FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

Making Progress: Senate Passes FY 2012 NASA, NIST, and NSF Funding Bill

Richard M. Jones
Number 131 - November 2, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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Yesterday the full Senate passed its version of the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill.  There were no changes in the bill’s original committee language pertaining to NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation.  Passage of this legislation positions it for a conference between House and Senate appropriators to develop a final, compromise funding bill.

Senate leaders are anxious to move the FY 2012 appropriations bills, and yesterday’s roll call vote and last week’s consideration of the bill on the Senate floor avoided the bitter conflict characterizing the passage of appropriations bills in previous years.  Much credit must be given to this summer’s much-contested budget agreement that set a total spending limit.  Legislators undoubtedly are also aware of the public’s disenchantment and the market’s aversion to congressional brinksmanship that has too often been played out on Capitol Hill.

Three less-controversial FY 2012 funding measures that were passed by the Senate Appropriations Committees were crafted into a single measure that is 457 pages long.  H.R. 2112 began as an appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture.  After Senate appropriators passed their version of this bill, the Commerce, Justice and Science; and Transportation and HUD funding bills were added to it.  This “minibus” (as compared to an all-inclusive omnibus) approach will give the Senate, their leadership predicts, a stronger hand in conferences with the House.  The conference with House appropriators on this bill might occur this week.

Previous issues of FYI have summarized provisions of the House and Senate versions of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill regarding NASA, NIST, and NSF.  Overall funding for the three agencies, as compared to the current level, would change as follows:

NASA:
The House bill provides $16,810.3 million, a decline of 8.9 percent or $1,637.7 million
The Senate bill provides $17,938.8 million, a decline of 2.8 percent or $509.2 million

NIST:
The House bill provides $700.8 million, a decline of 6.6 percent or $49.3 million
The Senate bill provides $680.0 million, a decline of 9.3 percent or $70.1 million

NSF:
The House bill provides $6,859.9 million – level funding
The Senate bill provides $6,698.1 million, a decline of 2.4 percent or $161.8 million

In addition to final funding levels, the conference must resolve FY 2012 funding for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.  The House bill zeroed out funding for this project; the Senate bill provided more money than the Administration requested.

Another funding bill of great interest to the physics community is the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.  Senate leaders intend to fold this bill into a second minibus with several other funding measures, and bring it to the Senate floor in the near future.  Funding would be continued, as needed, for other federal department and agencies through an amendment to the first minibus after current funding expires in about two weeks.

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095