Federal Budget Update: House approves budget bill; Senators urge strong funding for defense basic research

House approves FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science funding bill

On May 29, the US House approved the FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science (C-J-S) appropriations bill (H.R. 4660), which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA, with a 321-87 vote.

Despite reduced overall funding in the bill, the House Appropriations Committee approved a three-percent increase for NSF and a one-percent increase for NASA. The House sustained the committee-approved funding levels for both agencies.

During floor action, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) offered an amendment that they said would take $15.3 million out of the NSF Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate and reallocate it to other research directorates. The amendment passed largely along partisan lines by a vote of 208-201 with four of Oregon’s five US House members opposing. However, because appropriators fund NSF research through the broad category of Research and Related Activities and not at the level of individual research directorates, the Smith-Cantor amendment has no practical effect. Rather it was a used to criticize the NSF grant-making process and specific grants in the social and behavioral sciences, an on-going point of concern for House Republicans.

The House also approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) that prohibits funding for an NSF grant to examine the effects of climate change on the quality of tea in China and the resulting socioeconomic responses.

Prior to floor consideration of H.R. 4660, Association of American Universities (AAU) issued a statement of support for the bill, thanking members of the House Appropriations Committee for their strong support of investments in science and technology and urging the House to maintain the committee-approved funding levels for both NSF and NASA.

The Coalition for National Science Funding, in which AAU participates, issued a statement that called on the House to sustain the funding level for NSF and oppose policy riders directed at specific research projects or disciplines, particularly in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences.

Senators urge strong funding for defense basic research

A group of 18 Senators, including Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense urging strong, sustained support for Department of Defense (DOD) basic research.

The letter emphasizes the importance of DOD basic research (1) in laying the groundwork for applied research and technology development programs that lead to higher performance defense systems; (2) as an investment in universities, small businesses, and government laboratories; and (3) for helping DOD engage with and support the next generation of scientists and engineers, many of whom will work in DOD research organizations and industry.