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On the Floor: House and Senate Appropriators on FY 2012 Funding Bill for NASA, NIST, NSF

Richard M. Jones
Number 140 - November 22, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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“Research is a primary driver of innovation, growth and job creation, and these investments must be preserved, even in times of budgetary austerity.” – Rep. Frank Wolf

“So we are out there winning the Nobel Prizes, but our bill lays the groundwork for winning the markets.” – Senator Barbara Mikulski

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Last Thursday, the House and Senate passed H.R. 2112, a $127.8 billion appropriations bill funding a number of federal departments and agencies, among which are NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation.  This was the first appropriations bill passed by Congress in quite a few years using “regular order.”  FY 2012 funding for other federal agencies and departments is likely to be through an omnibus bill that Congress hopes to pass next month.

There was a surprising amount of attention devoted to NIST, NASA, and NSF in comments made on the House and Senate floor last week.  In addition, written statements were submitted for the record.  The following are selections from the floor remarks of the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the appropriations committees and the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittees.  President Obama signed this measure into law on November 18.

Selective bolding has been added.

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA):

“The agreement restores much-needed funding for science and innovation. The conference agreement [bill] provides $7 billion for the National Science Foundation, an increase of $173 million above the FY11 level and the House-reported bill. While we need to be investing much more in basic research at NSF, the additional funding in the conference agreement is an important step in the right direction.

“The conference agreement provides $924 million for NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System. While still below the request, the conference level will go farther than either the House or Senate levels in helping to minimize the anticipated satellite data gaps.

“The agreement provides funding for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which the House had zeroed out. The new telescope will be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing us to see images of the first glows after the Big Bang and greatly enhancing our scientific understanding of the universe.”

House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA):

“The bill also includes important increases for fundamental scientific research.  $7 billion is included for the NSF, an increase of $173 million. NIST research activities receive an increase of over 10 percent -- math, science, physics, chemistry and biology, doing the things that make a difference to create jobs.  Research is a primary driver of innovation, growth and job creation, and these investments must be preserved, even in times of budgetary austerity.

“The conference agreement includes $17.8 billion for NASA, including funding above the request for America’s next generation space exploration system and for cutting-edge technology. In closing, as other countries are challenging U.S. leadership in space, this conference report includes funding for a comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction and agency management to chart a future course that is bold and achievable.”

House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA):

“This is a bill that I believe funds the most important agencies of our government in terms of securing our citizens, in terms of innovation and advancement in technology and science, in terms of dealing with the challenges of severe weather, and dealing with our oceans and the navigation of crafts throughout our waterways.  This is a bill that is critically important, and I’m happy to join with others to urge that the House would favorably consider it.

“There are a number of things I would want to point out. One is that the conferees, all of us working together, were able to agree with an initiative focused on brain research, on neuroscience; and we’ve been able to put together a collaborative effort that I think portends a great deal of progress in terms of addressing brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, dementia, and also dealing with the question of wounded warriors. I had a chance to visit the brain research and repair center over at Bethesda. There’s much more work to be done.  And also for those interested in education, the whole cognitive development, this is the first-of-its-kind initiative bringing together all of the important agencies of the Federal Government.  I thank Chairman Wolf and our colleagues and counterparts in the Senate for their cooperation around this.  . . . .”

“The investments in science, the National Science Foundation, there is no more important agency anywhere in the world; and we were able to work to fund it at a level that’s appropriate, $7 billion. The investment in NASA, even though $638 million off of last year’s number, when you take out the shuttle costs, it really is a significant statement around a new set of priorities for NASA, and investing in particularly space technology at $575 million and the investment in the Commercial Crew Program, knowing with a certainty that American private enterprise can help us deal with the ongoing need in terms of lower orbit travel.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI):

“This bill includes more than $12 billion for basic research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  This research will plant the seeds for new discoveries that not only win Nobel Prizes, but also earn profits and create American jobs in our highly competitive global economy.”

Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD):

“This is a great agreement. It is the product of bipartisan and bicameral compromise and cooperation. I wish to thank my Ranking Member, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and her excellent staff. We worked hand in hand on this bill.

“I wish to talk about our colleagues in the House. Much is made about the prickly situation sometimes between the House and the Senate. But I wish to thank Chairman Frank Wolf and Ranking Member Chaka Fattah for their bipartisan support. There was give and take; sometimes stormy exchanges. But at the end of the day, we worked cooperatively and collegially.

“In terms of science and innovation, I am proud of what we did with NASA -- from the space shuttle legacy to our new vehicles for space exploration. We also funded the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be the successor to the Hubble. It is 100 times more powerful and will assure America’s place as a leader in astronomy for the next 30 years.  Our conference agreement was $17.8 billion. It is a balanced space program.  It ensures the continuity or continuation of human space flight, does important work in space science, and also bold research in aeronautics, so we can be at the cutting edge.

“We also funded the National Science Foundation, which continues to do that groundbreaking innovative work that the private sector works off of.  This year, three Americans shared the Nobel Prize for physics. One was Dr. Adam Riess at Johns Hopkins. He used the Hubble Space Telescope to look out for dark energy, to look at decaying supernovas, and found out that the expansion of the universe was speeding up.

“The 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry winner, Dr. Dan Shechtman, was working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology - which this bill also funds - when he discovered new subatomic particles. Both discoveries were considered unexpected and even game changers. These Nobel Prize winners were those wonderful Americans who make use of whether it was the Hubble telescope or the kind of work that goes on in our chemistry labs. So we are out there winning the Nobel Prizes, but our bill lays the groundwork for winning the markets.

Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX):

“With the significant support of Senator Mikulski, we were able to give NASA the funding it needs to assure that we have not only the vision that was established by Congress in the 2010 authorization bill but the funding to achieve the vision going forward.

“Since our space shuttle program has been shut down, we are now on a mission to provide a commercial crew vehicle to take our astronauts to the space station, where we are doing scientific research, and we have fully funded the launch vehicle that is going to take our astronauts beyond Earth orbit and into the asteroid and, hopefully, Mars. That funding has started with this appropriations bill that is going through this year.

“So we will have our launch system and our Orion capsule that will be the next generation of space exploration for our country, and Senator Mikulski and I agreed on that priority, along with the Webb telescope, which is a very significant scientific priority, that we would assure that those priorities were met. We support the emerging commercial space companies to bring cargo and astronauts to the space station, and our investment for discovery on the space station as well as the science that is gotten from these wonderful, incredible telescopes that fly out there in space and gather information.  NASA has now released its design for the heavy launch vehicle that will be able to carry our astronauts in the Orion crew vehicle to the Moon, the asteroid, and beyond. Now that that decision has been made, we can focus on the future and on moving human exploration forward. NASA has announced its commitment to the path that Congress
authorized, and now we are providing the funds to accomplish the development of that rocket.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics