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House Passes $600 Million Increase in National Science Foundation Budget

House Passes $600 Million Increase in National Science Foundation Budget July 27, 2007 --The U.S. House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that would increase funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by nearly $600 million or 10 percent to $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2008.  The bill would put NSF on track to double its budget in less than 10 years.

Funding for NSF is included in the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act that passed the House by a vote of 281 to 142 on July 26.  Two days before the vote, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a Statement of Administration Policy saying that the President would veto the bill if it is presented to him. The Administration “strongly opposes” the bill because it “includes an irresponsible and excessive level of spending and includes other objectionable provisions.”

Regarding the National Science Foundation, the Statement of Administration Policy says, “the Administration supports neither the additional $72 million above the [President’s budget] request allocated to NSF education programs that lack proven effectiveness, nor [Appropriations Committee] report language that seeks to allocate funds away from the NSF research programs that most directly contribute to America’s economic competitiveness.”

Although the House passed the appropriations bill by a large majority, the margin of victory was several votes short of the number needed to override the threatened veto.  If the bill is vetoed, funding for NSF and other science agencies could be reduced in a subsequent bill.

The National Science Foundation got off to a good start in the FY 2008 appropriations process.  President Bush proposed increasing the NSF budget by $513 million or 8.7 percent to $6.4 billion as part of his American Competitiveness Initiative.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would increase the NSF budget by $637 million or 10.8 percent to $6.55 billion in FY 2008.  The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill within the next two months and then a conference committee will be appointed to reach a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

The House and Senate appropriations bills and the President’s budget request would provide similar funding levels for NSF except for Education and Human Resources (EHR) programs, which have strong bipartisan support in Congress.  The President’s budget request would increase funding for EHR by 7.5 percent in FY 2008.  The House appropriations bill would increase EHR funding by approximately 18 percent and the Senate bill would increase EHR funding by approximately 22 percent.

NSF has fared well at each stage in the appropriations process so far.  The President proposed a substantial increase in funding for NSF in FY 2008.  The House appropriations bill would increase funding for NSF above the level proposed by the President.  The Senate appropriations bill would increase funding above the level passed by the House.  The final funding level for NSF remains uncertain, especially if Congress is unable to override the threatened veto of the House appropriations bill.

Craig Schiffries, Ph.D.
Director of Science Policy and Senior Scientist
National Council for Science and the Environment
1707 H Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20006
Tel: 202-530-5810

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