"Innovate or abdicate," that was Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-VA) message in a letter to President Bush calling on him to triple funding for basic scientific research. "Countries such as China and India are quickly gaining ground on the United States and few people realize it. We must ensure for future generations that America continues to be the innovation leader of the world. Investing in research and development is a critical part of optimizing our nation for innovation," Wolf wrote. The letter comes on the heels of Wolf's introduction, with Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI), of the Math and Science Incentive Act of 2005, which would forgive interest on undergraduate loans for science majors who commit to working in or teaching science for five years. (See the 25 April 2005 Public Policy Report for more details on the bill, www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/public-policy-reports-2005_04_25.html).
On 28 April 2005, Congress passed the fiscal year (FY) 2006 Budget Resolution, and on 5 May House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) released subcommittee allocations-the amount of money that each spending panel will have to work with to fund the programs under its jurisdiction. Under the budget resolution, domestic discretionary spending not related to defense or homeland security is below last year's levels.
The resolution provides the appropriations subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which has jurisdiction over the US Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency, with $26.1 billion, down approximately $600 million from last year's enacted level but nearly half a billion above the President's request. The Science, State, Justice, and Commerce Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation, will receive $57.5 billion. This is lower than the President's request of $60.6 billion but slightly higher than last year's level of $56.3 billion.
Having received their allocation of federal discretionary spending dollars, last week various appropriations subcommittees began crafting their spending bills for fiscal year 2006. First out of the gate was the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of the Interior. In a measure adopted by the subcommittee on 4 May, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) would receive $974.6 million in FY 2006, an increase of $38 million over the FY 2005 appropriation and roughly $41 million more than the President's request. The proposed funding level is $25.4 million below the $1 billion request supported by the USGS Coalition. The bulk of the increase, however, is dedicated to restoring $28.5 million to the mineral research and assessments program and $6.5 million for the Water Resources Research Institutes.
With respect to USGS biological research programs, the subcommittee would provide a $2.6 million increase over FY 05 for the biological research and monitoring account, bringing the FY 06 funding level to $135.7 million; a $150,000 increase for biological information management and delivery, bringing the FY 06 funding level to $24.15 million - the level requested by the President; and, a $250,000 increase to the Cooperative Research Units, adequate funding to restore the proposed elimination of the Nebraska Co-Op. All told, the budget for the Biological Resources Discipline would grow to $174.7 million, an increase of just over $3 million from the FY 05 appropriation and a $1.8 million increase over the level requested by the President.
In report language accompanying the subcommittee's legislation, the panel spells out how certain funds should be used:
"Changes to the request include increases of $1,430,000 for the Great Lakes Science Center for safety needs associated with docking of the research vessel Kiyi, $150,000 for invasive species database coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $500,000 for manatee research, $385,000 for equipment at the anadromous fish lab, $250,000 for the Tunison lab, $175,000 for the Potomac snakehead program, $200,000 for the Upper Midwest environmental Science Center, $400,000 to restore funding for the Nebraska Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Unit, and decreases of $550,000 for the science on the DOI landscape initiative, $750,000 for Glen Canyon adaptive management, and $300,000 for invasive species."
In his widely-reported description following the bill's announcement, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, said, "Fair chairman, fair process, lousy allocation, inadequate bill."
For more information regarding the FY 2006 budget and appropriations process for the USGS, please see the following resources.
AIBS Testimony before the Senate Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee, www.aibs.org/position-statements/050429_aibs_testimony_i.html
The 14 February 2005 AIBS Public Policy Report discusses the President's budget request for USGS, www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/public-policy-reports-2005_02_14.html
The USGS Coalition website, www.usgscoalition.org.
GEORGIA: On 4 May 2005, a federal appeals court denied a request by the school board of Cobb County, GA, to delay the removal of evolution disclaimers from its science textbooks. School board officials ordered use of the disclaimers--which call evolution "a theory, not a fact"--in 2002. A group of concerned parents responded with a lawsuit and US District Judge Clarence Cooper subsequently ruled the disclaimers unconstitutional. Cobb County officials are appealing the decision, but for now, they will have to stick to the Court-ordered plan to remove the disclaimers this summer. (See the 18 January 2005 Public Policy Report for more details, www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/public-policy-reports-2005_01_18.html).
KANSAS: The Kansas State Board of Education began its 'hearings' on evolution and intelligent design/creationism on 5 May 2005. The American Association for the Advancement of Science and other invited science organizations and scientists have refused to participate in what has been described as a kangaroo court designed to build public support for the Board's anticipated decision to reintroduce intelligent design/creationism into statewide science standards.
For more evolution education related information or to join your state's evolution list serve, please go to http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/teaching_evolution.html.
Repeated budget cuts have threatened earth science programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, according to a panel that spoke at a House Science Committee hearing on 28 April 2005. The National Research Council recently released an interim report, entitled "Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation," of its decadal study on earth observation. The completed report is due late next year.
The preliminary summary states that the US earth observation system, run by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Geological Survey, is "at risk of collapse" largely because NASA has scaled back, postponed, or cancelled some of its earth science missions. Last year NASA shifted its functions and priorities to respond to President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration."
"The [NRC] report has to be a red flag for all of us," said Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). "We need to stop, examine what's happening, and make sure that the fiscal 2006 budget for NASA-whatever its top-level number-include adequate funding to keep Earth science moving forward for the foreseeable future."
In the May 2006 Washington Watch column in BioScience, freelance science writer Barton Reppert explores the President's 2006 budget request for science.
"Although President George W. Bush's controversial plans to partially privatize social security may grab more headlines, a battle is brewing on Capitol Hill over the administration's retreat from its promised support for science budgets."
"The Republican chairman and key members of the House Committee on Science from both parties are gearing up to push for augmented funding of research programs that would otherwise be cut, held flat, or granted paltry increases under the Bush administration's proposed budget for next year. However, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a moderate Republican from upstate New York, and his colleagues face heavy pressure to constrain spending in a $2.6 trillion fiscal year budget that's awash with nearly a half-trillion dollars of red ink."
To continue reading this article, please go to http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2005_05.html
- Give your society or organization a voice in public policy decisions affecting your areas of science. Support the AIBS Public Policy Office's ability to work with you, on your behalf. See http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/funding_contributors.html. Not an AIBS member yet? Go to Join AIBS.
- AIBS Council of member societies and organizations annual meeting 7 and 8 May, Washington DC. See http://www.aibs.org/council-news/2005-council-meeting.html
- NEON updates, http://www.neoninc.org ; NESCent updates, http://www.nescent.org
- Check for opportunities to comment on federal agency actions affecting the biological sciences at the AIBS Federal Register Resource, http://www.aibs.org/federal-register-resource/index.html