four continuing resolutions to keep the agencies affected by this bill running on either fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved funding levels, whichever was the lower amount of the two. See the continuing resolution action below for more details on how the fiscal year 2007 budget was eventually finished by the 110th Congress.
The Senate Appropriations Committee did complete its
work and placed its appropriations report (Rpt. 109-280) on the Senate
legislative calendar on July 13, 2006. Based on this report, NSF would
receive almost $6 billion.
The Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is chaired by Senator Bond (R-MO). Other members include Senators Burns (R-MT), Shelby (R-AL), Craig (R-ID), Domenici (R-NM), DeWine (R-OH), Hutchison (R-TX), Mikulski (D-MD), Leahy (D-VT), Harkin (D-IA), Byrd (D-WV), Johnson (D-SD) and Reid (D-NV).
The 110th Congress Finishes the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget
The Senate passed a year-long continuing resolution for the 9 unfinished appropriations bills for fiscal year 2007 (H.J. Res. 20) on February 14, 2007 without any significant changes to the House version of this continuing resolution (see below). The President signed the bill into law (Public Law 110-5) on February 15, 2007. All federal agencies, except the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, will have their budgets defined by this continuing resolution through September 30, 2007. Departments with potential unstipulated funds have 30 days to inform Congress how they will distribute these funds.
House Passes Fourth Continuing Resolution with Some Increases for Science and Education
Even though the President released his fiscal year 2008 budget request on February 5th, Congress still has to finish work on the budget for fiscal year 2007. The nascent 110th Congress decided in January to consider passing another continuing resolution for the full year rather than try to pass 9 separate appropriation bills leftover from the 109th Congress.
On January 30th, the House passed a new continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 20) that would fund most of the government at the lowest of two possible levels either the fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved levels. The resolution worked out jointly by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Senate Appropriations Chairman, Robert Byrd (D-WV) added some adjustments that would increase funding for some research and education. The resolution explicitly eliminates earmarks and hopes to put a moratorium on earmarking until a reformed process is put in place.
The adjustments would include a proposed 6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for the National Science Foundation, so the agency would receive an increase of $335 million for a total budget of $5,916.2 million and $4,665.95 million would be allocated for Research and Related Activities, a 7.7 percent increase for that account. The Office of Science in the Department of Energy would receive a 5.6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for a total budget of $3,796.4 million. The Office would see a $200 million increase plus $130 million of previously earmarked funds that can be re-allocated for other purposes. Also within the Department of Energy, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources program would receive $1.5 billion, an increase of $300 million to accelerate research and development activities for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
No adjustments for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were included in the joint resolution, so NOAA and NASA would have flat budgets. However, some funds for research and development would be available because earmarks would be eliminated. In addition, the resolution specifies funding levels for NASA's science mission as follows: Science, Aeronautics and Exploration would receive $10 billion, of which $5.2 billion would be for science, $890 million would be for aeronautics research and $3.4 billion would be for exploration systems.
The U. S. Geological Survey would receive $977.6 million, which includes a restoration of the President's requested cut to the Mineral Resources Program (about a $22 million increase) and a small increase over the fiscal year 2006 budget. The Smithsonian Institution would receive $533 million, a decrease compared to a budget of $618 million for fiscal year 2006. Congress did specify, however, that the Smithsonian would not be required to fund a specific grant for the Council of American Overseas Research Centers or the reopening of the Patent Office Building. This may free up some funds for research, infrastructure and fixed costs.
The resolution also would include increases for Pell Grants for undergraduate education, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for water and wastewater infrastructure projects in every state, for parks and other lands to cover budget shortfalls and for the Forest Service/Wildland fire management account to meet shortfalls caused by the intense 2006 wildfire season.
The legislation now must be considered by the Senate and then if necessary voted on again by both chambers. If the legislation passes, it would then need to be signed by the President. The current continuing resolution expires on February 15th, so Congress does not have much time left. If Congress is unable to pass this legislation or some amended resolution, the government will shut down the day after Valentine's Day.
