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NSF & Congress
NSF Section of the Senate Report Accompanying H.R. 3666, House VA/HUD and Independent Agencies Bill

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National Science Foundation
Research and Related Activities
Major Research Equipment
Education and Human Resources
Salaries and Expenses
Office of Inspector General

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Appropriations, 1996 $3,220,000,000
Budget estimate, 1997 $3,325,000,000
House allowance $3,253,000,000
Committee recommendation $3,275,000,000

General Description

The National Science Foundation was established as an independent agency by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-507) and is authorized to support basic and applied research, science and technology policy research, and science and engineering education programs to promote the progress of science and engineering in the United States. The Foundation supports fundamental and applied research in all major scientific and engineering disciplines, through grants, contracts, and other forms of assistance, such as cooperative agreements, awarded to more than 2,000 colleges and universities, and to nonprofit organizations and other research organizations in all parts of the United States. The Foundation also supports major national and international programs and research facilities.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends $3,275,000,000 for the National Science Foundation for fiscal year 1997. This amount is $55,000,000 more than the 1996 level, $50,000,000 below the budget request, and $22,000,000 above the House allowance.

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES

Appropriations, 1996 $2,314,000,000
Budget estimate, 1997 $2,472,000,000
House allowance $2,431,110,000
Committee recommendation $2,432,000,000

Program Description

The research and related activities appropriation addresses Foundation goals to enable the United States to uphold world leadership in all aspects of science and engineering, and to promote the discovery, integration, dissemination, and employment of new knowledge in service to society. Research activities will contribute to the achievement of these goals through expansion of the knowledge base; integration of research and education; stimulation of knowledge transfer among academia and the public and private sectors; and bringing the perspectives of many disciplines to bear on complex problems important to the Nation.

The Foundation's discipline-oriented research programs are: biological sciences; computer and information science and engineering; engineering; geosciences; mathematical and physical sciences; and social, behavioral and economic sciences. Also included are U.S. polar research programs, U.S. Antarctic logistical support activities, and the Critical Technologies Institute.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $2,432,000,000 for research and related activities. This amount is $118,000,000 above the fiscal year 1996 level, $40,000,000 below the budget request, and $890,000 above the House allowance. The reduction recommended by the Committee is a general reduction to be applied at the Foundation's discretion, subject to normal reprogramming guidelines. The Committee urges NSF to consider actions it might take to enhance the linkages between research and education at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

The Committee recognizes the need to encourage institutions of higher education to better integrate research and education so that the education and training experience provided to students yields a more broadly trained and better prepared individual for tomorrow's technology-driven workplace environment. Therefore, the Committee is particularly supportive of the Foundation's proposal to identify and recognize research-oriented universities which have proven themselves exceptionally adept in linking research and education through innovative programs and activities.

Similar to the House, the Committee's recommendation provides the budget request of $50,000,000 for the instrumentation portion of the academic research infrastructure program within this account. The Committee expects that the instrumentation program will continue to be managed as a Foundation-wide activity, along with its cost-sharing requirements, to ensure the program's visibility, and accessibility for all eligible research and education institutions.

The science of oceanography relies heavily on the seagoing facilities available. The present mix of federally owned, academically operated ships costs more than the funds presently available for their operation. The National Science Foundation is directed to deliver by August 30, 1996, an analysis of the most cost-effective means of operating the academic fleet, taking into account the need for the gradual replacement of that fleet. In its response, the NSF should consider whatever factors in its judgment lead to the maximum scientific results achievable for the cost. These factors may include the benefits to researchers of having a fast, small water place area twin hull [SWATH] oceanographic ship which could dramatically reduce transit times and provide a more stable platform not presently available to the oceanographic research community.

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT

Appropriations, 1996 $70,000,000
Budget estimate, 1997 $95,000,000
House allowance $80,000,000
Committee recommendation $80,000,000

Program Description

The major research equipment activity will support the construction and procurement of unique national research platforms and major research equipment. Projects supported by this appropriation will push the boundaries of technological design and will offer significant expansion of opportunities, often in new directions, for the science and engineering community.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $80,000,000 for major research equipment. This amount is $10,000,000 above the fiscal year 1996 level and the same as the House allowance. The amount recommended will reflect a reduction of $15,000,000 of the total amount requested in the President's budget for construction of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory [LIGO] which is not needed at this time to maintain this project's current schedule.

The Committee acknowledges that a continued presence at the South Pole is a national priority from both a scientific and geopolitical perspective. This policy objective was recently reconfirmed in the National Science and Technology Council's report on the U.S. Antarctic Program prepared at this Committee's request. The Committee remains concerned with both the environmental and safety conditions at the station, noting that a code inspection in 1993 identified over 300 deficiencies. Therefore, the Committee recommends concurrence with the administration's request of $25,000,000 for the South Pole station safety project. The Committee understands that these funds will be used for the heavy maintenance facility, powerplant upgrade, and fuel storage facilities.

