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NSF & Congress
Hearing Summary - House Appropriators Hear NSF's Budget Request for 2007

March 2, 2006

On March 2, 2006, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies held a hearing on the National Science Foundation's FY 2007 budget request. The request is for a 7.9 percent increase, which would bring the foundation's total budget to $6.02 billion.

Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., opened his testimony by expressing appreciation to Chairman Wolf and the Members of the Committee for their efforts to publicize the value of basic research and the importance of math and science education to the nation's prosperity. After briefly summarizing the budget request, Dr. Bement, joined by Dr. Warren Washington, Chairman of the National Science Board, spent the next two hours responding to Members' questions.

Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) appealed to the research community to take every opportunity to maintain the momentum established by the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. In addition to providing better evaluation and reporting on the impact of research to Congress, he said it is important to respond to those who downplay the need to focus on funding for research and education.

Chairman Wolf also inquired about the status of the innovation award that was proposed in the committee's report language last year. Dr. Bement stated that NSF had engaged the National Academies to produce a report and provide guidance on how to implement such a prize. Wolf suggested that NSF seek private-sector funding of up to a billion dollars to ensure that the prize garners broad public interest.

Ranking Member Alan Mollohan (D-WV) asked about funding for the education component of NSF's portfolio and why it did not appear to be rising as rapidly as the overall budget -- a concern echoed by Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL). Bement pointed out that important parts of the education function were carried out through the research directorates. Bement noted that the Foundation was proposing a reorganization within the Education and Human Resources Directorate in order to improve evaluation and implementation activities.

Mollohan also pressed for an explanation for reducing funding for the Mathematics and Science Partnership program. Dr. Donald Thompson, Acting Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources, stated that we had learned much from that program and were ready to begin working with the Department of Education to begin providing tool kits to assist schools in implementing the best practices that have been identified.

Representative Weldon (R-FL) asked about the adequacy of support for research into ethical considerations of nanoscale science and technology. Dr. Bement responded that NSF is supporting several projects that specifically focus on ethical, legal, and societal implications of nanoscale technology. Bement commented that the U.S. spends a greater percentage of funding in this area than European counterparts.

Representative Culberson (R-TX) expressed his strong support for basic research and concern that large projects may result in reduced funding for individual investigators. Dr. Bement offered reassurance that NSF has an effective management system for the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account in place.

Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) voiced concern regarding the increasing priority that China is placing on funding research and development. He also expressed desire for the research community to do a better job of pushing back on those promoting intelligent design.

The hearing concluded with Chairman Wolf reiterating his view that more needs to be done to maintain the momentum for NSF, and that private sector involvement, including other foundations, should be brought to bear in developing large inducement incentives.

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