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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary - Bement Testifies on NSF Priorities at House Science Committee Hearing on the Administration's FY 2007 Budget Request

February 15, 2006

The House Science Committee convened a hearing on Wednesday, February 15, 2006, to hear testimony on the Administration's FY 2007 Budget request, and particularly on the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), which would provide three key science agencies with significant funding increases. Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., provided testimony on the National Science Foundation's (NSF) $6.02 billion budget request, which represents a 7.9 percent increase over last year’s budget.

In his opening statement Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) noted that the hearing was "a time of celebration" and indicated that there was strong support in Congress for implementing the proposed 10-year doubling of funding for NSF. He expressed concern, however, over the failure to specifically include NSF's education programs as part of the ACI.

Dr. John Marburger, III, Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, provided an overview of the Administration's support for research and development in the FY 2007 Budget request and noted that Congressional earmarks redirected over $2.5 billion in research funds last year. After accounting for these earmarks, he stated, the overall research budget was up by 1 percent over last year. A number of Committee members noted that Congressional earmarks represent the legislative branch's legitimate role in adjusting the budget to address specific needs.

Dr. Bement's testimony focused on the priorities in the NSF budget request. These include research at the frontier, broadening participation, cyberinfrastructure, providing world-class research facilities, and bolstering K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. He noted that the budget includes two new starts in the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, an Arctic Regional Research Vessel and an Ocean Observatories Initiative.

Bement acknowledged that the 2.5 percent increase in the Education and Human Resources (EHR) account was less than the NSF overall increase, but he pointed out that this does not reflect the total investment in education activities at NSF. The planned $17-million phasedown in the Math and Science Partnership program distorts the overall investment in EHR, and the 2.5% figure does not reflect contributions to educational activities from the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account. After factoring in these considerations, the K-12 investments actually increase by over 10% and investments in undergraduate education increase by over 6%. Bement further emphasized that the budget request proposes significant increases in all other Congressionally mandated programs, such as graduate fellowships and traineeships; research experiences for undergraduates and teachers; faculty early career development; Robert Noyce scholarships; advanced technology education in two-year colleges; and informal science education.

Administration witnesses who testified in addition to Marburger and Bement were Dr. Samuel W. Bodman, Secretary, Department of Energy; Dr. David Sampson, Deputy Secretary of Commerce; and Dr. Charles E. McQueary, Undersecretary for Science and Technology, Department of Homeland Security.

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