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NSF & Congress

S.Rept. 105-216, NSF Section of the Senate VA/HUD Committee Report, FY 1999

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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


For the National Science Foundation, the Committee recommendation totals $3,644,150,000, an increase of $215,150,000 above the 1998 level. The Committee views NSF as an investment in the future and this funding is intended to reaffirm the strong and longstanding support of this Committee to scientific research and education.

Appropriations, 1998$3,429,000,000
Budget estimate, 1999$3,773,000,000
Committee recommendation$3,644,150,000

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 $3,644,150,000 for the National Science Foundation for fiscal year 1999. This amount is $215,150,000 more than the 1998 level and $128,850,000 less than the budget request.


Appropriations, 1998$2,545,700,000
Budget estimate, 1999$2,846,800,000
Committee recommendation$2,725,000,000

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 $2,725,000,000 for research and related activities. This amount is $179,300,000 above the fiscal year 1998 level and $121,800,000 less than the budget request. While the Committee strongly supports the goals of the National Science Foundation and recognizes the importance that the Foundation places in the primary initiatives of knowledge and distributed intelligence [KDI], life and Earth's environment [LEE], and educating for the future [EFF], the Committee remains concerned over the National Science Foundation's failure to provide a budget justification for fiscal year 1999 that meets the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act. It is important that all initiatives and programs of NSF be identified with specific funding as well as quantifiable goals and milestones. The Committee expects NSF's fiscalyear 2000 budget to establish quantifiable goals and milestones and, absent compliance, the Committee may have to consider appropriating program specific funding.

The Committee directs NSF to submit a plan to the Committee by December 1, 1998, detailing a schedule, and all needed activities and associated costs (including where the costs will be paid from) for resolving all year 2000 computer problems within the agency. No operating plan will be approved unless this plan has been submitted. The Committee also directs NSF, in conjunction with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to report to the Committee no later than June 30, 1999, on the extent to which the year 2000 computer problem will impact universities and technological efforts in the United States as well as an assessment on the impact on science, technology, and research throughout the world.

The Committee is aware of the report on the national plant genome initiative produced by the administration's Interagency Working Group [IWG] on Plant Genomes and commends the administration for its strong support of the plant genome initiative [PGI] funded by Congress in fiscal year 1998. The goals of this ambitious new program are to advance our understanding of the structure, organization, and function of the genomes of economically significant plants to improve the useful properties of plants that are important to humanity. The challenges of ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable source of food and fiber for a population which is expected to double in the next 30 years can only be achieved by breakthrough advances in science. Scientists believe that the solutions to these challenges can be met through the application of plant-based technologies resulting in the manipulation of the DNA of plants. In particular, the IWG reports that: ``* * * the revitalization of rural America will come from a more robust agricultural sector; reduction in greenhouse gasses can be achieved from the production of plant biofuels for energy; chemically contaminated sites can be rehabilitated economically using selected plants; and worldwide malnutrition can be greatly reduced through the development of higher yielding and more nutritious crops that can be grown on marginal soil.''

Currently, the United States is the world's leader in biotechnology which many believe will mark the third technological revolution. For fiscal year 1998, the PGI has attracted 67 proposals from 121 separate institutions requesting a total of $348,000,000. The Committee has included an additional $10,000,000 to the budget request to help meet this pressing need.

As discussed in last year's report, the Committee expects NSF to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration to review the procedure and criteria for merit review, now that the new criteria has been in place for a year. This study should review the overall merit review process in the agency, as well as examine how the changes in the merit review criteria have affected the different types of research that NSF supports.

The Committee also 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 R&D expenditures based on data collected through fiscal year 1996 indicated that the top 50 recipients of university-based research received about 60 percent of all available Federal research dollars (some $8,300,000,000 out of $13,800,000,000). In addition, a number of these top 50 schools received an additional $4,300,000,000 because they manage large federally funded research and development centers for various Federal agencies. Consequently, the Committee urges the Foundation to broaden the scope of its research support for colleges and universities.

In addition, the Committee also recognizes the need for the agency to foster initiatives between university centers of excellence and U.S. manufacturers to promote work force training to increase the pool of trained personnel for careers in information technology companies. Such an effort by the agency could bolster worker productivity and improve U.S. global competitiveness in this critical economic activity. The Committee, therefore, urges the agency, as part of its KDI initiative, to support proposals addressing the demonstrated personnel needs of information technology firms for expanded education and training at three university-based centers. The Committee directs the agency to focus its support on universities and colleges that do not normally fall within the top 100 of NSF's survey of universities and colleges receiving Federal research support to overcome any bias toward more established institutions. The Committee has provided $6,000,000 to support this initiative.