More information about the federal research and development budget for fiscal year 2007 is available at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
New 110th Congress Considers Fiscal Year 2007 Budget
The 110th Congress, which started their first session on January 4, 2007, has indicated that they plan to extend the continuing resolution (CR) passed by the 109th Congress for the full year, rather than trying to work out a new budget for the 9 unfinished bills. This means that the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have started FY 2007 without the potential budget increases proposed by the President and the previous Congress. The 109th Congress had supported the President's American Competitiveness Initiative by increasing funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science by 15 percent, the National Science Foundation by almost 8 percent and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories by 21 percent in appropriations work.
These proposed increases will be lost if the CR is extended for a full year. The 110th Congress has indicated that it might consider "limited adjustments" to some appropriations when they bring forward a new CR that will be extended until September 30, 2007. Adjustments might include bringing all programs to at least their FY 2006 funding levels to avoid some of the steep cuts proposed by the House or Senate or providing specific funding increases for some specific programs.
If the CR is extended for a full year without any adjustments, here is how federal agencies that support Earth science research and development would be affected. The National Science Foundation would see a reduction in funding of about $439 million and this reduction would translate into a loss of about 800 new research grants for FY 2007. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be funded at the House-proposed level of $3.4 billion, which is $288 million below the President's request, almost $1 billion below the Senate-proposed level and more than $500 million below the FY 2006 budget. Such a significant reduction for NOAA would impede progress for core programs, such as the National Weather Service functions and stifle the development of new programs, such as the National Water Quality Monitoring Network, a national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the implementation of the recently updated Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would receive almost the same funding as they received in FY 2006 with no significant increases or decreases to research and development funding.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a useful summary of the affect of the CR on the FY 2007 budget for research and development (R&D) that is available online. The AAAS analysis concludes that the federal investment in basic and applied research funding will decrease for the third straight year, that the federal investment for development is increasing, and that the increases for research and development will go primarily to the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense research and development budget for FY 2007 is a record-breaking $76.8 billion, thanks to a 4.8 percent increase (about $3.5 billion). The Department of Homeland Security research and development funding will be slashed by 22 percent, giving them a FY 2007 budget of about $1.0 billion.
Please see the American Association for the Advancement of Science, R&D Budget and Policy Program for more details on the federal budget for R&D.
Third Continuing Resolution: December 8, 2006 to February 15, 2007
The 109th Congress returned from the mid-term election recess and was unable to complete any of the unfinished appropriation bills. Only the appropriations for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security were finished in September and only these large departments started fiscal year 2007 on October 1, 2006 with new budgets. Before turning out the lights, Congress did pass another continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 102) through February 15, 2007. The continuing resolution (CR) means that all of the other federal agencies will be funded at the lowest funding level of three options, the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House approved FY 2007 budget or the Senate committee approved FY 2007 budget.
One quirk of the current CR is that congressionally-designated FY 2007 funding for specific projects (earmarks) are not specified, allowing the funds designated for these earmarks to be used for other projects. This gives federal agencies with earmarks some flexibility in transferring funds to alleviate shortfalls in core programs.
H.J. Res. 102 is available from Thomas, thomas.loc.gov
Second Continuing Resolution: November 17, 2006 to December 8, 2006
The 109th Congress was unable to reach any agreements or compromises on the 9 unfinished appropriations bills and passed a second continuing resolution to keep the government funded at some level before adjourning for the Thanksgiving holiday.
H.J. Res.100 is available from Thomas, thomas.loc.gov
First Continuing Resolution: October 1, 2006 to November 17, 2006
The 109th Congress adjourned on September 29th with lots of work left to complete when they return after the mid-term elections for at least one lame duck session from November 13-17. The biggest task to complete is the fiscal year 2007 budget for much of the federal government. Congress is likely to try to combine many separate bills into one large appropriation bill called an omnibus and if this happens, then policymakers are also likely to try to balance budget priorities for such an omnibus by applying a small rescission (probably about 1%) across all programs. It is also possible that Congress will not be able complete their budget work in November and may return for an additional lame duck session in December.
Congress passed only two of 12 fiscal year 2007 appropriation bills
- one for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and one for the
Department of Defense. The DHS appropriations bill contains a continuing
resolution for the other appropriation bills that have not been completed.
The resolution extends to November 17 and maintains the funding of
all government agencies, except DHS and DOD, at the lower value of
three possible levels: the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House-approved
funding or the Senate committee approved funding. The House completed
work on all 11 of their appropriation bills, however, the 12 Senate
bills have not been considered by the full chamber and thus remain
with their respective committees.
