Appropriations Update: Defense, NSF, NIST, Homeland Security

On September 16, 2004, in Funding, by Peter Harsha

As the federal government approaches the end of the 2004 fiscal year (on September 30, 2004), Congress has, to date, completed only one of the 13 annual appropriations bills necessary to fund the operations of government. They have, however, made some progress on others, including some actions that impact computing researchers. Here’s an update on where we stand:
Defense (P.L. 108-287): The FY 2005 Defense Appropriation has the distinction of being the only appropriations bill that has been signed into law (P.L. 108-287). Researchers fared reasonably well under the bill. Aggregate basic research funding at the Department of Defense (DOD), so-called “6.1” research in DOD parlance, will rise to $1.5 billion in FY 2005, an increase of 7.8 percent or $110 million over the FY 2004 appropriated level. DOD applied research (“6.2″), will increase 11.9 percent to $4.9 billion, and advanced technology development (“6.3″) will rise 9.8 percent to $6.2 billion in FY 2005. All together, the Defense science and technology account (6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 research and development) will increase 10.3 percent or $1.2 billion, to $13.3 billion overall in FY 2005.
Of particular importance to computing researchers, the Defense-wide “Computing Systems and Communications Technology” program line which includes much of the funding for IT R&D at DOD and DARPA has been split into two program lines. The new “Information and Communications Technology” line will receive $192.7 million in funding in FY 2005, and the new “Cognitive Computing Systems” account will receive $151.2 million in FY 2005. Their combined $344 million represents about $1.2 million more than the President requested for FY 2005, and $5.5 million more than FY 2004.
Also the “High Performance Computing Modernization Program” received an increase of $32.7 million or 15.9 percent over FY 2004, increasing to $238 million for FY 2005.
Full details on the branch-by-branch funding breakouts are included in a table after the jump.
Additional Link: The final conference report.
VA-HUD-Independent Agencies (HR 5041): The VA-HUD bill includes funding for the National Science Foundation and NASA. So far, the only action taken on the VA-HUD bill has been a markup of the House version of the bill in the House Appropriations Committee. As we’ve covered previously, the House Appropriations committee bill would cut NSF’s overall budget by 2.0 percent — about $73 million — from FY 2004, a level $194 million below the President’s requested level and well below the 15 percent per year increase authorized by Congress and approved by the President in 2002. The bill achieves the cuts by stopping three programs planned for starts in FY 2005 — the 21st Workforce Initiative, a new class of Science and Technology Centers, and a proposed Innovation Fund — and by calling for $18.7 million of cuts out of unspecified current programs.
The situation is potentially more dire given that a large cut to NASA’s budget in the bill ($1.1 billion below the President’s requested level) has led to a veto threat from the Administration and angry words from Rep. Tom Delay, an influential member of the House Republican leadership who now represents large portions of the NASA Houston workforce. Mitigating those cuts enough to enable Delay and the Administration to sign off on the bill may require finding funding elsewhere in the bill to cover NASA’s shortfall, so NSF may find its budget once again under the knife.
The situation may be somewhat better in the Senate VA-HUD bill. Though the Senate has not yet marked up the bill, it has been suggested that some creative bookkeeping (namely, declaring spending for the Veterans’ Administration in the bill “emergency spending” related to the war effort) might free some additional money from the budget cap. While there’s no guarantee NSF would see any of that additional funding in the bill, the agency is expected to fare better. At this point, however, no numbers are available.
CRA has joined with many other scientific societies to urge members of Congress to reject the proposed cuts in the VA-HUD bill, but there’s still time for you to help as well. CRA’s Computing Research Advocacy Network has been very active in contacting members of the Senate and House in support of NSF funding. In order to get involved, see CRAN’s Advocacy Alert page, with a complete background on the issue, sample letters, and contact information for your representatives in Congress.
Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) (HR 4754, S. 2809): Includes funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). We’ve detailed the dire funding situation faced by NIST at the start of the 2004 fiscal year. A $22 million cut to the agency’s budget in the FY 2004 appropriation left it unable to move forward on much of its cyber security work and led to layoffs of some lab personnel.
Both the House and Senate have marked up their FY 2005 CJS appropriations bills. The Senate bill would funnel more funding to the NIST Labs than the House version, adding $43 million to the FY 2004 number for a total of $384 million for FY 2005. In contrast, the House version would provide $375 million for FY 2005. Both versions are still well short of the Administration’s request of $423 million.
However, the Senate took a completely different path than the House regarding the controversial Advanced Technology Program. The House bill and the President’s budget request both zeroed out the $177 million ATP program, but the Senate version would actually increase the program by 14.5 percent to $203 million. It’s not clear how this significant divergence of opinion will get resolved.
Of note to computing researchers, the Senate bill would set aside $3 million for quantum computing research, with the committee noting that a breakthrough in quantum computing technology would rival that of the transistor 50 years ago.
Homeland Security (HR 4567, S. 2537): Both the House and Senate have marked up their respective versions of the Homeland Security bill; both have the same relatively small investment of $18 million in cyber security research and development for FY 2005 out of a total Homeland Security S&T budget of over $1.0 billion.
Outlook: As noted previously, it’s likely most of the work on the outstanding appropriations bills won’t move forward until after the election, when Congress returns in lame duck session. Until then, the federal government will operate under a “continuing resolution,” which will fund all government agencies at current funding levels and freeze any new starts until the remaining bills are passed. The odds are also pretty good that Congress will elect not to do anything during the lame duck session and instead punt to the new Congress in January. About the only factor opposing that is that both Appropriations chairman will have to relinquish their posts in the new Congress (due to committee term limits), so both would rather deal with the issues during their term, rather than after.
On the other hand, continuing resolutions are very appealing to fiscal conservatives in the Congress because it forces federal agencies to freeze new spending for the duration of the resolution.
In any case, don’t expect much to get settled until after the election.
More details as they emerge….

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Senate Committee Passes Supercomputing Authorization

On September 16, 2004, in Funding, by Peter Harsha

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed a modified version of a House bill that would authorize the Secretary of Energy to develop a “leadership class” supercomputer and establish a “High-end Software Development Center.”
The bill, HR 4516, is a melding of the House version of HR 4516, introduced by Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Lincoln Davis (D-TN) and Senate bill S. 2176, introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Both bills are loosely based on the recommendations from the High End Computing Revitalization Task Force Workshop CRA hosted in June, 2003. (We’ve covered both bills here recently.)
The compromise bill adopts the House’s less prescriptive (and lower) authorized funding amounts ($50 million in FY 05, $55 million in FY 06, $60 million in FY 07), but adds the software development center from the Senate bill and strips language added at the insistence of Rep. Brad Sherman that would have required a study on the implications of artificial intelligence research.
Next stop for the compromise bill is reconsideration by both the House and Senate. The modifications to the bill should help ensure quick passage in both chambers.