Friday, 12 Feb 93 Washington, DC
1. GEORGE BROWN DECLARES WAR ON ACADEMIC PORK.
In a meeting with reporters at the AAAS meeting in Boston this morning,
the chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee announced
that 50 of the universities that received pork in FY 93 will get
a closer look. In a series of high-profile hearings, university
presidents who accepted earmarked funds, members of Congress who
inserted the earmarks, and lobbyists who do the pandering will be
asked why they sidestepped merit review. If such programs are
really worthy, Mr. Brown pointed out, "there is no reason why we
couldn't review the projects and legitimize the little bastards."
2. THE WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE OFFICE COUNTED ONLY 160 ACADEMIC PORK
projects in the FY 93 appropriations, up from 150 a year earlier.
These are earmarks for specific institutions, without all the
bother of a competitive proposal. In fact, the OSTP figure is a
serious undercount; appropriators have learned to hide the fact
that the money is wired for a specific institution. But sometimes
it reminds you of Superman, whose disguise consisted of wearing
glasses. Senator Stevens of Alaska once earmarked a supercomputer
for "a state university north of the Arctic circle." Aside from
Agriculture, where earmarking is a tradition, Energy is still the
most popular vehicle for carrying academic pork; NASA, EPA and
Defense are the growth areas. NSF remains relatively untouched.
3. COMPETITIVENESS LEGISLATION WOULD ASSIGN A NEW MISSION TO NSF.
In the House last week, Tim Valentine (D-NC) introduced H.R.820,
the National Competitiveness Act of 1993. In the Senate, Ernest
Hollings (D-SC) had already introduced a similar bill (S.4). Both
bills promote advanced manufacturing technology--and both call on
NSF to play a role that would include development of a program of
instruction in something called "total quality management."
4. CLINTON BUDGET CALLS FOR A 40% CUT IN SPACE STATION FUNDING,
according to a report in today's Washington Post. Just a week
earlier, the White House had decided to kill the beast outright,
which might have been a mercy. A lobbying blitz by the aerospace
industry led to the compromise. Congressman Brown told reporters
he will urge President Clinton to restore full funding when he
meets with him later today. To scientists who oppose the station,
Brown said the science aspect was always overrated; the space
station, he said, "is like building the pyramids, it will glorify
the nation." What alternative cuts would he suggest? "I would
cut $3.5B out of the Strategic Defense Initiative." He reminded
reporters of Clinton's commitment to maintain civilian R&D with
money taken from defense. Meanwhile, no one from the White House
has spoken to NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. His job has been
twice offered to Sally Ride, but she has twice refused. Former
deputy administrator J.R. Thompson is now rumored to be the front
runner, but Thompson, who is respected for his frankness, is a
space station advocate. Dr. Kevorkian might be a better choice.