Running out of both time and cooperation, House and Senate leaders have combined the remaining FY 2004 unfinished appropriations bills into a massive omnibus funding bill, H.R. 2673. The bill's language and accompanying report (H. Rept. 108-401) are complete. The House is scheduled to pass the bill next week, while the Senate may not take final action until January. Current levels of funding will continue until the bill is signed by President Bush. One of the seven bills rolled into the omnibus funding measure is the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill.
Under this legislation, the National Science Foundation's budget will increase by 5.0%, or $267.9 million for FY 2004. The Bush Administration requested an increase of 3.2%. The conferees noted "very severe overall fiscal constraints" in their report language. The new increase contrasts with the 10.4% increase approved in the last budget cycle. The new budget for NSF is $5,577.9 million; the authorized level is $6,390 million.
Excerpts below are taken from the final conference report. Note that the FY 2004 amounts in the quoted selections must be reduced by 0.59% ("adjusted") as required by a separate provision in the report:
RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES (Up an adjusted 4.8% over last year):
The report states: "The conference agreement provides $4,276,600,000 for ongoing and new research priorities of the Foundation, an increase of over $220,140,000 above the fiscal year 2003 level. Within the very severe overall fiscal constraints imposed on the conferees for fiscal year 2004, the managers have given their highest priority to funding basic research within the research and related activities account. This account supports investigator-initiated grants within each of the core disciplines as well as critical cross-cutting research which brings together multiple disciplines. The conferees urge the Foundation in allocating the scarce resources provided in this bill and in preparing its fiscal 2005 budget request to be sensitive to maintaining the proper balance between the goal of stimulating interdisciplinary research and the need to maintain robust single issue research in the core disciplines.
"The conferees direct NSF to include multi-year budget estimates and future budget impacts for multi-disciplinary and mid-level activities in the annual operating plan and in future budget requests".
"From Mathematical and Physical Sciences, $55,310,000 is for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory program of which $9,400,000 is provided for the Expanded Very Large Array; $10,300,000 is for the Green Bank Observatory; and $4,600,000 is for studies and repair of the Green Bank Observatory. The conferees recommend $6,000,000 for continued advanced planning of the Rare Symmetry Violating Process project."
"The conferees direct NSF to provide details on the funding levels for research and logistics within the U.S. Polar Research Programs in the fiscal year 2004 operating plan.
"From the funds provided for Integrative Activities, $110,000,000 is provided for Major Research Instrumentation. To the extent possible, NSF should utilize funds in excess of the budget request to support the merit-based instrumentation and infrastructure needs of developing, HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], and other minority-serving colleges and universities.
"The conference agreement includes $255,000,000 for nanotechnology programs throughout the directorates, an increase of $34,000,000 over fiscal year 2003. [Using NSF figures, this is an adjusted 14.6% increase.]
"The Conferees direct NSF to include the multi-year budget estimates for all multi-disciplinary and mid-level activities in the annual operating plan and in future budget requests."
The omnibus bill provides the following adjusted increases within the overall Research and Related Activities budget:
Mathematical and Physical Sciences: Up 5.0% or $52.5 million from $1,041.0 million to $1,093.5 million. Geosciences: Up 3.3% or $22.6 million from $692.2 million to $714.8 million. Engineering: Up 3.2% or $17.2 million from $540.5 million to $557.7 million.
MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION (Up an adjusted 4.3%):
The bill provides the following adjusted increases within this overall budget:
ALMA received $50.7 million; $50.8 million was requested. Earthscope received $43.2 million; $45.0 million was requested. IceCube Neutrino Observatory received $41.8 million; $60.0 million was requested.
The report states: "The conferees have not provided funding for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) without prejudice. The conferees direct NSF to consider the recommendations in the National Academy of Sciences report and continue to refine the NEON plan from funds provided under research and related activities.
"The conferees have not provided funding for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and instead expect to see funding for this project proposed in the fiscal year 2005 request as stated in the fiscal year 2004 budget justification.
" The conferees reiterate language included in the Senate report directing NSF to develop with the National Science Board funding criteria for major projects; directing NSF to identify all equipment, facility, and infrastructure-related costs over $5,000,000 in the fiscal year 2005 budget request; and directing the Deputy Director of Large Facility Projects to develop guidelines and a cost tracking system to ensure cost oversight."
EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES (Up an adjusted 4.0%)
"The conferees direct NSF to submit a report by May 1, 2004, on the status of all the States participating in the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, and to include within this report the progress of each eligible state towards graduation from the EPSCoR program.
"Within the level of funding for Elementary, Secondary and Informal Education, $62,500,000 has been provided for the Informal Science Education program.
"Of the amount appropriated for Undergraduate Education, $45,500,000 has been provided for the Advanced Technological Education program; $25,000,000 is for the STEM Talent Expansion Program; and $8,000,000 is for the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program. No funds are provided for the Workforce for the 21st Century program.
"The conferees have provided sufficient funding in fiscal year 2004 to reach a graduate stipend level of $30,000.
"Within the funding level for Human Resource Development, $34,500,000 is provided for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program; $24,000,000 is provided for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduates (HBCU) Program; $15,000,000 is provided for the Alliance for Graduate Education and Professoriate; and $15,000,000 is provided for the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program and the HBCU Research University Science and Technology (THRUST) initiative within CREST. While the conferees agree that eligibility for THRUST should not exclude CREST recipients, NSF is directed to first use fiscal year 2004 program funds to fully fund multi-year awards to recipients of THRUST."
The omnibus bill provides the following adjusted increases within the overall Education and Human Resources budget:
Math and Science Partnerships: Up 9.9% or $12.5 million from $126.7 million to $139.2 million.
EPSCoR: Up 5.6% or $5.0 million from $89.4 million to $94.4 million.
Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education: Up 16.7% or $29.5 million from $176.3 million to $205.8 million.
Undergraduate Education: Up 1.5% or $2.4 million from $159.6 million to $162.0 million.
Graduate Education: Up 11.4% or $16.0 million from $140.0 million to $156.0 million.
Human Resources Development: Up 10.8% or $11.3 million from $104.5 million to $115.8 million.
Research, Evaluation and Communication: Down 1.4% or $0.95 million from $66.8 million to $65.8 million.
Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
The American Institute of Physics