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NSF & Congress
NSF Section of the Conference Report on H.R. 4635, Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001

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

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES

Appropriates $3,350,000,000 for research and related activities instead of $3,117,690,000 as proposed by the House and $3,245,562,000 as proposed by the Senate. Bill language provides up to $275,592,000 of this amount for Polar research and operations support.

The conferees have included bill language which specifies that $65,000,000 of appropriated funds are to be for a comprehensive research initiative on plant genomes for economically significant crops.

Finally, the conferees have agreed to bill language which: (1) prohibits funds spent in this or any other Act to acquire or lease a research vessel with ice-breaking capability built or retrofitted outside of the United States if such a vessel of United States origin can be obtained at a cost of not more than 50 per centum above the cost of the least expensive, technically acceptable, non-United States vessel; (2) requires that the amount of subsidy or financing provided by a foreign government, or instrumentality thereof, to a vessel's construction shall be included as part of the total cost of such vessel; and (3) provides that should a U.S. vessel as set forth in the foregoing language not be available for leasing for the austral summer Antarctic season of 2002-2003, and thereafter, a vessel of any origin can be leased for a period not to exceed 120 days of that season and every season thereafter until delivery of such a United States vessel occurs.

The conference agreement provides an increase of $384,000,000 above the fiscal year 2000 appropriated level for research and related activities. Within the appropriated level is $215,000,000 for the information technology initiative, $75,000,000 for the biocomplexity initiative, $65,000,000 for plant genome research for economically significant crops, $150,000,000 for the new nanotechnology initiative, $75,000,000 for major research instrumentation, $94,910,000 for facilities within the astronomical sciences activity, and $1,000,000 to begin design and model testing of a vessel to replace the R/V Alpha Helix.

The increase of $15,000,000 provided for astronomical sciences facilities is intended to upgrade specifically facilities and operations, including new construction and instrumentation as appropriate, for the Arecibo Observatory, the Green Bank Telescope, the Very Large Array, the Very Long Baseline Array, and other facilities in need of such attention on a priority basis. The Foundation is directed to provide the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate with a list of facilities and the specific needs of each, on a priority basis, within the Operating Plan submission and on a semi-yearly basis after that.

The conferees have provided $5,000,000 within the total for social and behavioral sciences to initiate a separately competed Children's Research Initiative (CRI). While the NSF does fund some research that provides a better understanding of children, a distinct program is needed if the recommendations of the 1997 National Science and Technology Council report are to be achieved. In fact, as the NSF anticipates potential budget growth in future years, the conferees expect the CRI to be a vital part of any planned program expansion. The NSF should employ its normal peer review process for determining grants for the CRI, and should award both principal investigator and no less than three center awards with this first-year funding.

Highest funding priority should be given to proposals from distinct human sciences units in institutions of higher education that have an interdisciplinary academic program in human and family development, nutrition, and related areas. Proposals should also be evaluated for their effectiveness in utilizing existing delivery systems for program outreach and evaluation to assess how the implementation of research findings can benefit the majority of all children in a given state or region. A strong emphasis should also be placed on pursuing theory-driven, applied policy-related research on children, learning, and the influence of families and communities on child development.

The conferees expect the Foundation to work with the human sciences community in the development of the proposed program guidelines for the CRI and to have awards made by June 2001. Finally, the conferees expect a detailed plan in the fiscal year 2002 budget submission on how the NSF intends to expand the CRI as a multi-year strategic initiative.

The Opportunity Fund has again, without prejudice, not been funded for fiscal year 2001.

Except as previously noted, the conferees expect that the remaining funds will be distributed proportionately and equitably, consistent with the ratio of the budget request level above the fiscal year 2000 funding level, among all of the remaining directorates. In the distribution of funds within each directorate, the NSF is directed to provide each program, project, and activity the same percentage of the overall budget as that provided in the budget request. The conferees request that such distribution be specifically noted in the fiscal year 2001 Operating Plan submission.

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT

Appropriates $121,600,000 for major research equipment instead of $76,600,000 as proposed by the House and $109,100,000 as proposed by the Senate.

