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Remarks

Photo of Arden Bement

Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr.
Director
National Science Foundation
Biography

Announcement of FY 2006 Budget Request to Congress
National Science Foundation
February 7, 2005

See also slide presentation.

If you're interested in reproducing any of the slides, please contact the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs: (703) 292-8070.

[Title Slide: NSF FY 2006 Budget Request]

Good afternoon, and welcome to the National Science Foundation. It is a great privilege -– as well as a significant responsibility –- to be here unveiling the FY 2006 budget.

I've been at the helm of NSF for almost a year now. In this job, I’m reminded every day how much the United States depends on investments in research and education to stimulate and sustain the economy.

So I'm especially pleased to discuss my proposals for steering NSF's investments -- in science and engineering -- to areas where they can best contribute to the nation’s growth and prosperity.

[Slide 2: Science and Engineering Powering the Economy]

The return on the public's investment is well established: science and engineering provide the fuel that powers the national economic enterprise.

And NSF is the only federal agency that supports all fields of science and engineering research, as well as the educational programs that sustain them across generations. We rightly consider ourselves a research and education agency – in contrast to research and development agencies.

In some fields -– such as anthropology, mathematics, sociology, and computer sciences –- the nation's academic researchers rely on NSF for all or most of their funding.

NSF funds high-risk science and engineering at the frontiers of knowledge, and incorporates those frontiers into ongoing programs that provide knowledge and service to society. The circle is completed when NSF directs resources back to the new cutting edge. This is the agency’s unique role.

[Slide 3: Growth in NSF Budget FY 2000-2006]

Since 2000, the NSF budget has grown almost 43 percent, enabling new research and new directions in ongoing research. Along the way, there have been dips associated with national budget restraints, and at these times NSF must do its part to maximize the return on the public investment.

The Administration has outlined an ambitious agenda for science and engineering in America: continue to create economic growth and opportunity; respond to national needs, including homeland security and cybersecurity; and strive for the efficient and effective use of resources.

NSF is poised to help the community carry out these responsibilities. We must do so in a highly constrained budget environment.

[Slide 4: NSF FY 2006 Budget Request]

For FY 2006, the National Science Foundation is requesting $5.605 billion. That’s $132 million, or 2.4 percent, more than in FY 2005.

This modest increase allows us to assume some new responsibilities, meet our ongoing commitments, and employ more staff – with little room for growth in research and education programs. This means we’ll all have to keep working to leverage resources and work more productively.

[Slide 5: NSF FY 2006 Budget by Account]

This chart shows the FY 2006 budget request for the various appropriations categories.

The largest dollar increase is in the Research and Related Activities account, which grows almost 3 percent, to $4.3 billion.

The Education and Human Resources account decreases for a second year. In that area, we are leveraging our resources by focusing investments on successful programs and developing closer links with research programs. I'll say more about these later.

Ideally, all of NSF's budget areas would remain robust so that we can maximize the nation’s return on investment. In a difficult budget climate, however, we do our best to exercise fiscal responsibility by singling out priorities.

[Slide 6: NSF FY 2006 Budget Priorities]

For FY 2006, NSF has identified four budget priorities that reflect important contributions it can make to the nation and to the science and engineering community. They are: strengthening core research, continuing to provide tools and infrastructure, broadening participation, and continuing to sharpen NSF’s management.

[Slide 7: Strengthen Core Disciplinary Research]

The core disciplines form the foundation for innovations that transform the way we live and work, and for complex, interdisciplinary research in emerging fields.

Here's an example from chemistry. Almost 50 investigators supported by NSF are exploring the properties of water.

[Slide 8: Water Molecules]

Water covers three-fourths of the planet and plays a vital role in life on Earth. Yet, it may surprise you to know that many of its fundamental properties -- and its interactions with other materials -- are poorly understood.

Scientists are studying water at many scales -- from the behavior of individual molecules to the cycling of water between the ground, ocean, and atmosphere. The research will contribute to advances ranging from modeling climate interactions and the spread of infectious disease ... to new industrial processes ... to improving water supplies and sanitation for more of the population.

Understanding the chemical properties of water is still considered a major scientific challenge. In fact, the progress made in this field by several NSF-funded research teams was recognized by Science magazine as a Top-10 breakthrough for 2004.

NSF's mission is to support these fundamental discoveries that ultimately lead to benefits for society.

The results of our investments show up in the products, processes, and services we take for granted. For example, we rely on the MRI for medical diagnosis ... on lightweight materials for building airplanes and automobiles ... and on semiconductors for miniaturizing electronics.

Any day now, we could add a diagnostic lab on a microchip; an implantable, nanoscale drug delivery system; and strains of cereal grains with improved environmental and nutritional benefits.

That's the good news.

[Slide 9: Funding Rate, NSF Research Grants]

Here's the not-so-good news: as the number of ideas -- and their complexity -- grows, our ability to keep pace is challenged. The number of proposals received by NSF has been increasing every year. As a result, the proportion of proposals the agency is able to fund has dropped dramatically, from 30 percent in the late 1990s ... to around 20 percent that we expect this year.

