The House Appropriations Committee has released the bill text (pdf) and the accompanying committee report (pdf) for the Stimulus and Recovery Plan released today. They provide a little finer view of what’s actually in the stimulus bill. But ultimately, the House appropriators and leadership have left some discretion to the agency management to decide how to spend the new funding, which is probably a good thing. In summary, though, this looks awfully good to us and will likely go a long way towards recharging the Nation’s innovation engine.
Here’s what we know:
The Department of Energy — The Office of Science would see an increase of $2 billion under this plan. Called out specifically in the bill (but not in the accompanying report) is a $100 million increase for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program. The only other program in Science to get a specific call-out is the brand new Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), which would receive $400 million. The rest is presumably up to the Director’s discretion.
Additionally in DOE Energy Programs, the Smart Grid Investment Program, which would support efforts to add IT and other intelligence to the power grid, would receive a $4.5 billion increase under the plan.
The National Science Foundation — NSF would see an increase of $3 billion overall (so, it would become an ~ $9 billion agency, for one year, at least — more on that below). Of the $3 billion, $2.5 billion would go to the Research and Related Activities Account, home of NSF’s core research efforts. Of that $2.5 billion, 300 million would go to the Major Research Instrumentation program and an additional $200 million for academic research facilities modernization. This leaves an additional $2.0 billion to be spread among the research directorates for their core programs!
NSF’s Education and Human Resources program would see a $100 million boost — $60 million for Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships and $40 million to the Math and Science Partnerships program.
NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would see a boost of $400 million to start “approved projects” or projects that are close to completing their design review, though none are named in the bill or the report.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology — NIST would see a boost of $100 million to its core research programs, plus another $100 million to be split between the Technology Innovation Program (TIP – the revamped Advanced Technology Program), and $30 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. In addition, NIST would get $300 million for facilities repair and construction, so maybe they’ll actually be able to keep that $100 million for core research, instead of using it to pay for broken buildings or ATP/TIP/MEP.
The National Institutes of Health — NIH would receive $1.5 billion for grants to improve university research facilities and another $1.5 billion in new research funding.
So, this all looks really good to us. However, in our meetings with congressional staff over the last couple of weeks, there has been some concern about managing expectations about the sustainability of any of this funding beyond the stimulus. There are no promises that this stimulus funding will establish a new baseline funding level for these science agencies. There is the possibility that this truly is “one and done.” The report language doesn’t speak to that directly, but seems to suggest that the idea with this influx of research funding in what was thought to be simply an “infrastructure” bill is to reestablish a trajectory towards the doubling targets in the America COMPETES Act. If that’s the case, we should expect that future appropriations bills will start with a funding level of $
9 8 billion for NSF, for example (because $1 billion of the $3 billion increase is for a “one-time” infrastructure investment, while the remaining $2 billion is a research investment), and not revert back to the $6 billion pre-stimulus level. Hard to know exactly what the intent is and it’s hard to reach the appropriations staff to hear it from them directly. So what we have is the language for NSF, which is posted below for your own interpretation.
In other news, the “pre-conferencing” — or the bulk of negotiations between the Senate and House over differing priorities — for the FY 2009 omnibus appropriations bill is done, but the leadership is holding off moving it until after the stimulus is finished. We’re getting mixed signals on that one, too. While it’s likely the FY 09 Omnibus will include funding for science above the FY 08 levels (which were flat or a cut compared to FY 07), it might not be as much as either the House or Senate appropriations committees have separately agreed on in early versions of the bill because of the need to pay for other significant disagreements elsewhere in the bill. A dispute over what the Senate percieves as a $500 million shortfall in funding for the U.S. Census in the House version of the bill is one such sticking point that could impact science funding levels.
And then there’s the matter of the FY 10 budget, which will be released in skeletal form in early February and then fleshed out significantly by the new Administration in April. If the FY 10 budget numbers use the stimulus-increased numbers as the new baseline — if they ignore the FY 09 approps numbers, which were marked up pre-stimulus, in other words — then we really will be on the trajectory to realize the promise of COMPETES. If, however, they use the FY 09 approps levels as the baseline for FY 10, then it will mean that the stimulus funding for research was just a one-time bump, and we’ll likely have a near impossible task getting anywhere near those numbers again in FY10.
In any case, that’s what we know from a couple quick reads of the bill and report and conversations with congressional staff over the last week or so. None of this is a done deal until the ink is dry, and there will be much fighting about the final program levels before this is passed sometime between President’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day…. but it’s a very very nice place to start.
More detail as we learn more. Oh, and the NSF report language follows after the jump.
Research and Related Activities Recovery funding: $2.500 billion
Sustained, targeted investment by NSF in basic research in fundamental science and engineering advances discovery and spurs innovation. Such transformational work holds promise for meeting the social, economic, and environmental challenges facing the Nation, and for competing in an increasingly intense global economy. To meet these challenges, the America COMPETES Act proposed to double funding for the NSF in seven years. The funding provided in the recovery will return and exceed appropriated levels to the levels assumed in the COMPETES Act. The $2.5 billion proposed for research and related activities (R&RA) is estimated to support an additional 3,000 highly-rated, new awards and would immediately engage 12,750 senior personnel, post doc-, graduate and undergraduates. In addition, the funds provided are expected to restore the funding rate for NSF awards to pre-2000 levels. Since fiscal year 2000, NSFs funding rate has declined from over 30 percent to 25 percent. This investment would restore the funding rate to 32 percent.
Within the R&RA appropriation, $300 million is provided for the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program. The MRI program, in an effort to increase research and training in institutions of higher education, museums and science centers, and non-profit organizations, assists with the acquisition and development of shared research instrumentation that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs. When awards are made, instruments are expected to be operational for regular research use by the end of the award period. The funding provided in the recovery bill will address a key recommendation of a 2006 National Academies report on Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities (ARIF) to expand the MRI program so that it includes mid-scale instrumentation whose capital costs are greater than $2 million.
The National Science Foundation estimates that academic institutions have about $3.6 billion in deferred projects to repair and renovate science and engineering research space (fiscal year 2005 Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities). About half of these deferred projects are in the biological and medical sciences, and about half are in other sciences and engineering. These projects are included in institutional capital plans. The recovery package includes $200 million to restart its facilities program covering physical and other sciences and engineering at the Nations institutions of higher education, museums and science centers, and non-profit organizations.