Friday, 24 September 1992 Washington, DC
1. ENERGY AND WATER CONFERENCE COMMITTEE STAGES ANNUAL PIG-
The Senate bill contained a mere $0.3M in academic
earmarks; the House bill had zero. The task of the Conference
Committee was to reach a compromise. The compromise arrived at
was $95M! The money went in mostly $10M chunks to 10 projects.
First dibs went to the subcommittee chairs: an energy center at
LSU for Senator Johnston (D-LA) and a biomedical facility at the
University of Alabama for Rep. Bevill (D-AL). Then the ranking
minority members got theirs: a research building at the Oregon
Health Sciences University for Sen. Hatfield (R-OR) and a cancer
center at Indiana University for Rep. Myers (R-IN). By waiting
until the conference to insert their earmarks they avoid a lot
hassle and the conference report is almost impossible to amend.
Nevertheless, Rep. George Brown (D-CA) succeeded with an
"amendment in disagreement" on the floor of the House that leaves
$95M in the bill for academic projects, but removes the earmarks.
Institutions would have to compete in a merit review process to
get a piece. It is not clear what will happen now. The Senate
will certainly oppose the House action.
The growth of academic pork, beginning with $11M in 1980, can be
described by an exponential with a doubling period of two years.
This year it reached $700M. At this rate it will consume the
entire research budget of the US before the turn of the century.
2. THE HOUSE GETS MUGGED BY THE VA/HUD/IA CONFERENCE
On the space station, the House bill called for
$1.7B, while the Senate wanted $2.1B; they "compromised" at
$2.1B. The House had called for a slight increase in research at
NSF, while the Senate preferred a modest cut; the conferees
settled on the cut (it's a big cut when you take into account
inflation and new programs). Language in the Senate report
directed NSF to transform itself into some sort of national
competitiveness agency. The conferees agreed to let NSF wait for
the report of the Commission on the Future of the NSF--and then
make the transformation. "Strictly basic research at the NSF,"
one Senate staffer crowed, "is over." Why did the House
conferees roll over? The House conferees, led by Bob Traxler
(D-MI), who is not running for reelection, were apparently
willing to settle for a hefty serving of pork. It will take
awhile to track it all down, but one congressman put the earmarks
at $260M. Traxler, the subcommittee chair in the House, got
several slices. Sen. Mikulski (D-MD) got another $20M for the
Christopher Columbus Marine Research Center in Baltimore. Last
year the $20M came from NASA, this year it came out of EPA.
3. THE NSF ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PHYSICS PLANS A "TOWN
at which physicists and other interested persons
can make their views on the future of NSF known to the
Foundation. The meeting will be held on Sunday, 18 October 1992,
10AM to 5PM in Room 540 at the National Science Foundation, 1800
G Street, Washington, DC 20550. For further information call
Robert Eisenstein (202) 357-7985 or on internet email@example.com.
The public is welcome.