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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary: House Appropriations Subcommittee Hears NSF's Budget Request

April 1, 1998

The National Science Foundation outlined its budget request for the coming fiscal year before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies in a hearing marked more by laudatory comments than hard-edged questions. Dr. Neal Lane, the NSF Director, was the beneficiary of praise for his service at NSF and congratulatory remarks in view of his impending nomination to become the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The NSF budget request, which would increase the agency's total funding by 10 percent to $3.77 billion, was outlined by Dr. Lane to a generally receptive committee. Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) noted that the President's budget assumes revenues from a tobacco settlement - a funding source that is uncertain at best. He urged Dr. Lane to work with the committee to define the agency's priorities in the event that revenues and offsets did not materialize. Lane noted that the highest priorities would be in three themes outlined in the budget - Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence, Life and Earth's Environment, and Educating for the Future.

Education was a topic much on committee members' minds as they raised questions about the disappointing performance of US 12th grade students on international tests, the need for more attention to rural systemic reform, the importance of the Advanced Technological Education program, funding for informal science education, and the need for more attention to science and engineering education outreach.

Dr. Vera Rubin testified on behalf of NSB and was warmly received by the committee. Vera responded specifically to questions regarding TIMSS and provided information on the new NSB task force; she also commented on the NSB's resolution on the NIE, describing its content.

The hearing had been rescheduled from an earlier date and was shortened to half of its usual all-day format. This meant members had time to touch only briefly on a number of issues that might have been more vigorously pursued had time allowed, including affirmative action at NSF, the private sector role in support of basic research, natural disaster mitigation, and the proposal to establish a National Institute for the Environment at NSF.

See also: Testimony from Dr. Lane and Dr. Rubin.