In the coming year, our goal is to maintain the recent gains that we have made in increasing award size and duration, while halting the erosion in the funding rate.

[Slide 10: Scientist and Student]

Preparing future scientists and engineers is another key to sustaining the core disciplines’ ability to transform discovery into economic growth. One of NSF's primary values has been, consistently, to integrate education with research.

As we strengthen our core science and engineering portfolio, we also strengthen the participation of students in our research programs.

These partnerships allow NSF to increase the impact of education funds by combining them with funds allocated for research. And they help ensure that the skills and knowledge acquired by our nation’s youth match those needed in the workplace.

[Slide 11: Provide Broadly Accessible Cyberinfrastructure and Other World-Class Facilities]

People and their ideas form the core of a robust science and engineering enterprise. But leading-edge tools are also needed to advance the frontiers and train students for the workplace.

So another of NSF's primary objectives is to provide sophisticated tools to a broad population of scientists, engineers, students and educators.

[Slide 12: Cyberinfrastructure]

Cyberinfrastructure has become one of the benchmarks of science and engineering productivity. Modeling, simulation, visualization, and data storage and transmission are transforming research and education.

In FY 2006, NSF investments in this area total $509 million. With these resources, we aim to make cyberinfrastructure more powerful, more reliable, and more accessible.

[Slide 13: Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction]

The scientific infrastructure funded by NSF serves a broad spectrum of the science and engineering community. In FY 2006, the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account increases by $76 million -- or 44 percent – for a total of $250 million.

The increase covers our commitment to large ongoing projects -- for astronomy, physics, oceanography, and other sciences -- that are priorities for advancing the scientific frontier. There are no new starts.

Each of the large research platforms supported by NSF is a unique, world-class facility.

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array, in Chile, is a model of international cooperation. Another, EarthScope, will collect progressive data across the entire North American continent for several decades. And NEON -- which is funded in the Research and Related Activities account -- will use cyberinfrastructure to monitor real-time ecological change.

All of the projects reflect consensus within the community and within the National Science Board on which facilities will best meet the collective need.

[Slide 14: Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker]

Polar icebreakers form another arm of our research infrastructure. The White House has transferred funding responsibility for the three Coast Guard icebreakers to NSF, and transferred $48 million for that purpose from the Coast Guard to the Office of Polar Programs.

The icebreakers, our research ships, and other tools support a wealth of discovery in the Arctic and Antarctic –- areas uniquely suited to advancing the scientific frontier.

In FY 2006, a total of more than $300 million will be devoted to the tools and infrastructure needed to conduct polar research.

[Slide 15: Broaden Participation in the Science and Engineering Workforce]

NSF devotes considerable resources to making education and career opportunities available to a broader spectrum of the population. We do so in recognition of the need to make the science and engineering professions more representative of the U.S. population – and to ensure that no capable talent is overlooked.

The FY 2006 investment of almost $400 million is a small decrease from last year. So we plan to sharpen our focus on programs with a proven track record.

[Slide 16: Major Investments in Broadening Participation]

Three highly successful programs form the centerpiece of this investment. They are the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, and the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology.

These programs are models for integrating resources in the educational community with those in the research community to improve minority enrollment and retention in science and engineering.

Integrating these programs across NSF's directorates makes good economic sense.

[Slide 17: LSAMP Students in Lab]

By doing so, we are enhancing the funding available from the Education and Human Resources account with an additional $8 million from the research directorates. We are building education activities within all disciplines. And we are providing hands-on research experience that helps prepare students for professional careers.

[Slide 18: Sustain Organizational Excellence in NSF Management Practices]

NSF expects its business practices to meet the same high standards as its investments in science and engineering. Funding for activities that advance NSF’s priority of sustaining organizational excellence increases by $46 million, for a total of $336 million.

We strive for an agile, efficient organization that employs the best management practices, continually reviews its portfolio, and leverages its resources. This need is even greater in a conservative budget environment.

We've gotten excellent feedback from an ongoing, externally-led business analysis. And we are poised to make immediate improvements to position ourselves for the future.

The funds designated for organizational excellence will allow us to address new requirements for accountability and award oversight. Another priority is to expand our e-government systems and internal cybersecurity.

Most important, the increase in these funds will allow us to expand our staff by 25 full-time equivalent employees -- 23 for NSF, one for the National Science Board, and one for the Office of the Inspector General. This is the minimum we need to manage an increasingly complex portfolio.

[Slide 19: President's Management Agenda Scorecard]

In its quest for organizational excellence, NSF has earned three "green lights" on the scorecard that tracks the President's Management Agenda. NSF was previously recognized for its financial management and e-government activities. Now it has earned recognition for successfully integrating budget and performance.

The White House cited NSF for this accomplishment -- and for ensuring the American people are getting the greatest return on their investment.