As a result of changing needs for polar icebreaking capabilities, the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation met on September 26, 2006 to assess the National Academies report on the Coast Guard's polar icebreakers and US needs for these ships. Congress required the study to be undertaken in the Department of Homeland Securities Appropriations Act of 2005 (Public Law 108-334) in support of US polar operations.
Chairman Frank A. LoBiondo (R-NJ) noted that Coast Guard's involvement in the polar regions dated back to 1885 to the Bear, the first "multi-mission" polar icebreaking ship, designed for rescue, law enforcement, communications, and research. LoBiondo expressed grave concern that two of the three polar icebreakers have reached the end of their 30-year service life at a time when the polar regions are growing in importance and economic activity.
Chairman of the full Committee Don Young (R-AK) articulated his support for a program to refurbish and acquire new icebreakers. Young called for icebreakers carrying American flags in order to assert US sovereignty in the polar regions.
Dr. Anita K. Jones, professor at the University of Virginia and chair of the polar icebreakers committee of the National Academies, testified on the state of the "substantially diminished" US fleet - the Healy, commissioned in 1999, and the Polar Star and Polar Sea, commissioned in 1976 and 1978, respectively. These three ships are the Coast Guard's only multi-mission ships. While the Healy is in good condition, the Polar Star and Polar Sea are on their last legs. "National interests in the polar regions require that the United States immediately program, budget, design and construct two new polar icebreakers," recommended Jones.
Jones explained that an American presence in Antarctica is ascertained by year-round occupation of South Pole, McMurdo, and Palmer scientific stations. These stations rely on supplies and fuel that polar icebreakers deliver. Jones emphasized the importance of cutting edge research in the Antarctic, including past discovery of the "ozone hole" which resulted in global collaboration to end the use of chlorofluorocarbons. She recommended that the United States maintain leadership in polar research and noted that polar occupation provides important political balance in which "scientific activity in the Antarctic is an instrument of foreign policy," asserts Jones.
Admiral Joseph Nimmich of the Coast Guard testified on the crucial role polar icebreakers play in traditional Coast Guard missions because they are often the closest vessels around during a time of crisis at these remote outposts. For example, the Polar Star rescued the Green Waven cargo ship in 1998 and the Healy rescued Alaskan walrus hunters in 2004.
Dr. Arden L. Bement, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), explained that although the Coast Guard serves as the polar icebreaker's operating agency, NSF funds the vessels. The NSF finances the Healy which operates 200 days a year at a high cost of $100,000 each day or $20 million each year. The NSF is also in the process of building the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV) which will be designed to work in up to three feet of ice and assist the Healy in its duties. The ARRV will allow NSF to meet its research requirements in the Arctic with US-owned ships.
Due to the poor condition of the Polar Star and Polar Sea, Antarctic NSF requirements necessitate the use of two privately-owned vessels, the Laurence M. Gould (LMG) and the Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP). The LMG costs $7.5 million annually, operates 320 days each year and can break one foot of ice, while the NBP costs $16.3 million annually, operates 300 days and can break three feet of ice. In addition to these privately owned ships, the NSF leases the Russian Krasin and the Swedish Oden. In total, the NSF provided $55.74 million for polar icebreaker operations in 2006.
Though costly, Bement echoed Jones' high estimation of polar research and its dependence on ships with icebreaking capabilities. He encouraged a joint study between NSF and the Coast Guard to examine possibilities for operating the Healy in a more-cost effective manner. Bement affirmed that in order to continue annual resupply of Antarctic stations, the NSF continues to explore competitive options in order to "maximize cost effectiveness and return on investment." These options include commercial, government and international service providers.
The final witness to testify, Mr. Mead Treadwell, chairman of the US Arctic Research Commission, outlined four reasons for the necessity of a federal icebreaker fleet - scientific research, national presence in polar waters, increasing commerce in the region, and claims to US sovereignty in the Arctic. Treadwell argued, "A new fleet of polar class icebreakers is required, and it must be a federal fleet rather than one created entirely through private enterprise."
To view the written testimony submitted for this hearing, click here.
Sources: National Science Foundation website.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Program, and Rachel Bleshman, 2006 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.
Last Update March 21, 2007