February 6, 1997
Good afternoon. Welcome to National Science Foundation for the release of our Fiscal Year 1998 Budget Request.
I'm joined today by our Acting Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer, Joe Bordogna, and our Chief Financial Officer, Joe Kull, who oversaw the development of the budget with the Office of Management and Budget.
Our Assistant Directors and other members of NSF's Senior Staff are also gathered here in the room today. All of us will be available to answer questions after we open the floor for discussion.
I've often said that we live in a remarkable era - a "golden age of discovery" - in science and engineering. Every day, we read, see, hear, and even download news of advances from across the frontiers of research and education, much of it resulting directly from activities supported by NSF.
We just last week learned that a team at MIT had created the first atom laser, which may one day make it possible to manipulate and focus individual atoms at scales that are smaller - much smaller - than the wavelengths used in optical lasers.
We also continue to marvel at the possibilities brought by new materials. Research directly related to the Nobel prize-winning work on Buckyballs has now brought us "nano-tubes" - which appear to be many times stronger than steel but only a fraction of the weight.
In education, the results from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study - better known as TIMSS - have given us a new gauge as to how our schools stack up in math and science. And, just in the past two weeks, a team of anthropologists discovered tools crafted by our ancient human ancestors that are some 2.5 million years old. That makes them 250,000 years older than any previously discovered.
Perhaps even more exciting than this rich array of discoveries and advances emerging from science and engineering is the wealth of possibilities and opportunities that they are bringing to our economy and society. We know from a host of studies by leading economists that investments in science and technology drive economic growth and deliver high returns.
These returns come home to us in many forms. We can now turn bacteria loose to clean up oil spills, we can view magnetic resonance images of the brain in real time, and we can pinpoint tornadoes as they develop.
We've even reached the point where a jumbo jet, the Boeing 777, can be designed entirely on-screen, saving millions in design and development costs. This makes clear that investing in research and education pays a real dividend to our entire society -- through a stronger economy, cleaner air and water, and longer, richer, healthier lives.
NSF's FY 1998 Budget Request builds on this impressive record of success and opportunity. As always, NSF's core purpose is to extend the frontiers of research and education across all fields of science and engineering. For FY 1998, we have highlighted a number of emerging opportunities that hold immense potential both from a scientific standpoint and as drivers of economic growth and progress in our society.
Let me turn then to the budget details.
Given the constraints on Federal discretionary spending, this increase represents a strong show of support from the Administration. It reflects the President's commitment to invest in science, engineering, and technology research and education. He expressed this throughout the campaign, as well as in his Inaugural Address and in the State of the Union Address earlier this week.
Securing this level of support in the Congress I believe will require an extraordinary level of commitment and dedication from the science and engineering community. It is very encouraging that key members of the Congress, including Congressman George Brown and Senator Phil Gramm, have already begun to voice strong support for merit-based investments in research and education. We are eager to work with all the Members in the House and Senate, and with the community, to chart a course for a strong and vibrant R&D enterprise.
Turning now to the numbers by appropriation:
The differential increases across the four program functions are very slight.
When you put all these pieces together, you can see that we have been able to maintain what we think is a very healthy balance across our portfolio. I should add that these are large budget categories which should not be expected to change rapidly.
As I turn to some of the highlights, it's worth emphasizing that while NSF's bottom line and the balance across our key program functions have changed only modestly, the mix of activities we support has been anything but static.
That is the nature of the work we support. There is a continual influx of new proposals and ideas, which is constantly presenting us with new opportunities to pursue.
For this reason, we are making significant investments in FY 1998 in a number of emerging areas of science and engineering.
The first of these is what we refer to as Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence in the Age of Information (KDI).
KDI marks a new approach for NSF. In the past, our initiatives most often have focused on well-defined areas of research and education or specific national priorities - such as manufacturing, materials, and HPCC.
KDI by contrast is perhaps the most encompassing venture NSF has ever pursued. It cuts across all fields of research and touches education at all levels. And, it is inseparable from the trends and technologies that are driving growth and opportunity in our economy and society - from networks to sensors to virtual reality systems.
Academic science and engineering has consistently pushed the leading edge of this new wave of opportunity and possibility. Many of our most useful tools today, including Web browsers and advanced visualization techniques, have emerged from research activities based at universities.
NSF's KDI effort therefore supports two sets of activities:
The total increase for KDI therefore comes to $58 million, which builds on an existing base of related activities that totals roughly $356 million.
The FY 1998 request also continues our emphasis on activities that promote the integration of research and education. Most of you know that it was one of the key themes to emerge from our strategic plan, and it has become a central feature of programs throughout the Foundation.
In FY 1998, we are also launching a new activity that fits right into this portfolio of ongoing activities - The Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training Program.
Two other sets of activities bear highlighting before I close.
First, we will continue to expand our efforts directed at gaining a better understanding of Life and Earth's Environment. We are focusing on how living organisms interact with their environment. This includes how we humans affect our environment and how our environment affects us.
Finally, on facilities, we are always acutely aware of the need for major research platforms that support a broad spectrum of researchers and educators.
In FY 1998, we will initiate support for two major projects.
To conclude, let me just state once again that the NSF remains committed to delivering the highest possible returns on the taxpayer's investment in research and education. I like to think of the NSF budget as both "money well spent" and "money spent well."
Once again, we are very pleased with the level of support and backing we've received from the President and the Vice President in the development of our budget request. We know the Congress faces many difficult decisions and tradeoffs in its spending and appropriations decisions for FY 1998.
We therefore look forward to working with the Congress - and with the research and education community - to ensure that investments in science and engineering continue to receive the same, strong bipartisan support they have enjoyed for generations.