Of the funds provided in this account, the Committee directs that up to $1,400,000 be available to pay any tariff duties assessed on the Gemini project by the U.S. Customs Service in conjunction with the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii. This project is a basic research endeavor with substantial international cost sharing and of no commercial significance or intent. It is, therefore, a matter of some concern that U.S. customs duties may be levied on a scientific project sponsored and paid for by that same Government. The Committee notes that legislation has been introduced to correct this problem. Pending enactment of such a solution, the project should proceed without delay.

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES

Appropriations, 1996 $599,000,000
Budget estimate, 1997 $619,000,000
House allowance $612,000,000
Committee recommendation $624,000,000

Program Description

Education and human resources activities provide a comprehensive set of programs across all levels of education in science, mathematics, and technology. At the precollege level, the appropriation provides for new instructional material and techniques, and enrichment activities for teachers and students. Undergraduate initiatives support curriculum improvement, facility enhancement, and advanced technological education. Graduate level support is directed primarily to research fellowships and traineeships. Emphasis is given to systemic reform through components that address urban, rural, and statewide efforts in precollege education, and programs which seek to broaden the participation of States and regions in science and engineering.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $624,000,000 for education and human resources. This amount is $25,000,000 more than the fiscal year 1996 level, $5,000,000 more than the President's budget request, and $12,000,000 more than the House allowance.

The Committee appreciates the Foundation's focus in its education activities which emphasize K-12 systemic education reform at the State, local, and rural level; undergraduate education reform through the integration of research and education; and graduate student education and training. However, the Committee strongly opposes the administration's proposal that the informal science education activity be reduced by 28 percent. -Informal science education is an important component of the Foundation's portfolio in math and science education. The Committee, therefore, recommends funding of informal science education activities at $38,000,000 in fiscal year 1997. This modest increase over the current program level will enable the Foundation to expand this very successful activity in reaching a broad cross-section of our population with useful scientific and technical insights.

The Committee's recommendation also includes an increase of $3,000,000 for the very successful EPSCoR program which is designed to assist institutions in improving their potential to become successful competitors for basic science grants. The Committee considers funding for EPSCoR at this $39,910,000 level as a very high priority to be sustained in fiscal year 1997.

The Committee is aware of a proposed laboratory devoted to research and development in the technology of learning. It is the Committee's understanding that this project, the National Center for Information Technology in Education [NCITE], had been under intensive formulation to address educational needs of a broad spectrum of the population and contemplates significant private participation and investment. Such efforts are laudatory and the Committee urges the Foundation to consider carefully participation in this project if an application is made for funding, especially to the extent that this project would address the NSF mission of fostering advancements in math and science education.

SALARIES AND EXPENSES

Appropriations, 19961 $132,510,000
Budget estimate, 1997 $134,310,000
House allowance $125,200,000
Committee recommendation $134,310,000

1 Includes $5,200,000 appropriated in a separate account for headquarters relocation.

Program Description

The salaries and expenses appropriation provides for the operation, management, and direction of all Foundation programs and activities and includes necessary funds to develop and coordinate NSF programs.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $134,310,000 for salaries and expenses. This amount is $1,800,000 above the fiscal year 1996 level, is the same as the amount requested in the President's budget, and $9,110,000 more than the House.

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

Appropriations, 1996 $4,490,000
Budget estimate, 1997 $4,690,000
House allowance $4,690,000
Committee recommendation$4,690,000

Program Description

The Office of Inspector General appropriation provides audit and investigation functions to identify and correct deficiencies which could create potential instances of fraud, waste, or mismanagement.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $4,690,000 for the Office of Inspector General in fiscal year 1997. This amount is $200,000 above the fiscal year 1996 level, and is the same as the House allowance and the amount requested in the President's budget.

General Provision: Section 421 - Supercomputer Acquisition

Section 421 of the House-passed bill would impose a prohibition on the payment of the salary of any personnel who approve a contract for acquisition of supercomputer equipment or services after a preliminary or final determination by the Department of Commerce that such acquisition is in violation of the antidumping statutes. The Committee recommends deletion of this provision since it constitutes a violation of the general agreement on tariffs and trade [GATT], the World Trade Organization [WTO], and the Government procurement agreement. In addition, the provision seeks to bypass remedies available under the antidumping statutes which provide for the imposition of special tariffs to compensate domestic industries injured by such unfair trade practices.

The House provision is intended to halt the procurement of a supercomputer by the National Center for Atmospheric Research [NCAR] which is a grantee of the National Science Foundation. NCAR, a research institution managed by a consortium of universities, is in the final stages of completing a competitive procurement of a new supercomputer in which a proposal utilizing a machine manufactured in Japan is viewed as technically superior to that from a domestic manufacturer. While no determination of dumping, preliminary or otherwise, has been rendered by the Department of Commerce, enactment of this provision would jeopardize the current competition and all but preclude a contract award.

Finally, the House-passed provision represents a breech of a reciprocal United States position with regard to the 1990 United States-Japan supercomputer agreement which has substantial success in enlarging the number of Japanese Government purchases of United States manufactured supercomputers in recent years. To impede the first United States Government sponsored purchase of a Japanese-made supercomputer would reverse years of effort in opening Japanese markets, and undermine United States credibility in the promotion of free trade policies.

 

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