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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary: House VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing

April 10, 1997

The House VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee held the fiscal year (FY) 1998 appropriations hearing for the National Science Foundation (NSF) on April 10, 1997. Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Ranking Member, Louis Stokes (D-OH), led a well-attended discussion on federal support for research and development, the need to increase the numbers of minorities in science and engineering and the specifics of the National Science Foundation's budget. Dr. Neal Lane, NSF Director, and Dr. Richard Zare, Chairman of the National Science Board, testified in support of NSF's FY '98 budget request of $3.367 billion, highlighting NSF priorities such as the Integration of Research and Education, the Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence initiative and Life in Extreme Environments. Both emphasized the importance of strong federal investment in research and development. Dr. Lane pointed out that Japan has made a recent commitment to increase by 50 percent its support of basic research over the next five years, in effect almost doubling investments between 1992 and 2000.

There was a tremendous showing by members of the subcommittee and an equally vigorous expression of support for the National Science Foundation. Congressmen Lewis and Stokes, with active participation by Congressmen Hobson (R-OH) Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Walsh (R-NY), Price (D-NC), and Meek (D-FL), led the hearing through an initial series of questions on the President's support for research and development in the FY '98 budget. Several members expressed their appreciation of the science community's call for a 7 percent increase in research funding.

Representative Walsh focused throughout the hearing on a series of questions related to the NSF Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, specifically on the phase out plan for NSF's previous supercomputer program. Dr. Paul Young, Senior Advisor to the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, explained in detail how the Foundation arrived at its recommendation to go forward with two new partnership proposals and laid out the current plan for phasing out the other centers.

Continuing his interest, previously expressed while a member of the House Science Committee, Congressman Price (D-NC) asked a series of questions on the Advanced Technology Education program. He touted the successful program and praised NSF for its success in building its linkages with community colleges.

Other topics of members' interest included the Antarctic program, NSF's computer preparations for the year 2000, intellectual property rights, NSF major facilities and centers, the Next Generation Internet program and changes to the NSF education programs.

The afternoon session focused on how to promote minorities in science and engineering. Congressman Stokes and Congresswoman Meek (D-FL) held a fruitful discussion with NSF representatives, including Dr. Luther Williams, Assistant Director of Education and Human Resources, on why so few minorities are pursuing careers in science and engineering. Dr. Williams emphasized the value of undergraduate and K-12 education, but pointed to systemic reform as the best means to increase science and engineering education for minorities. He and Dr. Lane accentuated the importance of emphasizing minority participation in all science and engineering research, rather than simply create new minority programs. Congressman Lewis closed the hearing by announcing that he hoped to see a science and engineering workforce that "looks more like America" in the near future.

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