Appropriations Committees Consider NSF and NIST Budgets

A House Appropriations Subcommittee recently held a budget hearing where Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), addressed the 10 big ideas of the foundation, providing examples from each scientific branch on how critical appropriate funding is to maintaining and improving lives.

A House Appropriations Subcommittee recently held a budget hearing where Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), served as the key witness in order to assess the Trump Administration’s proposed FY18 budget for NSF. In this hearing, Dr. Córdova addressed the 10 big ideas of the foundation, providing examples from each scientific branch on how critical appropriate funding is to maintaining and improving lives.

Dr. Córdova also presented cases, such as research to create organs out of one’s own tissue: “Just imagine the lives that could be saved,” she testified. She suggests that some of the biggest discoveries yet to come are just nearly within reach. While thanking the committee for its long standing support for the agency, she urged them to remember that the trailblazing discoveries the Foundation is known for are only made possible through consistent and reasonable funding from the government.

Dr. Córdova reminded the committee members that it is “our continued goal to keep our nation at the very forefront of the global science and engineering enterprise.” Concerns during the hearing included the effect that the proposed budget would have in dramatically reducing grants for students. Funding would only provide for 8,000 grants; a 12% decrease from the previous year. She also addressed the importance of cyber security and the enormous interest and demand for it after facing questions of whether or not the progress that has already been made will be eroded if the proposed budget is implemented.

Throughout the hearing, it was made clear that global leadership through scientific and engineering advancements and discoveries is a major priority of both the Director and the Appropriations Committee.

In the Senate, the Commerce, State, Justice Subcommittee on Appropriations held a hearing on the Commerce budget for FY2018, which encompasses the work of the National Institute of Standards. During this hearing, the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was asked about the Department’s proposal to eliminate the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which supports U.S. small and medium-sized businesses around the country. He testified elimination would result in a savings of $124 million and would eliminate $110 million in funding to the MEP centers, $4.8 million in contract support for the MEP system, and $9.3 million and a 100 percent reduction of NIST MEP federal employees who support and administer the MEP program. The $6.0 million in the FY 2018 budget will be used for an orderly shutdown of the program.

According to Senator Jeanne Sheehen (D-NH), the $130 million invested in MEP in 2016 returned $1.13 billion in federal income tax, a return of almost $9 for every dollar spent and it created or retained more than 142,000 jobs. She questioned how eliminating programs like this made fiscal sense.

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) also disagreed with the administration's prioritization with regard to manufacturing. He called for strengthening small and medium manufacturing as a higher priority for our country and said that Manufacturing USA and the critical role of NIST plays is something he wanted to work on a bipartisan basis to achieve. The Senator also believes the country would be harming its competitiveness to significantly cut NIST and to abandon the Manufacturing USA.

Review the testimony from the NSF hearing.

Review the NIST testimony.

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