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

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Publication date: 
22 November 2011
Number: 
140

“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.”