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NSF & Congress
Sections of the FY 1997 Appropriations Conference Report Accompanying H.R. 3666, the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, of Interest to the National Science Foundation

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Research and Related Activities
Major Research Equipment
Education and Human Resources
General Provisions

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES

Amendment No. 90: Appropriates $2,432,000,000 for Research and Related Activities, as proposed by the Senate instead of $2,431,110,000 as proposed by the House.

The conferees agree that the reduction from the budget request, $40,000,000, is to be allocated by the National Science Foundation in accordance with its internal procedures for resource allocation, subject to approval by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations

Of the increase provided for Research and Related Activities above the fiscal year 1996 level, the conferees direct the National Science Foundation to make available up to $1,400,000 to pay any tariff duties assessed on the Gemini project, consistent with Senate language under the Major Research Equipment account. In providing these funds, the conferees direct the Foundation to place them in reserve prior to all directorate allocations made in conjunction with their fiscal year 1997 operating plan.

The conferees note that government policy in the area of duties and/or tariffs on scientific instruments is under review with regard to this program and encourage the U.S. Customs Service to act in a responsive manner by recognizing that any assessed duties on this program will be paid by an arm of the U.S. government, in this case the National Science Foundation, and will do nothing to increase the net financial position of the United States Government.

The conferees are in receipt of a report by the National Science Foundation, requested by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, which addresses the possible addition of a new Navy-owned, university-operated Class 1 Oceanographic Research Vessel to the academic fleet. The report concludes that there is not current need to replace any of the four large general purpose oceanographic ships currently in the academic fleet because all of these ships have 10 to 30 years of service life remaining. While the conferees on the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 1997 have agreed to provide funding for construction of a new large vessel, such a vessel is not needed at this time and the cost of operating the ship will most likely exacerbate an already constrained budget. Therefore, the conferees direct the Office of Naval Research to work with the University- National Oceanographic Laboratory System through its normal review process to ensure that the vessel will fit the needs of the oceanographic community and takes into consideration the overall balance between research funding and ship operations funding.

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT

The conferees do not agree with the Senate direction to use $1,400,000 of funding in the Major Research Equipment account to pay U.S. Customs duties assessed on the Gemini Telescope project. The conferees have addressed this issue elsewhere in the report.

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES

Amendment No. 91: Appropriates $619,000,000 for Education and Human Resources, instead of $612,000,000 as proposed by the House and $624,000,000 as proposed by the Senate.

The conference agreement includes the following reductions:

  1. $2,000,000 from grants for graduate fellowships;
  2. $5,000,000 from grants for undergraduate curriculum development;
  3. $2,500,000 from K-12 curriculum and assessment development; and
  4. $3,000,000 from research, evaluation and communication.

The conferees agree that these reductions are provided as guidance to the National Science Foundation; these funding levels are subject to established reprogramming procedures, subject to the approval of both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

Funding for Informal Science is increased by $10,000,000 which will result in a total of $36,000,000 for this vitally important program. The conferees expect that these additional funds will be used to support and strengthen systemic reform efforts funded elsewhere in this account. In addition, the conferees request that the National Science Foundation report back to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate on its plans for implementing this direction. Funding for EPSCoR is increased by $2,500,000 for a total of $38,410,000. The increase for EPSCoR is to be used for advanced computing, networking and joint projects.

Amendment No. 92: Appropriates $134,310,000 for salaries and expenses as proposed by the Senate instead of $125,200,000 as proposed by the House.

GENERAL PROVISIONS

Amendment No. 96: Deletes language proposed by the House and stricken by the Senate prohibiting the payment of salaries of personnel who approve acquisition of supercomputing equipment when the Department of Commerce has determined that the equipment is being offered at other than fair value.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is operated largely with support from the National Science Foundation, has been conducting a competition for the acquisition of a new supercomputer. NCAR, in its bid process, selected a computer offered by a Japanese company. On August 20, 1996, the Department of Commerce announced that it was initiating an investigation to determine whether Japanese vector supercomputers were being dumped in the United States. Included in this investigation was a bid submitted in the NCAR procurement. On that same date, the National Science Foundation requested that the NCAR procurement be held in abeyance.

On September 11, 1996, the U.S. International Trade Commission determined in a preliminary investigation that there is a reasonable indication that a U.S. industry is threatened with material injury by reason of imports of vector supercomputers that are allegedly sold at less than fair value. As a result of this determination, the Department of Commerce will continue to conduct its antidumping investigation on imports of such equipment, with a preliminary determination expected by January 6, 1997, and a final determination by March 1997.

 

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