WASHINGTON In testimony before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, and Commerce, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) called for the U.S. government to fully fund efforts to make the U.S. technologically competitive.
Boehlert, who announced in March he would retire from Congress after serving 12 terms, is once again on the warpath of trying to increase funding for R&D, math and science education and engineering programs, trying to ward off Congressional efforts to scale back the budget.
He may have allies in the current administration. The American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), announced by President Bush in January, commits $5.9 billion in the fiscal 2007 budget, and more than $136 billion over 10 years, to increase investments in research and development (R&D), strengthen education, and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Initiative is focused on doubling over the next decade investment in key agencies that support basic research programs in the physical sciences and engineering: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Dept. of Energy's Office of Science (DoE SC), and the Dept. of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Boehlert told Congress, "You have a unique opportunity this year to set the nation on a path that will keep us competitive and prosperous in the decades ahead. As the National Academies outlined so potently in its report 'Rising Above the Gathering Storm', for the United States to remain competitive, we must increase our investment in research and education. To put it more colloquially, we can pay now, or we will pay later."
He added, "So I urge you to fully fund the President's request for research at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and for the laboratory and construction accounts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)."
Boehlert urged the government to fully fund the President's requests for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He also called for the government to fund the Education and Human Resources Directorate at the National Science Foundation.
In addition, Boehlert called for funding of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) at NIST, which provides funding assistance for small companies. He pointed out that the proposed budget cuts funding by more than half without explaining how the MEP centers would be able to survive with such a cut.
Boehlert also called for funding of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, noting that the fiscal 2007 year budget provides sharply reduced funding for science compared to earlier projections.