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NSF & Congress
NSF Section of the Senate VA-HUD Appropriations Committee Report for FY 2000

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

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 $3,921,450,000 for the National Science Foundation for fiscal year 2000. This amount is $250,250,000 more than the fiscal year 1999 enacted level and the same as the budget request.

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RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES

Appropriations, 1999

$2,770,000,000

Budget estimate, 2000

$3,004,000,000

Committee recommendation

$3,007,300,000

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 Science and Technology Policy Institute.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $3,007,300,000 for research and related activities. This amount is $237,300,000 above the fiscal year 1999 enacted level and $3,300,000 more than the budget request. The Committee recommendation also includes $55,000,000 for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which is transferred from the Education and Human Resources account. The Committee commends the agency for establishing national goals in the areas of information technology, biocomplexity, and education. The Committee also applauds NSF's recent efforts to provide a budget justification for fiscal year 2000 that meets the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act. NSF should continue these efforts by working with the Office of Inspector General and General Accounting Office to ensure full compliance with the Results Act.

While the Committee has been a consistent strong supporter of NSF's role in advancing computer and information science engineering research and development, the Committee has numerous concerns about the Administration's information technology initiative dubbed "Information Technology for the 21st Century'' or IT2. This six-agency initiative where NSF has been designated as the lead agency would significantly boost the federal government's funding for software research, terascale computing equipment development, and understanding the social, economic, and workforce impact of information technologies. The Committee is concerned about creating a major new structure within NSF when the agency already has existing structures that can be used to boost information technology research. NSF's involvement in information technology activities totaled almost $700,000,000 in fiscal year 1999 alone. Many of the activities proposed under IT2 are already currently funded through existing federal programs such as the Next Generation Initiative (NGI), High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) initiative, NSF's Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI) program, and other activities under NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate.

The Committee is also concerned about investing in research and development activities that the private sector may be involved in. The President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) recently noted that "Federal R&D programs must be well designed and must not subsidize activities best left to the private sector." It is unclear how the Administration's initiative would address these concerns.

Lastly, the Committee is concerned about NSF's ability to administer a major multiagency initiative. As part of a recent "management challenges" letter, the NSF Inspector General (IG) raised concerns about substantially increasing the role of NSF in administering new programs such as IT2. The IG also raised concerns about the ability of NSF program staff to fulfill its oversight responsibilities due to the high workload and lack of adequate travel funds. While the Committee does not have any significant concerns about NSF's ability to manage its current activities and believes that NSF's financial operations are sound, the Committee believes that NSF needs to review carefully its current management structure, staff resources, and support needs such as travel funds before embarking on major new initiatives such as IT2.

Given the budget constraints and the Committee's concerns about the information technology initiative, no funding is provided for IT2 in fiscal year 2000. The Committee, however, remains very supportive of NSF's current basic research efforts in the information technology area and recommends an additional $100,000,000 to enhance NSF's computer and information science and engineering activities consistent with the PITAC recommendations in its February 1999 report. The Committee expects NSF to use these additional funds in the area of software research and scalable information infrastructure, such as the Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative. NSF also should use these additional funds for fundamental research on software design, stability, security, and reliability and for acquiring high-end computing equipment. The Committee recommends that NSF utilize its existing Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program in developing new computer hardware equipment and for testing new software designs. The Committee also encourages NSF to continue its efforts under the NGI program in providing high-speed networking access to remote and hard to reach areas such as those in Alaska, Hawaii, and rural states like Montana and Missouri.

The Committee expects the Foundation's fiscal year 2000 operating plan will outline the distribution of these additional resources within the existing subactivities of the computer and information science and engineering activity in a manner that is consistent with the PITAC report.

The Committee also supports NSF funding of longer term and larger sized grants than what is typically funded. Many investigators have complained about the size of NSF research grants and the administrative burden associated with grant applications. Further, PITAC has raised concerns that "promising long-term research is being passed over in order to meet the goals of short-term technology development." Therefore, the Committee expects NSF to address these concerns by using at least 25 percent of these additional funds for grants that are of a minimum of 3 years in duration and a minimum funding level of $750,000 per grant and to focus these grants on long-term research and technology development. The Committee further directs NSF to provide an update on the types of research funded by the CISE directorate, including the KDI program, the impact of providing these longer term and larger size grants, and a five-year strategic plan detailing the information technology areas of research and estimated funding needs. This report should be provided by January 21, 2000.

The Committee is also concerned about the impact of information technology on society and the economy. While it is clear that there are significant benefits to on-going advances in information technology, the incredible pace of new technologies may create problems that we have yet to identify. For example, one area identified by PITAC is privacy. As noted by the PITAC report, personal information can be beneficial to various service providers but its benefits can be severely limited if individuals cannot be guaranteed that their information is truly protected. The Committee is providing an additional $5,000,000 to the CISE Directorate's existing "Computing and Social Impact" program to study privacy and access to information and to further our understanding of the impact information technology advances have on issues that are of significant societal, ethical, and economical importance.

