Friday, 13 Aug 1993 Washington, DC
1. ADMINISTRATION MODIFIES INTER-AGENCY R&D FUNDING PROGRAM.
The last Administration created the Federal Coordinating Council for
Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET, pronounced fix-it)
which coordinated inter-agency funding for six "strategic" R&D
initiatives. The Clinton Administration is changing the program:
industry will be asked to identify specific technological needs,
and federal agencies will then cooperate to fund the required
research. They are planning to eliminate the Biotechnology
Initiative and combine the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
Initiatives. According to a White House staff member, "Advanced
Materials accomplished as much as it could being non-specific.
Now it's time to have materials folks gravitate to manufacturing
problems." However, he added, curiosity-driven research will
remain a critical part of the process. Currently, the entire NSF
Materials Research budget is under the FCCSET Advanced Materials
Initiative--the FCCSET label served as a funding safeguard.
2. THE NSF "ENGINEERING INITIATIVE" ENTERS PHASE II.
Eight years ago, the National Science Foundation Organic Act was
modified include "and engineering" everywhere the word "science"
appeared--except in the title. Now, there is a move to change the
name as well, to the National Science and Engineering Foundation.
The vehicle for change would be the NSF authorization legislation,
which will be marked up in September. If Congress is changing
the name, why not be complete: the National Science, Engineering,
Technology, Education, Manufacturing and Economics Foundation?
3. EARMARKING: "A LITTLE MAY BE OKAY, BUT TOO MUCH IS TOO MUCH,"
according to George Brown (D-CA), Chair of the House Committee on
Science, Space and Technology. Brown released his Interim Report
on academic earmarks this week; it is a devastating indictment of
the escalating practice of identifying specific academic programs
for agency funding, without the benefit of competitive review.
The only requirement is to get to a member of Congress who sits
on the Appropriations Committee. Earmarks need not be related to
the mission of the agency that must provide the funds; between
FY 90 and 93, DOE saw $172M of its research dollars go to medical
facilities at ten different schools. During that time, the SSC
fell $282M short of its baseline budget. According to Brown, the
underfunding led to schedule slips that contributed to erosion of
support for the SSC in the House. Although they earmarked $708M
in FY 93 alone, appropriators could find only a measly $93.5M for
the entire five years of the facilities program at NSF. Brown
suggests that increasing the facilities funding to the authorized
level of $250M annually would help undermine a leading earmarking
excuse--university administrators claim they have no alternative.
In addition, he is seeking reforms in the appropriation process.
4. AFTER FOUR LAUNCH ATTEMPTS, Shuttle Discovery sits idle on the pad.
Rumor has it NASA is bringing in a team led by Dr. Ruth.
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