APS News

The Washington Dispatch

ISSUE: Budget and Authorization Environment

Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations
US Capitol viewed through trees
Congress stepped back from the brink of a government shutdown for the third time this year and, following last minute histrionics, agreed to a temporary continuing resolution that would keep departments and agencies funded at Fiscal Year 2011 levels through November 18th. Senate and House appropriators passed separate bills that would fund science activities for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12), but to date, no conferences have been held. It is widely anticipated that Congress will roll most appropriations for the new fiscal year into a series of “minibus” bills instead of passing twelve separate bills or rolling them all into one large omnibus. Congress will also use the ceiling of $1.043 trillion established in the Budget Control Act for discretionary spending instead of the $1.019 trillion cap provided in the House (Ryan) budget resolution. The higher ceiling should allow lawmakers to avoid making sharp reductions in support for science, as the latest versions of appropriations bills already suggest.

Energy and Water Appropriations: The FY12 bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee would fund the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (SC) at the FY11 level of $4.84B, significantly less than the $5.42B presidential request. The bill would also provide $1.80B for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the same level as FY11 and $1.40B below the request, and $250M for ARPA-E, $70M above FY11 but $300M below the request. The House-passed bill would fund SC at $4.80B, EERE at $1.30B and ARPA-E at $180M.

The SC subprograms would receive the funding at the following levels:

  • Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) [$422M in FY11]–$442M (Senate) and $427M (House);
  • Basic Energy Sciences (BES) [$1.68B in FY11]–$1.69B (Senate and House);
  • Biological and Environmental Research (BER) [$612M in FY11]–$622M (Senate), $527M (House);
  • Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) [$376M in FY11]–$335M (Senate), $405M (House);
  • High Energy Physics (HEP) [$796M in FY11]–$780M (Senate), $797M (House);
  • Nuclear Physics (NP) [$540M in FY11]–$550M (Senate), $552M (House).

The Senate would provide no funding for FermiLab’s Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE), while the House appropriations report cautions DOE not to provide any construction funds for the Deep Underground Science and & Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL). With FermiLab’s future at stake, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL 14th) and Judy Biggert (R-IL 13th) held a roundtable discussion on DUSEL at FermiLab on September 28th, with participants Michael Turner, William Brinkman, Milind Diwan, Andy Lankford, Kevin Lesko, Jay Marx, and Pier Oddone. Both Hultgren and Biggert expressed strong concern about the appropriations restrictions on DUSEL and LBNE and pledged their support for FermiLab.

The Senate bill also eliminates funds for the $300M Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source upgrade, pending DOE’s decision on proceeding with expansion of the Linac Coherent Light Source facility at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Commerce Justice Science Appropriations: The House and Senate CJS Appropriations bills, which fund the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) and NASA, would provide the following levels of support for FY12:

  • NSF (Total) [$6.8B in FY11]–$6.70B (Senate), $6.86B (House).
◊ Research and Related Activities (RRA) [$5.56B]: $5.44B (Senate), $5.61B (House).
◊ Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) [$117M in FY11]:  $117M (Senate), $100M (House).
◊ Education and Human Resources (EHR) [$861M in FY11]: $829M (Senate), $835M (House).
  • NIST Core [$578M in FY11] – $560M (Senate), $571M (House).
◊ Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) [$507M in FY11]: $500M (Senate), $516M (House).
◊ Construction of Research Facilities (CRF) [$70M in FY11]:  $60M (Senate), $55M (House).
◊ NIST Technology Innovation Program (TIP) [$45M in FY11]: $0 (Senate and House).
  • NASA Science [$4.94B in FY11]–$5.10B (Senate), $4.50B (House). The Senate bill would restore funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, zeroed out in the House bill, and would bump JWST support $150M above the presidential request in order to achieve a 2018 launch. It would also cap the project cost at $8.00B.

The Senate reductions for both NSF and NIST were unexpected, given past support for these agencies by CJS Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

Defense Appropriations: The House and Senate appropriations bills would both increase support for basic (6.1) and applied (6.2) research. For the 6.1 programs, funded at $1.95B in FY11, the Senate would provide $2.10B and the House, $2.08B. For the 6.2 programs, funded at $4.45B in FY11, the Senate would provide $4.73B and the House, $4.66B.

Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations: The Senate appropriations bill would fund NIH at $30.50B for FY12, compared to $30.69B in FY11. The House appropriations subcommittee has yet to “mark up” its bill.

APS Washington Office’s Blog
Check Physics Frontline, the Washington Office’s Blog, for the latest news on science budgets updates.
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Several POPA Subcommittees proposed ideas for studies and related activities at the October 2011 meeting. The Subcommittee on National Security is in the early stages of planning a joint workshop/study in partnership with the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on the downsizing of non-strategic nuclear weapons. The Subcommittee on Energy & Environment presented a revised proposal for an educational component associated with the Direct Air Capture Technology Assessment, which will now be sent to the APS Executive Board for approval. They are also researching the future of nuclear energy as a possible study topic. The Subcommittee on National & International Research Policy is considering a report on the issue of science-backed standards.  
Since early May 2011 there has been considerable legislative activity associated with the Energy Critical Elements report; there are bills, both in the House and in the Senate, that support recommendations made in the report.

POPA Study Suggestions
If you have suggestions for a POPA study, please send in your ideas.
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ISSUE: Media Update

The issue of how science funding would fare under the newly passed Budget Control Act was the topic of an August 12th story in Science in which Michael S. Lubell, APS Director of Public Affairs, was quoted about possible across-the-board cuts in 2013. He was also quoted on the matter in Bloomberg and Nature on August 5th and 9th, respectively.

The fate of the James Webb Space Telescope was the subject of an August 9th blog post on MSNBC.com. The post referenced the APS statement on the issue, which called for Congress to fund the telescope. APS Vice President, Michael S. Turner, discussed the issue on NPR’s Science Friday program on July 15th.

The New York Times published an August 20th front-page story on the APS petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding risk assessments for laser enrichment technology. The story was picked up in numerous publications throughout the U.S. and abroad.

APS Washington Office

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Editor: Alan Chodos