Since its inception in fiscal year 1998, the Plant Genome Research Program has already made great advances in understanding the structure, organization, and function of the genomes of economically significant plants that are important to our economic and environment interests. The Committee has been a strong supporter of this important program and commends the Administration for its continued support. Data from NSF has revealed a growing interest and competition in the plant genome program. Further, the number and quality of grant proposals seem to be higher according to NSF. For fiscal year 1999, 72 full proposals requesting approximately $339,000,000 have been received by NSF for this program. Due to the growing interest and success of this program, the Committee has included an additional $10,000,000 to the program to meet this important need. This would boost program funding to a total of $60,000,000.

To complement the plant genome program and the growth and advances in biotechnology, the Committee is also supportive of NSF's "biocomplexity in the environment" activities in fostering research in environmental science, engineering, and education. NSF's proposal to expand this focused multi-disciplinary initiative is of great interest to the Committee. This field of research may help advance our understanding of environmental systems and its role in vital natural resources. An interdisciplinary approach that encompasses a wide range of fields such as biology, chemistry, and engineering greatly enhances our ability to understand the makeup of plants and may lead to new biotechnology advances that will help transform crops into hardier, pest-resistant crops. The Committee has included $50,000,000 for the biocomplexity initiative as requested by the Administration. The Committee expects NSF to work with institutions that have close ties to the biotechnology industry and evidence of interdisciplinary efforts in the molecular biosciences.

As discussed in previous years, the Committee is concerned about how NSF funds are distributed to universities and colleges, as well as to various areas of the country. A recent NSF survey of Federal research and development funds indicated that the top 50 recipients of university-based research received about 60 percent of all available Federal research dollars. These large institutions also received a large amount of federal funds to manage research and development centers for various Federal agencies. PITAC's recent report raised the importance of promoting the full participation of institutions and individuals that are underrepresented in research opportunities. For example, high-speed network connections to advanced technology resources was cited as a way of assisting underrepresented areas and institutions participate in research partnerships. While the agency has done a commendable job in delivering high-speed network connections to underrepresented areas, the Committee encourages NSF to continue these efforts.

Accordingly, the Committee has included a provision to create a focal point for support and outreach to institutions that do not normally fall in the top 50 in federal research and development support. This new office, which will include the highly successful Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), is to focus on increasing the Foundation's competitive, merit-based support and outreach to these smaller institutions. The Committee expects NSF to build on its current programmatic and outreach efforts to improve the participation of these institutions and states. The Committee expects the Foundation to submit a detailed proposal for the innovation partnership activity as part of the fiscal year 2000 operating plan.

To startup this new office, the Committee has provided $10,000,000 to this new entity and $55,000,000 to the EPSCoR program. The Committee also supports the co-funding proposal of the Foundation in which the EPSCoR funding is leveraged with an additional $10,000,000 to $15,000,000 from within the disciplinary research programs of the Foundation.

The Committee remains committed to the U.S. Arctic Research Program and recommends $25,000,000 for arctic logistics needs. These funds are to be provided directly to the Arctic Research Commission, which will be responsible for allocating arctic logistics funds. The Committee expects NSF to build on the funding increases in fiscal year 1999 and complement the logistical and science support provided from the agency's Polar Programs and other NSF activities. The Committee also expects NSF to continue its funding in arctic logistics and research needs that are consistent with the 1997 U.S. Arctic Research Commission report, Logistics Recommendations for an Improved U.S. Arctic Research Capability.

The Committee strongly supports NSF's participation in the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP). The Committee recommends that up to $5,000,000 be made available for NOPP-related activities for fiscal year 2000. The Committee also recommends that NSF and other NOPP partner agencies continue to provide an appropriate level of operational support for meritorious ocean science research projects, including NOPP-related activities.

The Committee continues to be a strong supporter of NSF's astronomical sciences research program and supports the Administration's budget requests of $32,500,000 for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and $29,700,000 for the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO). The Committee supports NSF's proposal to use the NRAO funds to enhance support for operations and maintenance and development of new instrumentation at the Very Large Array and the Very Long Baseline Array in New Mexico and to continue the construction of the Greenbank Telescope in West Virginia. The Committee also supports NSF's plans to use the requested NOAO funds for the National Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico.

The Committee remains concerned about NSF's merit-review process and directs NSF to provide $750,000 to the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to carry out a review of the merit-review process. The Committee further directs NAPA to consult with the Committee in establishing the parameters of this review. NSF is directed to cooperate fully with NAPA to meet these parameters.

