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ALERT: Support Increased Funding for DOE's Office of Science

(Posted 4-14-05)


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

In A Nutshell: Each year during the appropriations process, members of Congress may circulate "Dear Colleague" letters, obtain signatures and submit these letters to an appropriations subcommittee in support of a specific program or project. These letters allow members of Congress to demonstrate their support for a program. A large number of signatures indicate strong support for the program discussed in the letter. Currently, Representatives from the House Energy Subcommittee, Judy Biggert (R-IL and Chair), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) are collecting signatures for a Dear Colleague letter that requests increased funding for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science. The letter will be sent to the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Hobson (R-OH) and Ranking Minority Member Peter Visclosky (D-IN).

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The Biggert-Schiff-Tauscher Dear Colleague letter requests that Congress increase the budget for the Office of Science in DOE for fiscal year (FY) 2006. The President's request for FY06 would cut the budget for the Office of Science and force research to be significantly scaled back.

DOE's Office of Science provides about 40% of total federal spending for basic research in the physical sciences. Although the FY06 budget will be tight, it is essential to fund basic research in the physical sciences to develop the innovations that drive the growth of our economy. Such support is really an investment in our future.

It is important that many members of Congress sign the letter to demonstrate strong bipartisan support. Please contact your Representative and ask them to sign the Biggert-Schiff-Tauscher Dear Colleague and to support increased funding for DOE's Office of Science. The deadline for signing the letter is April 22, 2005, so the most efficient way to reach your representative is by phone, fax or email.

To determine who your Representative is, go to www.house.gov and enter your
zip code. The link will also provide the contact information for your Representative, so you can call, fax or email them.

1. Call your Representative's Washington, DC office.

You may obtain the phone number from their official website (via
www.house.gov) or you may call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121)
and ask to be connected to Representative [name] office. NOTE: You must
know the name of your Representative prior to calling the switchboard; they
will not be able to tell you who your member of Congress is.

Ask to speak to the legislative assistant responsible for NSF. When
connected: Encourage the staffer to have Representative [name] sign the
Biggert-Schiff-Tauscher NSF Dear Colleague letter. Be prepared to mention how
important NSF funding is to your research, academic department/institution,
and/or your community. Legislative staff are busy, so you may be asked if
you would like to leave a voice mail - you do. Simply convey the same
information you would have if you spoke to the staffer in person, but be
sure to leave your contact information.

2. E-Mail or Fax your Representative

Your Representative's e-mail addresses and fax numbers are available on their website at www.house.gov.

Tips for an effective e-mail or fax message:

-Be sure that the subject line in your e-mail is clear: Please sign the Biggert-Schiff-Tauscher DOE Dear Colleague, or Request Rep. [name] support increased funding for NSF.

-Be sure that you include your contact information at the top of the e-mail/letter; this must include your name, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address. NOTE: many offices will discard correspondence that does not include contact information, or that comes from outside of their district.

-In the opening paragraph of your message, clearly state that you are writing to ask that your Representative sign the Biggert-Schiff-Tauscher DOE Dear Colleague letter. Tell them that the letter requests that Congress increase funding for the DOE's Office of Science.

-Briefly explain why DOE funding for basic research is important to you and/or your institution (e.g., only source of funding for your area of research, helps support undergraduate/graduate student research experience, leads to innovation, etc). You may want to specifically mention the importance of geoscience research, which is not listed in the text of the Dear Colleague letter.

You can also find more information on DOE's budget at the Government Affairs website (http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/appropsfy2006_energy.html)

DEADLINE:
Representatives Biggert, Schiff and Tauscher anticipate collecting signatures through April 22, 2005, so please contact your Representative as soon as possible.
Please fax or e-mail a copy of your letter to AGI at Government Affairs Program, 422King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502; fax 703-379-7563; email govt@agiweb.org.

Many thanks for taking the time to be an active citizen-scientist!

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Text of Biggert-Schiff-Tauscher Dear Colleague Letter

Dear Chairman Hobson and Ranking Member Visclosky:

As you begin your work on the fiscal year 2006 Energy and WaterAppropriations bill, we write to thank you for your strong support in recent years for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science. We also write to express our strong support for the DOE
Office of Science and the world class scientific research that it supports. To this end, we encourage you to significantly increase fiscal year 2006 funding for the DOE Office of Science above the level appropriated in fiscal year 2005.

The DOE Office of Science supports over 40 percent of basic research in the physical sciences - more than any other federal agency - making it the nation's primary supporter of research in physics, chemistry, biological sciences, environmental sciences, mathematics and computing, and engineering. Furthermore, the DOE Office of Science supports a unique system of programs based on teams of scientists focused on national priorities in scientific research, and large-scale, specialized user facilities, which are utilized by 19,000 researchers, nearly half of whom are university faculty and students. This makes the DOE Office of Science unique among, and complementary to, the scientific programs of many other federal science agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

While federally supported medical research like that conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has doubled in recent years, funding for research in the physical sciences has experienced little or no growth over the last three decades, and has actually been in a steady decline as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Because its budget, in constant dollars, remains at its 1990 level, the DOE Office of Science funds research proposals at a rate that is one-third that of the NIH and NSF.

As a result, Europe and Asia are threatening America's dominance in the physical sciences as measured by the number of patents won, articles submitted to scientific journals, degrees awarded, Nobel prizes won, or the percentage of GDP dedicated to research and development. Furthermore, test scores show that American youth, as they progress through the education system, fall further and further behind their counterparts in other counties, especially when it comes to math and science.

That is why the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended in 2002 that research and development for the physical sciences and engineering should be brought to parity with the life sciences over five budget cycles. More recently, the DOE Office of Science released a twenty-year facilities plan and a strategic plan that prioritize research and facilities across scientific disciplines based on funding levels in the energy bill. The result of lengthy deliberations, a disciplined management approach, and some very tough choices, these plans provide the scientific vision that will enable America to benefit from 21st century science.

Even with the generous 4.3 percent increase you provided for the DOE Office of Science in fiscal year 2005, and passage of energy legislation in the 108th Congress that increased authorized funding for the DOE Office of Science, we have a long way to go to make up for years of inadequate budgets. Unfortunately, the proposed budget for fiscal year 2006 would reduce funding for the DOE Office of Science, curtailing its core research programs, substantially scaling back operating times for its many user facilities, and delaying or canceling the construction of next generation facilities.

Instead, an increase is needed and warranted, even during this time of tight budgets. Economic experts maintain that during the last half-century, science-driven technology has accounted for more than 50 percent of the growth of the U.S. economy. To maintain our national competitiveness and ensure America's economic, energy, homeland, and national security for the next fifty years, we must provide strong support today for basic research across the disciplines. That is why we urge you to provide increased funding for the DOE Office of Science, enabling it to attract the best minds, educate the next generation of scientists and engineers, support the construction and operation of modern facilities, and continue to provide the quality of scientific research that has been its trademark for so many years.

Thanks again for your strong support for the DOE Office of Science. We are cognizant of the difficult budget situation under which your subcommittee is working, and we urge you to contact us if we may be of assistance in any way.


Alert prepared by Linda Rowan, AGI Director of Government Affairs

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

Posted April 14, 2005


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