Like the House Science and Technology Committee several weeks prior, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing to review the President’s FY 2009 budget request for federal science programs. Among those testifying on 12 March 2008 were Dr. John Marburger III, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dr. Arden Bement, director of the National Science Foundation.

In addition to discussing the proposed FY 2009 budget, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Subcommittee, expressed his regret about the disappointing funding levels appropriated for science in FY 2008, “While Congress didn’t provide the funding, I want to assure you they wanted to.” He blamed veto threats from the President that forced the hand of Congress to appropriate many federal science programs, including NSF, at levels below the President’s FY 2008 request. Kerry asked Dr. Bement to expound on the difficulties NSF and its grantees now face in FY 2008, given the lower than expected budget. Bement indicated that NSF would have to provide 1000 fewer research grants and suggested negative impacts on agency programs that support undergraduate and graduate students as well as young faculty members.

Kerry offered the possibility of emergency supplemental funds to maintain continuity of NSF programs, which Bement agreed would be helpful and welcomed. However, many Hill watchers have indicated that an emergency supplemental that includes funds for NSF is a long-shot.


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