While the Committee recognizes the many benefits from NSF funded research in the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences area, the Committee is concerned about funding certain activities that may be duplicating research more appropriately funded by other agencies. The Committee is especially concerned about funding research in economic and related fields that is also funded by agencies devoted to studies of the economy, such as the Federal Reserve Board. A recent study found that economists who received NSF funding published no more new articles than their peers who did not receive NSF funding. The study did recognize that the productivity of investigators early in their careers seemed to increase with NSF funding and the Committee urges NSF to support these young investigators.

The Committee encourages NSF to review its SBE research activities and to focus its funding towards activities more directly related to NSF's core mission of promoting an understanding of the physical sciences. The Committee recognizes the promise of breakthroughs in a number of particular behavioral and social science areas such as learning and memory, visual and auditory perception, behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, social cognition, decision making, and human development and strongly supports NSF's proposed plans to increase funding for this area. The Committee directs NSF to provide a report on the status of its social, behavioral, and economic sciences research by February 3, 2000.

The Committee is aware that in March 2002 the lease for the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer, an Antarctic research vessel, will terminate. As such, a procurement for its possible replacement will need to take place in fiscal year 2000. The Committee has included bill language that will ensure a fair competition with respect to this upcoming procurement. The language is similar to provisions enacted previously by the Congress concerning the procurements of the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer and the R/V Laurence M. Gould.

Finally, the Committee notes that the National Science Board has recently formed a task force that will, among other things, review the NSF role in fostering international cooperation in fundamental science and engineering research and education. The Committee believes that fostering international cooperation in science and engineering is an important issue, and looks forward to reviewing the Board's recommendations for the Foundation when they are ultimately released. In the meantime, the Committee urges NSF to look for ways to strengthen its activities with respect to international cooperation in research and education.

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MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT

Appropriations, 1999

$90,000,000

Budget estimate, 2000

$85,000,000

Committee recommendation

$70,000,000

Program Description

The major research equipment activity will support the acquisition, construction and procurement of unique national research platforms, research resources 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 $70,000,000 for major research equipment. This amount is $20,000,000 less than the fiscal year 1999 enacted level and $15,000,000 below the budget request.

The Committee has provided the request for the continued polar support aircraft upgrades and south pole station modernization efforts. The Committee has also provided funding for the Large Hadron Collider and the Millimeter Array. The Committee has also provided $21,000,000 for Terascale Computing Systems and $7,700,000 for the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.

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EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES

Appropriations, 1999

$662,000,000

Budget estimate, 2000

$678,000,000

Committee recommendation

$688,600,000

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 $688,600,000 for education and human resources (EHR). This amount is $26,600,000 more than the fiscal year 1999 level and $10,600,000 more than the budget request. The Committee also notes that NSF expects to receive an additional $30,000,000 from the H 1B Visa account which will further supplement its EHR activities.

The Committee is troubled by the latest NSF report on women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering. While the report cites some significant progress in some areas such as women receiving engineering doctoral degrees, there continues to be a concern with minority women in science and engineering fields. The Committee encourages NSF to address these problems.

The Committee has been a strong supporter of historically black colleges and universities and continues its support by providing $8,000,000 for grants to these institutions under the underrepresented population undergraduate reform initiative. These funds are to be matched by an additional $2,000,000 in funds from the research and related activities account for a total funding level of $10,000,000 in fiscal year 2000.

The Committee also supports NSF's programs targeted to aid minority students entering the fields of mathematics, science and engineering. The Committee urges NSF to provide adequate funding for the following programs: Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation; the Border Rural Systemic Initiative; the Regional Alliance for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics for Students with Disabilities; and the Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation Program.

The Committee also strongly supports the informal science education (ISE) program. This program has acted as a catalyst for increasing the public's appreciation and understanding of science and technology in settings such as science centers, museums, zoos, aquariums, and public television. The ISE program has also been involved in the professional development of science teachers. The Committee supports NSF's continued support for this program and its fiscal year 2000 focus on increasing access to informal learning opportunities in inner cities and rural areas that have not been exposed to science and technology. The Committee continues its support for this program by providing $50,000,000 and urges NSF to expand its program to underserved areas.

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SALARIES AND EXPENSES

Appropriations, 1999

$144,000,000

Budget estimate, 2000

$149,000,000

Committee recommendation

$150,000,000

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 $150,000,000 for salaries and expenses. The increase of $1,000,000 above the budget request is provided in response to concerns raised by the IG regarding the lack of available travel funds for NSF program officers in overseeing grant awards effectively. The Committee directs NSF to fund program travel only from its salaries and expenses account and not use program funds for travel purposes.

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OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

Appropriations, 1999

$5,200,000

Budget estimate, 2000

$5,450,000

Committee recommendation

$5,550,000

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 $5,550,000 for the Office of Inspector General in fiscal year 2000. This amount is $350,000 more than the fiscal year 1999 enacted level and $100,000 more than the budget request. The Committee is providing these additional funds to support the work of the Office of Inspector General in the areas of cost-sharing, indirect costs, and misconduct in scientific research.

 

 

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