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Update on Congressional Efforts to Double Science Funding (10-12-00)

Most Recent Action:
In a move to help pass a bill to increase federal funding for science research, the Senate passed S. 2046, a two-part bill that contains language from the Federal Research Investment Act (S. 296; H.R. 3161) and House Science Chairman James Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) Information Technology Research and Development Act (H.R. 2086).   Also titled the Federal Research Investment Act, S. 2046 is the Senate's attempt to move a broad-scope funding bill for federally funded science and technology research.  Unlike the earlier versions of the Federal Research Investment Act, the new bill would authorize a gradual increase as a percentage of federal discretionary spending to total in a 10% increase for civilian research and development (R&D) by 2011.  The bill neither puts a cap on the funding of any specific agency, nor mandates a specific rate at which these increases should be made -- only guidelines are provided in the bill.  The addition of the Information Technology Research and Development (ITRD) Act into a comprehensive R&D bill was in part to push Rep. Sensenbrenner to consider the Doubling bill in the House Science Committee.  Sensenbrenner has been a long supporter of the ITRD bill but has been hesitant to passed a long-term doubling bill, claiming that this type of bill would undermine the power of the authorizing powers of the Science Committee.  Title I of S. 2046 includes the language from the ITRD bill with the inclusion of IT programs within the Department of Energy.  On September 21, 2000, the Senate passed S. 2046 by unanimous consent.  The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives, where it has been referred to several committees including Sensenbrenner's Science Committee.  With the 106th Congress about to adjourn, there is little chance that S. 2046 will be enacted into law in this Congress but it will likely be brought back up early in the 107th Congress. Nevertheless, scientific societies are engaged in efforts to encourage the House to slip it through before adjouring.

Prior Activities in the 106th Congress
On April 7, 2000, during Senate floor debate on the Senate budget resolution, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) -- supported by Sens. Bill Frist (R-TN), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), John Rockefeller (D-WV), Rick Santorum (R-PA), Charles Robb (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Kerry (D-MA), Jim Jeffords (R-VT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Patty Murray (D-WA) -- introduced an amendment to protect and strengthen civilian and military budgets for research and development and for science and technology.  Language of the amendment included a section that used funding figures from S. 296, a bill to double federal funding for non-defense research and development over the next twelve years .  The Kennedy amendment was tabled (meaning it was not voted on during the floor debate) along with a host of other amendments.  The hope is to reintroduce the Kennedy amendment in the FY2000 supplemental appropriations that next on the agenda after Congress returns at the beginning of May.

S. 296, the Federal Research Investment Act
On January 22, 1999, Senator Bill Frist introduced S. 296, the Federal Research Investment Act. He was joined by 19 bipartisan cosponsors in introducing the bill, which "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. 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 the Interior, Transportation, Energy, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Education. The bill is similar to S. 2217, which passed the Senate during the 105th Congress by a unanimous vote.

S. 296 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.

On May 5, 1999, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee passed the bill favorably out of committee with a few amendments.  During the committee markup, a manager's amendment to prevent rapid growth in one agency from causing reductions in others was introduced and accepted. More information on the markup is available from the American Institute of Physics.  Once passed by the Committee, the Senate held floor debate on S. 296, which had 41 co-sponsors, that ended in the chamber passing the bill by unanimous consent.  S. 296 is now sent to the House, where it was referred to the House Science Committee.

H.R. 3161, the Federal Research Investment Act
On October 28, 1999, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and 9 co-sponsors -- including physicist Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ); ranking Commerce Committee Democrat John Dingell (MI); and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), whose California district includes the western regional office of the U.S. Geological Survey -- introduced H.R. 3161, the long-awaited House companion to Senate-passed S. 296, which authorizes a doubling of the federal investment in research in the next twelve years.  The bill has been referred to the Committee on Science, where it is expected to receive a rocky reception from committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who has been highly critical of broad, long-term authorization bills like S. 296. His opposition was a major factor in keeping the doubling effort confined to the Senate until now. H.R. 3161 was additionally referred to the Committees on Commerce, Armed Services, Resources, and Agriculture for those portions of the bill within their jurisdiction.

S. 296 and H.R. 3161 are similar to S. 2217, which passed the Senate during the 105th Congress by a unanimous vote. More information on bills to increase science funding in the 105th Congress are available on the AGI website.

Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, wrote an editorial that was published in the Washington Post on October 18, calling for an increase in federal funding for the sciences.  The complete text of the editorial is available at the American Institute of Physics website.

The National Council for Science and the Environment (formally the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment) has made a number of Congressional Research Service reports on federal research and development funding are available on the web, including:

Letter of Support from Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich

September 28, 2000
The Honorable Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House
H-230 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Ted Stevens
Chairman, Senate Appropriatins Committee
S-128 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Trent Lott
Senate Majority Leader
S-230 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Bill Young
Chairman, House Appropriations Committee
H-218 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Hastert, Majority Leader Lott, Chairman Stevens and ChairmanYoung:

As you enter the final phase of this year's budget negotiations, I hope you will take this opportunity to strengthen our national security and increase our future opportunities in health research and in job creation by increasing the NSF budget so it is proportional to the NIH budget.  You have an opportunity to help the National Science Foundation catch up with the National Institutes of Health in having the resources needed to pursue the opportunities science is uncovering.

For the last several years we have worked hard to increase the funding for the National Institutes of Health. This has been an important step toward breakthroughs in health solutions. However as the former NIH director, Harold Varmus indicated, the biological research is dependent on continuing breakthroughs in basic science-- math, physics chemistry and other scientific research. Just as NIH is the foundation on which pharmaceutical companies develop the drugs of the next generation, so the National Science Foundation is the basic research foundation on which the NIH ultimately builds its work.

Over the last 7 years (from fiscal 1994 through 2001) we have increased the NIH research budget from $11.544 billion to $19.729 billion. That is an increase of 71% since1994. By contrast we have increased the National Science Foundation research budget in the same period only from  $2.472 billion to $3.134 billion or an increase of 27%.  This will ultimately lead to an atrophying of our investment in math, physics, chemistry and other basic knowledge and then to a decline in our national security, in our economic growth, and in our ability to do medical research.

If you simply caught the National Science Foundation up with the NIH budget you would allocate an additional $1.755 billion this year. That would simply make the NSF proportionately the same size relative to the NIH as it was in 1994.

We are currently failing to fund many vital areas of opportunity for future scientific knowledge.  For example, the National Nanotechnology Initiative is a proposal for an NSF-led initiative to fund interdisciplinary research and education in the revolutionary branch of science called nanoscience.  Its application, nanotechnology, is the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules, making it possible to build machines on the scale of human cells or create materials and structures from the bottom up.  It could change the way almost everything is made, from medicines to computers.  This is not science fiction; countries such as China and Japan have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this technology.  Europe may even be ahead of us.  The initiative requires $497 million, yet the current bills do not come close to that level of funding. Some experts equate the application of nanoscience to be as large or larger than the Internet or electricity; the requested amount is modest in comparison with the potential implications for our economy.  I believe funding this initiative is the greatest national security investment you can make this year.

Even beyond nanoscience, National Science Foundation Director Rita Colwell has testified this year that she has more than enough first class scientific research proposals to spend over $11 billion in research money without asking for any new applications.  Even with NSF caught up completely with NIH in proportionate funding we would still be funding only about 40% of the first rate applications already pending.

Our current economy is a reflection of past investments in scientific research (the computer chip and the internet are only two examples of government funded progress).  Our current health is a reflection of past investments in research. Our current world leadership in defense is a function of our past investment sin science and technology.

This is a worthy project, which will repay our children, our grandchildren and us many times over. Please do all you can to help
bring the National Science Foundation up to a minimum funding standard to set the stage for a generation of scientific opportunities.

Thank you.

Your friend,
Newt Gingrich

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

Contributed by Kasey Shewey White, David Applegate, and Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs and Althea Cawley-Murphree, AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Intern.

Last updated October 12, 2000

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