Status Report

AIP FYI #5: Take Notice: Bill to Increase DOE Science Funding

By SpaceRef Editor
January 15, 2003
Filed under , ,

Perhaps one of the most important physics-related research bills that the
new Congress will consider has been introduced in the House by Rep. Judy
Biggert (R-IL). H.R. 34, the “Energy and Science Research Investment Act of
2003” would authorize an overall increase in funding for the Department of
Energy’s Office of Science of almost 62% by FY 2007. It is now important to
build support for H.R. 34 as Congress drafts the massive energy policy
bill.

When adjusted for inflation, federal dollars for DOE’s Office of Science
have remained at the1990 level. During this time, the budget for the
National Institutes of Health has increased markedly, with the Defense
Department’s S&T budget increasing as well during later years. The National
Science Foundation’s annual appropriations have also increased at a healthy
rate, and an authorization bill was recently signed into law calling for an
eventual doubling of the foundation’s budget over the next five years. The
DOE Office of Science (SC) budget has stagnated during these years.

In the last Congress, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) successfully included a
provision in the Senate’s version of the comprehensive energy bill to
authorize substantial increases in the SC budget. An earlier House-passed
version of the energy bill lacked such language. As the House and Senate
moved to resolve differences between the two versions, Biggert sponsored a
bill to demonstrate Member support for the Office of Science to the House
leadership. Her efforts were successful since last year’s bill, H.R. 5270,
was cosponsored by 96 Republican and Democratic members.

When Congress adjourns, all bills that have not been enacted die.
Legislation must be reintroduced, and the process starts anew. That is what
has now happened with Biggert’s legislation, now known as H.R. 34 in this
new Congress.

Biggert’s bill calls for an increase of approximately 8% for FY 2004 (the
budget that the President will send to Congress next month.) That would be
followed by increases of 11%, 15%, and 15% in the subsequent three years.
The FY 2007 authorization level would be $5.31 billion, compared to the
current budget (FY 2002) of $3.28 billion. This is an increase of $2.03
billion, or 61.9%.

H.R. 34 makes important administrative changes as well. An Under Secretary
of Energy Research and Science would be created, with authority over all
DOE-funded civilian science at the non weapons national laboratories and
research universities. A new Assistant Secretary of Science would replace
the current SC “director” position. Finally, a Science Advisory Board would
be established consisting of the chairs of DOE’s advisory panels.

Before going home last December, significant progress was made by House and
Senate conferees on the SC portions of the comprehensive energy bill. The
compromise language contained solid authorization numbers. The much larger
bill failed due to disagreements about other provisions relating to drilling
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, climate change, electricity market
restructuring, and renewable energy. Action is expected on this legislation
in this new Congress, although these same issues remain highly
controversial.

Members of the House will return to find their mailboxes stuffed with
letters from their colleagues and constituents asking for Member support of
various bills. Identifying what bills are important to constituents is
often determined by the amount of mail and other expressions of support
Members of Congress receive from these constituents. The House of
Representatives maintains a very easy-to-use web site that facilities such
communication at http://www.house.gov/writerep/

H.R. 34 now has 43 cosponsors. That number must grow substantially for the
provisions of this legislation to receive the attention of the House
leadership.

Richard M. Jones

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

[email protected]

(301) 209-3094

SpaceRef staff editor.