FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FY 2012 National Science Foundation Appropriations Bill Signed Into Law

Richard M. Jones
Number 137 - November 18, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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Yesterday the House and Senate passed H.R. 2112, providing funding for the National Science Foundation.  The President signed this appropriations bill into law today.  Accompanying this bill is the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference, which is the second section of House Report 112-284.  This statement provides important language setting forth the recommendations and specific guidance of House and Senate appropriators. 

The following selections are taken from the Joint Explanatory Statement.  The section on NSF starts on PDF page 266. 

Note that introductory language in the Statement includes the following:

“The committee of conference approves report language included in House Report 112–169 or Senate Report 112–78 that is not changed by the conference. The statement of managers, while repeating some language for emphasis, is not intended to negate the language referred to above unless expressly provided herein. In cases where both the House and Senate reports address a particular issue not specifically addressed in the conference report or joint statement of managers, the conferees have determined the House report and the Senate report are not inconsistent and are to be interpreted accordingly.”

National Science Foundation (total):

The FY 2011 budget was $6,859.9 million
The Administration requested $7,767.0 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $7,033.1 million, an increase of $173.2 million or 2.5 percent

There is no introductory language regarding the foundation. 

Research and Related Activities (R&RA):

The FY 2011 budget was $5,563.9 million
The Administration requested $6,253.5 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $5,719.0 million, an increase of $155.1 million or 2.8 percent

The Statement explains:

Research Priorities -- The conferees appreciate NSF’s commitment to reviewing its portfolio of programs and proposing reductions or terminations where appropriate. Such proposals provide a more fiscally sustainable way to support new or expanded programs.  Accordingly, the conference agreement incorporates all of NSF’s R&RA termination and reduction proposals except for the requested reduction to the radio astronomy program.

“By accepting NSF’s proposal to eliminate funding for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), the conference agreement completes a multi-year phase-out of NSF involvement in this project. NSF is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations about future efforts or commitments, if any, to collaborate with the Department of Energy on a deep underground lab.

Advanced manufacturing. -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language in the House report regarding advanced manufacturing.

Neuroscience. -- NSF is uniquely positioned to advance the nonmedical aspects of cognitive sciences and neurosciences, particularly through interdisciplinary science, computational models, visualization techniques, innovative technologies, and the underlying data and data infrastructure needed to transform our understanding of these areas, and the conferees encourage NSF to sustain and expand its investments in these areas. In addition, to better focus the agency’s efforts and guide future budget submissions, NSF is encouraged to establish a cognitive sciences and neurosciences crosscutting theme. The conferees note that language is included under the OSTP heading encouraging OSTP to establish a NSTC working group to coordinate Federal investments in neuroscience research. [See PDF page 255 for the OSTP language.]

Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope (GSMT). --The direction in this section is provided in lieu of any language in the Senate report relating to the GSMT program. NSF has decided to proceed with the selection of a viable GSMT project, consistent with the National Research Council’s (NRC) 2010 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey recommendations. The conferees expect that this selection will be made expeditiously and utilize a fully competitive process, with a solicitation issued no later than the end of calendar year 2011 and a result announced no later than July 31, 2012.

Cybersecurity research. -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the Senate report regarding cybersecurity research.”

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC):

The FY 2011 budget was $117.1 million
The Administration requested $224.7 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $167.1 million, an increase of $50.0 million or 42.7 percent

The statement explains:

Project priorities. -- With the MREFC funding provided either directly or via potential transfer from the R&RA account, NSF will be able to achieve significant progress on its current portfolio of construction projects, but some prioritization of funds will still be necessary. The conferees expect that NSF will dedicate funds first to the completion of projects that are already in the final stages of construction, with remaining funds allocated to projects in earlier phases of development.

Project funding profiles. -- NSF should promptly review its current portfolio of MREFC projects and their outyear funding profiles to ensure they are consistent with fiscal year 2011 and 2012 appropriations.  If adjustments to the portfolio in either of those fiscal years will necessitate a revision of the outyear funding profiles for any current or planned project, NSF is directed to immediately report the revised profiles to the Committees on Appropriations and to include the new profiles in the fiscal year 2013 budget request.

Construction funding management. -- The conferees remain concerned about how NSF and its grantees are defining, estimating and managing construction funding, particularly contingency funds.  Stronger management and oversight of these funds could result in improved project efficiencies and, ultimately, cost savings. NSF is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations on the steps it is taking to impose tighter controls on the drawdown and use of contingencies, as well as steps intended to incentivize grantees to complete construction under budget, for projects managed through the MREFC appropriation and for other large facility projects. This report should be submitted no later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act.”

Education and Human Resources (EHR):

The FY 2011 budget was $861.0 million
The Administration requested $911.2 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $829.0 million, a reduction of $32.0 million or 3.7 percent

The statement explains:

Program changes. -- In parallel with terminations and reductions proposed in the R&RA account, NSF has proposed a number of program reductions or terminations within EHR. For the most part, these cuts were proposed not due to any dissatisfaction with the programs in question but rather because NSF would prefer to implement new initiatives. The conferees have no objection to this approach, with the exception of the proposed reductions to the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program and the Math and Science Partnership program. The conferees do not believe that those cuts are warranted solely to make room for new activities.

Broadening Participation at the Core. -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the House report regarding funding levels for the existing Broadening Participation at the Core programs.

Best practices in K–12 STEM education. -- NSF is encouraged to find more effective mechanisms for disseminating the results of its education research to the K–12 STEM education community. Such mechanisms could include partnerships with nonprofits and professional associations, Webinars, newsletters and workshops, drawing when possible on the resources of existing networks.

“In particular, NSF is directed to ensure that the NRC report entitled Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [see FYI #126] is widely distributed within the educational and scientific communities.  In addition, NSF is directed to begin work to identify methods for tracking and evaluating the implementation of the recommendations in the NRC’s report. NSF and its collaborators should provide an evaluation plan to the Committees on Appropriations within 12 months of the enactment of this Act that describes these methods and recommends the necessary steps that should be taken by NSF and other Federal agencies to implement that plan.  Within the amounts available in this account, up to $500,000 should be used for the formulation of the evaluation plan.

Hispanic Serving Institutions. -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the House report on Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for Service. -- The conferees adopt the Senate recommendation to expand the Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for Service program. The agreement provides $45,000,000 for this program, which is $20,000,000 above the requested
level.”

 

The Statement also includes brief language on PDF page 269 regarding appropriations for Agency Operations and Award Management, Office of the National Science Board, Office of Inspector General, and Administration Provision (pertaining to the transfer of funds.)

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