The National Science Foundation [NSF] established the Science and Technology Centers [STC] Program in 1987 to fund important basic research and education activities and to encourage technology transfer and innovative approaches within an interdisciplinary framework. The Committee has been a strong supporter of these kinds of efforts and encourages NSF to move forward with the STC Program. In that light, the Committee is particularly interested in using the STC model to support innovative interdisciplinary research and training efforts in applied molecular biology. With its close ties to the biotechnology industry three new STC's in this area would be entirely consistent with the program's objectives. The Committee, therefore, directs NSF to develop a new research program for the establishment of three multi-investigator centers in the area of applied molecular biology. The development of such centers shall be targeted to universities and colleges that do not normally fall within the top 100 of NSF's survey of universities and colleges receiving Federal research support to overcome bias toward more established institutions. The centers should facilitate the preparation of a new generation of trained scientists at younger institutions. Further, the institutions must demonstrate evidence of interdisciplinary efforts in the molecular biosciences and have a history of laboratory-based training of researchers for the biotechnology industry. The Committee is providing $12,000,000 to support this initiative.

The Committee has provided an additional $24,000,000 to the budget request for arctic logistics within the U.S. Arctic Research Program. These additional funds are to be used to provide logistical support for the research activities funded by polar programs and other NSF arctic research and education activities. The Committee intends that the recommendations of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission in Logistics Recommendations for Improved U.S. Arctic Research Capability (July 1997) and the 1987 report of the National Science Board's Committee on the Role of the NSF in Polar Regions (NSB 87 128) will serve as guideposts for the investment of these funds, subject to the merit review process.

The Committee is particularly interested in seeing that some of these additional resources support current international collaborations in arctic research related to global climate change as well as addressing distance learning issues unique to the arctic environment. The Committee directs NSF to submit a strategic plan to the Committee on the proposed structure for the use of these logistical funds by November 15, 1998.

The Committee is a strong supporter of NSF's participation in the Next Generation Internet [NGI] Program and recognizes the importance of equal access to the NGI for researchers and educators from all areas of the country. The Committee is well aware that some States, such as Hawaii and Alaska, face unique challenges in getting access to high-performance telecommunication networks and urges NSF to continue to work closely with universities from these States and with other Federal agencies, to address this access problem. The Committee strongly encourages NSF and the other relevant agencies involved in high-speed networking to provide all appropriate support that will assist these and other States and their institutions of higher education to gain access to the developing national research network testbed. The Committee directs NSF to submit a strategic plan on ways to address this access and cost issue to the Committee by January 25, 1999.

The Committee received the report requested in last year's appropriation from the Foundation in April 1998 on the establishment of a National Institute on the Environment. The Committee concurs with the Foundation's view that environmental research is an important area that should be strengthened. The Committee believes that this objective can be accomplished without the creation of an additional bureaucratic structure. The Committee looks forward to forthcoming proposals from the OSTP, NSF, and the National Science and Technology Council concerning a national science and technology strategy for the environment, which was recommended in the NSF's April report to the Committee.

The Committee understands that NSF is reorganizing its behavioral and social science research programs to accelerate the impressive advances that are occurring in these areas. The Committee applauds this reorganization as a sign of NSF's expanding commitment to these areas and reiterates its belief that basic research in the behavioral sciences is central to understanding and addressing many national concerns. The Committee also is pleased to note the publication of "Basic Research in Psychological Science", a human capital initiative report on the achievements in many areas of psychological research such as visual and auditory perception, memory and learning, decisionmaking, social and culture-based behaviors, and human development. The Committee encourages NSF to use this report in establishing behavioral and social science research priorities.

The Committee directs NSF to support through a competitive process an additional LTER site, for the study of a pristine, inland, mountain wilderness area. Preferences should be given to sites with established research facilities operated by an accredited university or nonprofit organization. The size and location of the site should be conducive to providing baseline information on wilderness environments.


