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NSF & Congress
House Appropriations Committee
House Appropriators Hear NSF's FY 04 Request

April 10, 2003

On April 10 the House VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony from Dr. Rita Colwell, Director of NSF, on the agency's budget request for FY 04. The Committee expressed disappointment in the request, given the fact that the FY 03 appropriation provided NSF with funding that approached the request (the FY 04 is only 3.2% above the '03 appropriated level). Dr. Colwell pointed out that the requested level was 9% above the previous request, which was used as a comparison due to the delay in the passage of the omnibus appropriations act, and that the level provided for NSF was a notable increase; more than double the rate of increase for the entire rest of the Federal government's discretionary accounts. The request, she noted, was strong evidence that the President embraces the value of NSF.

Chairman James Walsh (R-NY) and Ranking Member Alan Mollohan (D-WV) pressed NSF for the impact of the current appropriation on programs requested in 04, but already substantially funded in FY 03. The Director pointed out that NSF is still far short of its goal for increasing grant size and duration from the current $127,000/year and 3 years to the target of $250,000/year and 5 years. Additional resources would be used to make progress toward these goals.

Members noted that the small number of U.S. citizens in the science and engineering workforce would cause problems in the near future. Dr. Colwell stated that Congressional efforts to increase the size of fellowships at NSF was already having an impact by increasing the affordability of graduate school and making it more attractive to good students.

Rep. Cramer (D-AL) and Rep. Price (D-NC) expressed concern over the funding level for the Advanced Technology Education Program, which focuses on improving the quality of mathematics, science, and technology education at 2-year institutions. Rep. Bishop (D-GA) and Rep. Fatah (D-PA) commented on the dearth of U.S. citizens pursuing advanced degrees in Science and Engineering and noted that it was their view that NSF is not providing sufficient support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which are a major source of minority students majoring in science and engineering fields.

The Committee asked for a status report on a study by the National Academy of Public Administrators on the National Science Board and it's relationship with the rest of the Foundation, as well as the organization and personnel practices at NSF. That study, Dr. Colwell reported, is underway. The NAPA study is complemented by a larger long-term business analysis to provide NSF with a top to bottom analysis of its human resource, technology and business practice needs. Dr. Colwell defended the management of NSF, stating that it is one of the best run agencies in the government (NSF is the only federal agency to receive a top rating in any initiative of the President's Management Agenda, receiving top honors in Financial Management and E-Government) and noted that the number of employees has remained flat during the past 10 years.

Members of the Committee praised the Foundation's work and acknowledged the importance of basic research and the role NSF plays in the nations quest for knowledge and discovery.

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