More Detail on NSF Cuts in House Approps Bill

I’ve managed to get my hands on the as yet unreleased committee report for the House VA-HUD-Independent Agencies appropriations bill, which contains some additional detail about the nature of the cuts planned for NSF in FY 2005 (first covered here).
The committee has included some accounting changes in addition to the cuts proposed, which makes it a little tricky to compare the committee recommended levels to the FY 2004 appropriation and the President’s FY 2005 request. First, the committee moved $26.0 million in “administrative costs” that were included in the R&RA FY 2004 budget to the Salaries and Expenses (S&E) budget line. The committee also decided to leave the President’s Math and Science Partnerships program ($80 million) in the Education and Human Resources directorate (EHR) rather than move them to the R&RA account, as proposed in the President’s budget. As a result, the adjusted level for R&RA would be $4.152 billion for FY 2005, $73.7 million below the comparable FY 2004 level and $194.3 million below the comparable FY 2005 budget request.
To reach that level, the appropriators targeted three new programs: the Workforce for the 21st Century program ($20 million), the proposed new class of Science and Technology Centers ($30 million), and the proposed Innovation Fund ($5 million). The remaining $18.7 million in cuts will have to come from existing programs in R&RA — a cut of less than half of one percent to existing programs. Not good at all, but a little better than it first appeared.
Additionally, the committee included some language supporting continued research to “further productivity growth in the information economy.”

From within the Engineering, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorates and the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the Committee remains concerned that researchers are reaching the physical limits of current complementary metal oxide semiconductor process technology and that this will have significant implications for continued productivity growth in the information economy. The Committee commends NSF’s examination of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors and its initiation of the Silicon Nanoelectronics and Beyond program and encourages NSF to consider increasing research support, where feasible, through this program.

The Committee doesn’t provide directorate by directorate breakouts for its funding recommendations, instead it takes NSF to task for not providing its FY 2005 budget justification in the form the committee requested (not detailed enough). The Committee directs NSF to submit a revised plan within 30 days of the enactment of the bill that

addresses the Foundation’s highest priority research requirements. In developing this plan, the Foundation is urged to be sensitive to maintaining the proper balance between the goal of stimulating interdisciplinary research and the need to maintain robust single-issue research in the core disciplines.

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would see an increase of $53.2 million over FY 2004, but $5 million less than the President’s budget request. Included in the increase is an extra $9.5 million for the IceCube Neutrino Detector Observatory, which the committee calls and “acceleration of the funding profile” to enable certain economies in the overall project cost, and a transfer of $12 million for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) to the R&RA account, reflecting the recommendation of the NRC’s recent review of the project that it wasn’t yet ready for MREFC status.
The Appropriations Committee is expected to approve the bill by voice vote on Friday, but it will likely be some time before the bill reaches the House floor. Congress goes on “recess” next week through August.

More Detail on NSF Cuts in House Approps Bill