Appropriations, 1998$109,000,000
Budget estimate, 1999$94,000,000
Committee recommendation$94,000,000

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 $94,000,000 for major research equipment. This amount is $15,000,000 less than the fiscal year 1998 level and the same as the budget request. The Committee has provided the request for the continued work on modernizing the South Pole Station. In January 1998, the Committee sent a CODEL, led by Senator Stevens, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, to review first hand the role of NSF in the Antarctic and the Foundation's plans for the rebuilding of the South Pole Station as well as other upgrades necessary to preserve U.S. presence and the U.S. leadership in science research in the Antarctic. The Committee found that the construction of a new South Pole Station is needed. The Committee also found that NSF's investment in the Antarctic as a unique research laboratory is responsible, important, and useful.

Nevertheless, the Committee remains concerned about the management of the costs of this undertaking in such a harsh and unforgiving environment. One particular concern relates to the fact that the overall civilian logistics support contract for all U.S. Antarctic Program activities will be the subject of a recompetition just as construction of the new station begins. Therefore, the Committee directs NSF to submit a report by February 1999, detailing its plans for construction cost containment of the new station and how this process will be managed should a new contractor be selected for overall logistics support activities.

The Committee also has provided the request for the large hadron collider and second year funding for the millimeter array radio telescope.

The Committee does not provide funding for the Polar Cap Observatory at this time.


Appropriations, 1998$632,500,000
Budget estimate, 1999$683,000,000
Committee recommendation$683,000,000

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 $683,000,000 for education and human resources. This amount is $50,500,000 more than the fiscal year 1998 level and the same as the budget request. Since 1965, NSF has been involved in international comparisons of student math and science performance. Despite a significant Federal investment and commitment, for 30 years U.S. students have been near or at the bottom of performance. The recent TIMMS study again tells us that our Nation's 12th graders are not doing as well in math and science as our international competitors. The Committee is concerned greatly by this study, and requests NSF to develop a strategic plan to address this shortcoming. An initial preplan review should be provided to the Committee by June 15, 1999.

In addition, for a number of years--spurred on by a National Science Board report in the late 1980's and this Committee--NSF has invested on a number of fronts to improve math and science education at the undergraduate level. Instead of the expected progress, the Carnegie Foundation recently issued a report that was critical of the job our research universities are doing in undergraduate education. The Committee expects NSF to develop a strategic plan to address the existing shortcomings in our Nation's undergraduate programs, with an initial preplan review due by July 15, 1999.

Moreover, the Committee strongly supports the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR] as a way to stimulate R&D competitiveness in universities in States which receive relatively little Federal R&D funds. The Committee directs NSF to increase EPSCoR by an additional $10,000,000. The Committee also strongly supports the next generation Internet initiative, and continues to emphasize the importance of providing equal access to the Internet for students, teachers, and researchers throughout the Nation, including rural areas.

The Committee provided $6,000,000 last year to begin a new program targeted at the undergraduate level at historically black colleges and universities. NSF formally issued a request for proposals in April 1998 and the first set of awards are expected to be made by the end of fiscal year 1998. The Committee believes this effort will help attract and retain minority scholars into science and engineering and in that light, it is again providing additional funds to augment this effort. The Committee, therefore, is providing $6,000,000 for grants to historically black colleges and universities under the under represented population undergraduate reform [UPUR] initiative begun last year in House Report 105 297. These funds are to be matched by an additional $2,000,000 in funds from the research account for a total $8,000,000 program level in fiscal year 1999. The Foundation is further directed, beginning in fiscal year 2000, to incorporate this program into its annual budget submissions.

The Committee is providing $46,000,000 for informal science education [ISE] in fiscal year 1999, an increase of $10,000,000. The ISE program acts as a catalyst for educating people of all ages and walks of life in family-friendly, informal settings--at museums, on public television, in aquaria and zoos, and in science and technology centers around the country. With considerable local matching dollars, ISE-supported exhibits and programming help extend the Foundation's research and education missions by exposing large segments of the public to the value of research and discovery.


Appropriations, 1998$136,950,000
Budget estimate, 1999$144,000,000
Committee recommendation$136,950,000

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 $136,950,000 for salaries and expenses. This amount is the same as the fiscal year 1998 level and is $7,050,000 less than the amount in the budget request. The Committee believes these are adequate funds since most NSF funds are distributed and managed outside the agencies.


Appropriations, 1998$4,850,000
Budget estimate, 1999$5,200,000
Committee recommendation$5,200,000

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 $5,200,000 for the Office of Inspector General in fiscal year 1999. This amount is $350,000 more than the fiscal year 1998 level and the same as the budget request.