Each year during the appropriations cycle, members of Congress circulate what are known as "Dear Colleague" letters. In these letters, multiple members of Congress sign a letter to a committee chair regarding an item or bill under his/her jurisdiction. Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) has once again initiated a "Dear Colleague" letter to the chairs of the House Appropriations subcommittee handling NSF. The letter requests a large increase for NSF funding. Last year, 155 members of Congress signed the letter. Rep. Ehlers would like to have more signatures this year. A large number of signatures by members of Congress demonstrates broad support for increased funding for NSF, making it easier for Reps. Mollohan and Walsh to justify providing large increases for the agency. The budget for this year is extremely tight, and NSF is up against programs, such as Veteran's Affairs, which have very broad support. If the NSF letter has fewer signatures this year than it did last year, it sends a message to the appropriators that members of Congress feel that funding for scientific research is not as important in tight fiscal years.
The Ehlers letter urges the chair and ranking member of the VA-HUD Appropriations subcommittee to grant NSF as large an increase as possible over the President's request for FY05. The President's request for this year is $5.7 billion ~ $1.7 billion less than what Congress authorized for NSF in FY05 in the 2002 reauthorization bill. If the President's request is approved, NSF will receive only a slight increase (3%), with some research directorates, including the Biological Sciences Directorate, barely keeping pace with inflation.
Contact your Representative in the House to request that they sign on to the "Ehlers NSF Dear Colleague". (Note that there is no letter like this circulating in the Senate, so you do not need to contact them at this time).
The most effective way of doing this would be to place a phone call to your member's D.C. office and to request to speak to the "Science or Technology Legislative Assistant". Encourage the staff to have their boss (your Rep.) sign on to the letter. It is very important to mention how much nsf funding means to the district at this point.
For your convenience, we have summarized the NSF funding information for the top 100 academic institutions. The chart contains the following information that you will need: a total funding amount, the amount received from the BIO Directorate, and the name of the Representative for that institution. If your institution is not included in the top 100, you can get the information from the NSF website at http://dellweb.bfa.nsf.gov/starth.asp. Be prepared to FAX or email them a copy of the Ehlers letters. They should already have a copy, but with the volume of mail they receive, things get lost very quickly.
The letter is open for signatures through early May. Contact Adrienne Froelich, AIBS Director of Public Policy (), if you have questions or would like assistance. A spreadsheet of the members who have signed this year, as well as the list of those who signed last year will be available on the AIBS website. Contact information for your Representative can be found at www.house.gov.