SBE Research Survives House Appropriations Committee, but Faces Challenge on Floor

July 27, 2011

by Paula Skedsvold

Amidst the ongoing and critical work necessary to deal with the debt ceiling, the pace of progress on appropriations bills has recently slowed in the House. At this stage, it is a guess for even informed House staff as to whether the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill which funds NSF will make it to the House floor for a vote before the August recess.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chairman of the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, was successful in keeping the CJS bill intact through the subcommittee markup. As a result, NSF received level funding from FY 2011 enacted levels to FY 2012, overall a victory in this economic climate. The research account was slated for a .8% increase, while the major research equipment and facilities construction line would see a decrease of 14.6% and the Education and Human Resources Directorate a 3% decrease.

Given media accounts that members of Congress were targeting the “soft” sciences, advocates have been concerned that NSF and especially SBE could face significant cuts as the bill moved to the full appropriations committee. The scientific community responded.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science prepared a letter of support for NSF, the merit review process, and SBE sciences. Over 140 scientific societies and universities endorsed the letter that was delivered to Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee respectively, as well as other members of the committee. In addition, individual scientists around the country have responded, writing their representatives in Congress about the importance of basic research, including that funded by the SBE Directorate.

As a result, the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill without substantial reductions to NSF or the SBE Directorate. An amendment to provide an across-the-board cut to all agencies in the bill in order to shift funds to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration resulted in $6.9 million reduction to NSF overall.

This is good news for NSF and SBE. However, the battle is far from complete. First, the CJS appropriations bill must be voted on by the House, and amendments targeting SBE remain likely given media reports and interest in shifting scarce funds elsewhere. Second, the debt ceiling discussions could lead to a solution that cuts only the domestic non-security budget rather than balance cuts with some revenue increases. The former approach will lead to more significant cuts and science funding will likely take a hit along with other programs.

info_icon-60px.pngMake your voice heard on these issues.

Send a note directly to your member of Congress »

Ask your colleagues to do the same. The alert will remain open until the vote on the CJS appropriations bill occurs on the House floor.