Volume 23, Number 1 January 1994
We write as President and President-Elect of The American Physical Society, on behalf of the Executive Board, to call your attention to an urgent matter that threatens the ability of the US to respond to the competitive challenge of the post-Cold-War era.
The Committee Report accompanying the Senate version of H.R. 2491, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriation Bill, contains language in the section titled "The Future of the NSF" that is clearly in error. The NSF is directed to pursue a course that would duplicate the functions of other agencies and jeopardize the long-term prospects for American competitiveness.
Moreover, to embark on a major redirection of an agency that plays a vital role in the scientific and technological leadership of the US, without authorizing legislation or debate, is not a sound way to make policy.
This ill-considered directive was apparently based on a misreading of last year's report of the Commission on the Future of the NSF. According to the Commission's report: "The universities and the NSF should complement rather than replace the roles of those engaged in technology development. Redirecting the NSF's activities from research and education would have little or no effect on the US competitive position in the near term, but would seriously restrict prospects for the long-term."
A balanced national effort to achieve and maintain a position of competitive leadership must include both short-term "strategic research" to provide the incremental advances that keep industry competitive in existing technologies, and long-term research, which has the potential to generate entirely new and unforeseen technologies.
The need for NSF support of long-term fundamental research has never been greater. Basic research in the nation's industrial laboratories has all but vanished, even as government laboratories and federally funded research and development centers have shifted their research to support manufacturing.
We therefore respectfully urge that the section titled "The Future of the NSF" be stricken from the Senate Report accompanying H.R. 2491.
Statement on Termination of the Superconducting Supercollider
The Executive Board of the APS is deeply concerned by the prospect of termination of the Superconducting Supercollider.
The Supercollider is a project of great scientific merit that has met each of its technical milestones. It was undertaken only after approval at every level of government.
A decision to discontinue the Supercollider in midstream would underscore the lack of the coherent national research policy that is needed to sustain American leadership in science.
The APS Executive Board reaffirms its support of the supercollider in the context of a balanced effort for all of science.