House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on NSF Budget: Requested Increase “Unlikely”

March 14, 2012

by Paula Skedsvold

In late February, Subra Suresh, NSF Director, appeared before the House and Subcommittee on Research and Science Education to make the case for the President's 4.8% increase in the agency's budget for FY 2013. Appearing with the National Science Board Chair, Dr. Ray Bowen, Suresh described "a carefully-targeted portfolio of innovative investments that provides increased support for fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering."

Subcommittee Chair, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL), however, was critical of the President's 4.8 % requested increase in NSF's budget. "From where I sit, the President's FY 2013 budget is an irresponsible pie-in-the-sky wish list that fails to take into account America's deteriorating financial condition and seeks to pay for programs with money America simply does not have," he said. Brooks went on to compliment NSF for "a long and proven track record," while also stating that he remains concerned that federal agencies "are not doing enough to encourage austerity and properly prioritize scarcer federal funds."

Also sounding a cautionary note, Congressman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, stated that it was "unlikely that Congress would be able to match the request." Lipinski was pleased that the President's request emphasized science, science education, and innovation, but he commented that aspirations to continue steps to double NSF's budget ignore the budget deficit.

While Subcommittee Members questions ranged from whether applied research was diluting basic research at NSF to what is "sustainable well-being" and what research NSF is supporting to bring down the price of gas, the general theme of cost-cutting was looming. Congressman Brooks asked, during a second round of questioning, whether there are areas at NSF that are "ripe for consolidation or elimination." Suresh replied that NSF is "taking great pains to put investments where they will keep the U.S. at the front, while also being as responsible as possible."

Given the approach in the House to create a budget resolution with a spending cap that is below what was agreed to in the 2011 debt deal (see "Agreements on Federal Spending Appear Elusive"), the President's budget request may not do any better before appropriations subcommittees.