Each year during the appropriations process, members of Congress circulate “Dear Colleague” letters. These letters allow members of Congress to demonstrate their support for an issue (e.g., increased funding for the National Science Foundation). These letters are generally signed by multiple members of Congress. A large number of signatures demonstrate strong support for the policy outlined in the letter. Currently, United States Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ) are collecting signatures for a Dear Colleague letter that will be sent to the House Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations—the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the NSF.
The Ehlers--Holt Dear Colleague requests that Congress provide $6.1 billion for NSF in fiscal year 2006. Last year, 165 members of Congress signed a similar letter. It is important that more members of Congress sign the letter this year. The federal budget is once again austere and quite competitive. A demonstration of strong bipartisan support for NSF is required.
The Ehlers--Holt letter urges the chair and ranking member of the Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations subcommittee to grant NSF a Fiscal Year 2006 budget of $6.1 billion. The President’s request for this year is $5.6 billion -- $2.9 billion less than the FY 06 authorized level Congress set in 2002. If the President’s budget request is approved, NSF will receive only a slight increase of 2.4 percent. This funding level would leave some research directorates at or below FY04 funding levels.
What you can do: Contact your Representative and request they sign the Ehlers--Holt NSF Dear Colleague letter. Effective ways to reach your Representative include:
1: Call your Representative’s Washington, DC office.
You may obtain the phone number from their official website (via www.house.gov) or you may call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask to be connected to Representative [name] office. NOTE: You must know the name of your Representative prior to calling the switchboard; they will not be able to tell you who your member of Congress is. If you are not certain who your Representative is, go to www.house.gov and enter your 9 digit zip code.
Ask to speak to the legislative assistant responsible for NSF. When connected: Encourage the staffer to have Representative [name] sign the Ehlers—Holt NSF Dear Colleague letter. Be prepared to mention how important NSF funding is to your research, academic department/institution, and/or your community. Legislative staff are busy, so you may be asked if you would like to leave a voice mail – you do. Simply convey the same information you would have if you spoke to the staffer in person, but be sure to leave your contact information.
2. E-Mail or Fax your Representative
Due to security and time considerations, it is best to send your members of Congress an e-mail or fax. Their e-mail addresses and fax numbers are available on their website at www.house.gov.
Tips for an effective e-mail or fax message:
-Be sure that the subject line in your e-mail is clear: Please sign the Ehlers/Holt NSF Dear Colleague, or Request Rep. [name] support increased funding for NSF.
-Be sure that you include your contact information at the top of the e-mail/letter; this must include your name, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address. NOTE: many offices will discard correspondence that does not include contact information, or that comes from outside of their district or state.
-In the opening paragraph of your message, clearly state that you are writing to ask that your Representative sign the Ehlers—Holt NSF Dear Colleague letter. Tell them that the letter requests that Congress provide the National Science Foundation with $6.1 billion in FY 2006 funding.
-Briefly explain why NSF funding for basic research is important to you and/or your institution (e.g., only source of funding for your area of research, helps support undergraduate/graduate student research experience, leads to innovation, etc).
To further bolster your argument, you may wish to incorporate statistics from the National Science Foundation (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/).
DEADLINE: Representatives Ehlers and Holt anticipate collecting signatures through April 22, 2005, so please contact your Representative as soon as possible.