APS News

Washington Dispatch

ISSUE: Science Research Budgets

As of June 2nd, the APS News filing deadline, the House and Senate had passed separate bills for Fiscal Year 2008 supplemental appropriations, intended principally to fund the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Science lobbyists had hoped that an intensive five-month effort would pay off with the inclusion of several hundred million dollars of emergency research funding to address the serious shortfalls in last December’s Omnibus funding bill. But the House was unable to muster enough votes even to pass the Iraq and Afghanistan provision. And ultimately it sent a stripped-down bill to the Senate that contained money for the support of veterans’ education, an extension of unemployment benefits, international food and disaster assistance, and strengthening of the New Orleans levees. In spite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s expressed intention to include science, it was conspicuously absent from the list.

By contrast, the Senate delivered on its promise to provide additional funding for science research and education. Its supplemental bill, which passed by a veto-proof margin of 75 to 22, contained $1.2 billion allocated to four key agencies:
  • NSF–$150 million for Research and Related Activities (much of it for graduate traineeships) and $50 million for science and math education programs (teacher training and graduate fellowships);
  • DOE–$100 million for the Office of Science and $300 million for Environmental Management (nuclear waste clean-up, targeted for Hanford, WA);
  • NASA–$200 million for a new account related to the Space Shuttle return to flight; and
  • NIH–$400M.
The Senate bill represents a major step forward, but it leaves unaddressed the inability of the DOE national laboratories to continue their operations under the FY 2008 Omnibus appropriations bill, without eliminating thousands of jobs and seriously reducing the availability of its users facilities. The House-Senate conference that is needed to resolve the differences between the two versions of the Supplemental Bill could provide an opportunity for Congress to remedy the flaws in the DOE allocation.

Although final passage of the Supplemental Bill could occur in mid-June, there is a strong possibility that President Bush will veto it. Should he choose to do so, and should Congress fail to override the veto, a compromise will have to be worked out. That could provide an opening for lawmakers and the President to deliver on their expressed desire to keep the American science enterprise healthy and competitive.

To track the progress of the appropriations bills and the emergency supplemental bill, visit the FY 2008 Budget Progress reports at AAAS or APS.

ISSUE: Nuclear Forensics

As reported in the May Washington Dispatch, the APS Panel on Public Affairs, in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Center for Science Technology and Security Policy, issued an unclassified report that reviews the US nuclear forensics program. The report provides a summary of the techniques and capabilities and identifies five areas for improvement.

Download Nuclear Forensics: Role, State of the Art, Program Needs Format - PDF

Since then, both the House of Representatives and the Senate implemented the report’s recommendations in their Defense Authorization Bills. The Senate bill calls for $25 million for forensics-related research and fellowships, while the House bill also incorporates the policy recommendations of the APS/AAAS report, including the establishment of a federal Nuclear Forensics Advisory Panel and the development of an international forensics database. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), a physicist who won a special House election in March, had previously proposed the policy language in H.R. 5929, which the House adopted as an amendment to the Defense authorization bill on May 23rd.  

ISSUE: Campaign Education Project

The American Physical Society, in cooperation with 10 science and engineering organizations, hosted a “Campaign School” on May 10th in Washington DC. The purpose of the event was to educate members of the participating organizations on how to run for state and local elected office. The workshop was highly successful and received coverage not only in APS News, but also in USA Today and Physics Today, among other media outlets.

For more information, please email Francis Slakey.

ISSUE: Washington Office Media Update

The Courier-Journal in Kentucky published an op-ed on April 28 by University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. regarding the importance of including critical science funding in the FY ‘08 supplemental spending bill.

Physics World magazine ran a story on April 15 about a group of 20 American Nobel Laureates in the physics field who wrote to President Bush, urging him to include crucial science funding in the supplemental legislation. Michael Mandel, a journalist who covers hot economic issues for BusinessWeek magazine, published the APS news release regarding the Nobelists’ letter on his blog, “Economics Unbound.” Mandel commented on May 7, “I just got this press release from the American Physical Society. This is the sort of thing which depresses me. If we can’t find the money to spend on science and innovation, then my optimism index goes way down.”

Visit the APS Washington Office web site for more information.


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Editor: Alan Chodos
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Science Writing Intern: Nadia Ramlagan