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NSF & Congress
Hearing Summary - NSF Acting Director Arden Bement Testifies in Senate

February 26, 2004

On February 26, the newly arrived acting Director of NSF, Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., testified before the Senate VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee on the NSF budget request for FY 2005. Testifying before the panel with Dr. Bement were Dr. John Marburger, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Dr. Warren Washington, Chairman of the National Science Board.

In their opening comments, both Chairman Bond (R-MO) and Ranking Member Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) decried the small increase in NSF's request. Although the FY 2005 request for NSF ($5.745 billion) is 3 percent over the previous year, Chairman Bond noted that it is well below the 14.7 percent required to achieve the authorized 5-year doubling for NSF -- a goal that both Senators voiced continued support for during the hearing. The Chairman and Ranking Member also expressed deep disappointment in the decline in funding for programs in the Education and Human Resources account, and in particular the proposed consolidation of the Mathematics and Science Partnerships within the Department of Education.

Senators Bond and Mikulski were joined by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) who expressed his strong support for NSF and welcomed his constituent, Dr. Sherry Farwell, as the new head of EPSCoR. Sen. Johnson also noted with favor the deliberate, merit-review procedure for determining the future of an underground science research program at NSF.

Dr. Marburger testified that the FY 05 budget request for NSF was considerably higher than the 0.5 percent increase in non-security discretionary funding and, that since 2001, the overall NSF budget had increased by 30 percent.

In deference to the short time that Dr. Bement has been in his new position, Chairman Bond requested a list of issues and priorities for NSF in the coming year. Among the concerns raised by the committee were the investment in ethical, legal and societal implications of research on nanotechnology; the recent National Academy of Sciences Report on priority setting and management of large research facilities; and NSF's investment in biotechnology.

The hearing opened with a sobering message from Chairman Bond on the difficulties facing the Subcommittee this year, and after repeating that message in his closing remarks added that "Both Senator Mikulski and I are extremely strong supporters of the National Science Foundation, and will work hard to continue to provide a robust budget for the Foundation."

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