The House Appropriations Committee released their spending cuts version 2.0 — after having their previous attempt to cut $74 billion from the President’s request for non-defense discretionary spending savaged by conservative Republicans in the House – and NSF and DOE both face significant cuts. The appropriators went back and took another look at their first proposal, which cut about $74 billion from the President’s budget request, and found another $26 billion. The new proposed cuts mean real cuts for agency budgets (not just cuts to requested increases).
Here’s a list of the proposed cuts in the CR, which will be taken up on Monday in a vehicle that combines the CR and the FY 11 Defense Appropriation.
Notable cuts for science:
National Science Foundation’s Research and Related Activities account – cut $150 million compared to NSF’s FY10 budget.
NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction – cut $62.5 million vs. FY 10.
NSF’s Education and Human Resources – cut $147 million vs. FY 10.
DOE’s Office of Science – cut $893 million.
DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – cut $786 million
NIST’s Scientific and Technical Research Services – cut $45.5 million
About the only positive — and that’s a very qualified positive — is that ARPA-E does manage to get an appropriation in the bill ($50 million), averting some concerns that the agency would receive $0. That’s significantly lower than their original funding of $400 million, but the agency is in an awkward spot because it has never had a “normal” appropriation (it was authorized in the America COMPETES Act and given a one-time appropriation in the 2009 stimulus bill), so a CR could very well have included no funding for it.
We’ll have more as we figure it out, but these numbers show the community has a lot of work to do in the House and Senate to prevent the country from taking a big step backwards in trying to improve our long-term innovative potential….
Two weeks after the House Science and Technology Committee approved it, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 will get consideration from the whole House today. The bill, which we’ve discussed previously, would extend funding authorizations through 2015 for a few key science agencies at levels that would double their budgets over ten years, in addition to reauthorizing a number of programs designed to increase the participation of U.S. students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and creating or modifying a few programs designed to assist U.S. businesses commercialize new technologies.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chair of the House S&T Committee, hits the floor with 101 co-sponsors – all but two (by my count) Democrats. Reps. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) and Judy Biggert (D-IL) are the only GOP Members of Congress to lend their name to the effort. While this is markedly less bipartisan than the original bill (which, though it had fewer overall co-sponsors, had a much higher percentage of GOP endorsers), it’s not terribly surprising given the current election-year politics.
In fact, the House Republican Conference is opposing the bill, and they cite three bases: it expands government spending at a time of large federal deficits; it creates new government (they cite six new programs they feel are duplicative or not related to the original research focus of the bill), and it changes the original focus of COMPETES from the laudable goal of buttressing basic research to a more “technology commercialization” focus, “which many members may consider to be corporate welfare.”
Though it would be nice if the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, like the original version of COMPETES, in this election-year climate, where the GOP has visions of picking up as many as 100 seats, it’s not terribly surprising that a large number (perhaps a large majority) of Republicans will likely vote against it. It should pass, regardless.
CRA has expressed its support for the bill. In a letter to Rep. Gordon, the bill’s sponsor, we wrote:
We believe this bill continues the strong commitment to U.S. innovation and competitiveness set out in the original America COMPETES Act of 2007 by strengthening the federal investment in basic research – including a particular focus on federal government’s investment in information technology research and development – by bolstering programs designed to increase participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, and by fostering a environment conducive to innovation for American business.
We are particularly pleased that H.R. 5116 includes the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Act of 2009, which we supported last year when it passed the house as H.R. 2020. We believe the NITRD Act makes the NITRD program stronger by enacting several of the recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) review of the NITRD program in 2007. In particular, we are pleased that the NITRD Act includes a requirement that the NITRD program undergo periodic review and assessment of the program contents and funding, as well as develop and periodically update a strategic plan – both key recommendations of the PCAST and necessary in helping ensure the significant federal investment in IT R&D is used as effectively as possible.
Overall, H.R. 5116 sends a strong signal that Congress remains committed to the belief that federal investment in research remains a key part of the vibrant innovation ecosystem that helps preserve U.S. leadership in an increasingly competitive world – a belief CRA shares. The investments outlined in COMPETES will help ensure we continue to produce the ideas and the talent that drive American science and industry, creating new technologies, new industry sectors, and new high value jobs.
The debate could be long. Quite a large number of amendments were submitted to the Rules Committee, though its likely not all of those will be ruled “in order” or will be offered by the original sponsors. I’d guess that most of the most-worrisome ones – those that freeze authorization levels or eliminate whole titles of the bill – will fail with at least a party-line vote. But we’ll keep an eye on the action and have a final wrap-up here when all is said and done.
UPDATE: (5/13/2010) – The bill has just been derailed.
The House Science and Technology Committee is marking up today its version of a reauthorization (pdf) of the America COMPETES Act – the act that, when passed back in August 2007, marked the culmination of several years of effort to convince Congress and the Administration of the importance of buttressing support for federal investments in the physical sciences and STEM education. COMPETES provided authorizations for three key federal science agencies – the National Science Foundation, National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science – setting targets that would help put those agencies on a path that could see their budgets double over 10 years.
While appropriations haven’t quite kept pace with the COMPETES authorized levels, the COMPETES authorizations sent an important signal to congressional appropriators that Congress thought these programs were worthy of increased support. In addition, COMPETES authorized a number of important STEM education programs including the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program and a number of other teacher training and fellowship programs designed to increase the participation of U.S. students in STEM fields.
The new bill reauthorizes the same key agencies as in the original COMPETES and adds an authorization for ARPA-E, the DARPA-like advanced research agency located in the Department of Energy that was originally enacted by COMPETES. In addition, the bill incorporates the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2009, which we supported when it was originally passed as H.R. 2020 back in June 2009. That bill would require the agencies participating in the federal government’s NITRD program to develop a strategic plan and review progress against the plan annually; encourage coordination between the participating agencies; require the program to support R&D in cyber-physical systems, HCI, visualization and information management; and call on NSF to improve IT education to encourage the participation of women and underrepresented minorities.
The COMPETES Authorization also includes a reauthorization of the the National Nanotechnology Initiative, it establishes postdoctoral fellowships for STEM graduates to pursue STEM education research, it halts a planned consolidation of all NSF undergraduate broadening participation programs until the agency can provide a plan clarifying the objectives and rationale for the decision, it creates an advisory committee on STEM education, and a host of other provisions relating to programs at DOE, NIST and NSF. You can check out the full 225 page bill here.
The markup appears to be headed for a marathon session. The committee has before it at least 54 planned amendments, with the minority suggesting more are coming. It’s not likely that the bill will change substantially when all is said and done, but if it does, we’ll have the details here. We’ll also have a complete breakdown of the final authorization levels in the marked up bill as well as an outlook for its eventual vote in the House (House S&T Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) hopes to have the bill on the floor before the House takes its Memorial Day break.)
The Senate has also begun work on its version of the COMPETES Act, though progress there lags the House considerably. With some luck, staffers on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hope to have a bill ready for markup by Memorial Day, with consideration in the full Senate sometime later this summer. The hope in both chambers is to have COMPETES wrapped up well before Congress turns all of its attention to appropriations in September and the upcoming mid-term elections. We’ll follow all the progress here….