A centerpiece of the President's Management Agenda is the Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART. The NSF investment categories that have been rated with PART in the past two years have been deemed "effective" -- the highest possible rating. Only 15 percent of the programs rated government-wide have received this rating.

[Slide 20: Additional Research Highlights]

Beyond the budget priorities lie dozens of programs and initiatives that cut across NSF directorates and enrich the entire science and engineering enterprise.

These areas are important because they help meet national needs by combining the resources of separate offices, institutions, and agencies. They also extend beyond national needs to the global scientific environment.

[Slide 21: NSF Priority Areas]

NSF has provided funding over several years to the interdisciplinary endeavors listed here.

In FY 2006 we continue to support four of these priority areas: Biocomplexity in the Environment, Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Mathematical Sciences, and Human and Social Dynamics. We will maintain funding at levels comparable to last year.

These areas are contributing knowledge that will advance all of the disciplines involved. And, they hold enormous promise for societal and economic benefit.

[Slide 22: Implantable Glucose Detector]

In the nanotechnology area, researchers at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign have developed an implantable detector that could allow diabetics to monitor glucose levels without having to draw blood samples. The detector is shown here on a fingertip.

Another of the interdisciplinary areas responds to the vast need for social and behavioral research. There is a growing recognition in all segments of society that the human dimension is important to understanding how we operate in many spheres – from disaster response to homeland security to the everyday interface with information technology.

[Slide 23: International Activities]

Science and engineering are increasingly conducted on an international level – at least in part because they address issues of global concern.

For example, a network of 128 seismic sensors across the planet recorded the shock waves from the December earthquake as they began to reverberate through the earth. This global network, in which NSF has a 20-year investment, represents the efforts of many nations. They work together to understand more about the hazards that can cause such widespread destruction.

Greater understanding, in turn, can lead to a greater ability to respond, to mitigate damage, and sometimes to predict.

International research partnerships are critical to the United States in capitalizing on global economic opportunities, and participating in the solutions to global problems.

To emphasize the importance of international activities, I have moved the Office of International Science and Engineering to the Director’s office, and increased its budget by 2 percent, to $34.5 million in FY 2006.

[Slide 24: Interagency Activities]

In addition to strengthening the NSF’s core portfolios, NSF will continue to play a lead role in interagency collaborations. These initiatives address national needs and provide substantial opportunities for societal benefit and economic growth.

You have heard about a number of interagency programs in which NSF is instrumental. In FY 2006, we will increase our investments in the National Nanotechnology Initiative and in the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development initiative. Our funding for the Climate Change Science Program will remain strong, although at a slightly lower level than last year.

Funding for the Plant Genome Research Program will remain at last year's level. NSF also coordinates a multiagency, international program to map and understand the genome functions of economically important plants such as maize, rice, wheat, and soybeans.

And we continue to support research on the popular Arabidopsis thaliana –- a flowering plant that is widely used as a model in plant biology.

[Slide 25: Homeland Security Activities]

The budget contains $344 million for upstream, basic research activities that contribute to the development of homeland security technologies and techniques.

This includes funding for securing computer, communication, and information networks – which are important to science and engineering as well as government, business, and commerce. NSF’s investments support research that will help secure today's systems and incorporate cybersecurity into the design of tomorrow’s systems.

Other NSF contributions include social and behavioral research linked to risk assessment and response; engineering research supporting the protection of critical infrastructure; and microbial genomics, which will provide new knowledge to protect against biological threats.

[Slide 26: Administration Priorities]

The budget highlights I've presented are only a sample of NSF’s portfolio. Though most of them are ongoing NSF activities, many of them directly support the Administration's priorities.

NSF's support of science and engineering is a national resource, which stimulates and sustains the economy, and also addresses immediate challenges.

[Slide 27: Researcher in Sumatra]

Let me close with an example of how the broad base of expertise supported by NSF helps the nation meet pressing needs, with a quick and highly skilled response.

Within two weeks of the recent earthquake and tsunami, natural hazards researchers traveled to the area. A member of the NSF-funded team from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute is shown here in Sumatra.

[Slide 28: Inundated Shoreline in Banda Aceh, Indonesia]

The teams gathered perishable information -- before it was lost in cleanup and reconstruction. They measured damage to buildings, boats and bridges; the height and extent of the tidal wave; and permanent changes in shoreline, such as the changes to this inundated coastal area in Indonesia. The researchers also interviewed survivors and reviewed emergency response patterns.

These data, on physical damage as well as on social and behavioral responses, are vital for scientists and engineers working to prepare for future disasters.

The ability of such teams to respond quickly is the result of NSF's longstanding investment in natural hazards research and infrastructure ... as well as the international relationships built over many years.

By focusing our future investments on fundamental research and education, we continue to strengthen science and engineering’s contribution to national growth and prosperity.

[Slide 29: Thank You]

Many of you have contributed to the success of NSF's programs over many years. And I know that you will be instrumental in helping us transform the 2006 resources into first-rate results. I look forward to working with you.

Now, I will be pleased to answer your questions.

 

 

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