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Congress made slow progress on its fiscal year 2005 spending bills this summer, amid severe budget constraints and much uncertainty about how many bills will be signed into law before the election. The Defense spending bill, the only bill signed into law by the President at press time, provides significant increases for basic (6.1%) and applied research (9.6%). The spending bills for NSF, NIST, NASA and the DOE Office of Science have only been considered on the House side so far, with no action on the Senate side. The House Appropriations Committee cut the NSF budget by 2%, while the full House approved about a 5% increase for the DOE Office of Science and restoration of funding for the NIST core programs that plummeted in last year's omnibus bill. The House agreed with the Administration's request to eliminate the Advanced Technology Program, and it slashed NOAA R&D by almost 12%. The House Committee rejected the Administration's proposed budget for moon-mars, cutting $1.1 billion from the total NASA request. Although NASA's overall research funding would fall 18% from the FY '04 level, space science would rise a modest 1.6%, according to the House plan. In response to the NSF budget cut, APS President Helen Quinn sent letters to House leadership and an email alert to the APS membership.
The House Energy and Water FY '05 Appropriations Bill increases DOE Office of Science Funding for basic research in hydrogen storage. The bill also requires that the funding for proposed Hydrogen Research Centers be "competitively bid" and peer reviewed. Those outcomes are consistent with recommendations in the Hydrogen Initiative report, which is posted on the APS Public Affairs website.
Senator Bennett (R-UT) is sponsoring a bill that "halts nuclear testing without an open public process and congressional vote." In April 2003, the APS Council unanimously passed a statement calling for an open process that allows for thorough analysis and public discussion of any proposed nuclear test. More information on this issue can be found on the APS Public Affairs website.
Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) has introduced a bill (S. 2715) to improve the visa process for foreign students and scholars seeking to enter the United States and establish a national strategy for enhancing access to US universities and colleges. One of the bill's provisions would permit US consular officials to grant security clearances lasting the duration of a student's program rather than the current limit of one year, thus reducing repetitive security checks for foreign visitors who leave the US temporarily. The bill would also amend the "F" visa category language and would direct the Secretary of State, in consultation with the scientific community, to revise controls on visitors who plan to study science.
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