The conference agreement provides the budget request level for all ongoing projects within the MRE account, including $45,000,000 for the development and construction of a second, single site, five-plus teraflop computing facility. The conferees are encouraged by the recent progress made in the development of the first terascale facility and urge the Foundation to move as quickly as possible in soliciting proposals for the second facility. The conferees urge the Foundation to pay special attention to qualified proposals that will utilize newer generation processors and other equipment as well as exhibit appropriate cost-share benefits as part of a proposal.

The conferees expect the Foundation to provide regular, informal reports as to the progress of the entire terascale program, including updates on construction, acquisition, funding requirements, and other appropriate information associated with this important program.

The conference agreement also provides $12,500,000 to continue production of the High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER). This new high-altitude research aircraft will, upon its completion, be available to support critical and outstanding atmospheric science research opportunities over the next 25 to 30 years.

Budget constraints have forced the conferees to not approve funding for two new starts for fiscal year 2001 under major research equipment, the U.S. Array and San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth, and the National Ecological Observatory Network. This decision was made without prejudice and does not reflect on the quality of research proposed to be developed through these two programs.

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES

Appropriates $787,352,000 for education and human resources instead of $694,310,000 as proposed by the House and $765,352,000 as proposed by the Senate. Bill language is included which requires that from within available funds, $10,000,000 is for the Office of Innovation Partnerships.

Within this appropriated level, the conferees have provided $75,000,000 for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to allow for renewed emphasis on research infrastructure development in the EPSCoR states, as well as to permit full implementation awards to states which have research proposals in the planning process. In addition, the conferees have provided $10,000,000 to fund the Office of Innovation Partnerships. This new office was created last year to, among other things, house the EPSCoR program, and should continue to examine means of helping those non-EPSCoR institutions receiving among the least federal research funding expand their research capacity and competitiveness so as to develop a truly national scientific research community with appropriate research centers located throughout the nation.

The conference agreement provides $15,000,000 for the HBCU-UP program, including $14,000,000 from the EHR account and $1,000,000 from the RRA account. The conferees have provided an increase of $10,000,000 above the budget request level for the Informal Science Education (ISE) program. This increase is intended to provide additional resources to expand the pool of ISE grantees to providers in smaller communities, thus ensuring that the impact of the ISE program reaches an even more diverse audience.

The conference agreement further provides $34,250,000 for Advanced Technological Education; $13,000,000 for the SMETE Digital Library; $19,750,000 for Graduate Teaching Fellowships in K-12 Education; $16,500,000 for programs designed for women and persons with disabilities; $55,200,000 for the Graduate Research Fellowships program; and the fiscal year 2001 budget requests for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, the new Tribal Colleges program, the Minority Graduate Education program, the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology program, and the Model Institutions for Excellence program.

Finally, the conferees have agreed to provide $11,200,000 for the new Scholarships for Service program.

Except as previously noted, the conferees expect that the remaining funds will be distributed proportionately and equitably, consistent with the ratio of the budget request level above the fiscal year 2000 funding level, among all of the remaining directorates. In the distribution of funds within each directorate, the NSF is directed to provide each program, project, and activity the same percentage of the overall budget as that provided in the budget request. The conferees request that such distribution be specifically noted in the fiscal year 2001 Operating Plan submission.

SALARIES AND EXPENSES

Appropriates $160,890,000 for salaries and expenses instead of $152,000,000 as proposed by the House and $170,890,000 as proposed by the Senate.

The conferees note that the increase of $3,000,000 above the budget request is for travel expenses that the budget submission proposed to fund from within the RRA and EHR accounts instead of from within salaries and expenses. Accordingly, the conferees direct the NSF to fund employee travel from within salaries and expenses, consistent with existing practice.

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

Appropriates $6,280,000 for the Office of Inspector General as proposed by the Senate instead of $5,700,000 as proposed by the House. The conferees continue to expect the OIG to increase efforts in the areas of cost-sharing, indirect costs, and misconduct in scientific research. The conferees further direct the OIG to evaluate the Foundation's management of its growing program responsibilities.

 

See also:

Conference Report on H.R. 4635, Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001 (Full Report)

 

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