Friday, 17 Feb 95 Washington, DC
1. STAR WARS: THE FINAL EPISODE? SPACE-BASED SYSTEM VOTED
Yesterday, the House passed the National Security Revitalization
Act, but a section calling for deployment of antimissile defenses
(WN 25 Nov 94) had been eviscerated. An amendment introduced by
John Spratt Jr. (D-SC) rejected space-based defenses and gave the
development of a ground-based ABM system low priority. The vote,
which split the defense hawks and the budget hard-liners, was the first
break in GOP ranks on a term of the "Contract." The gutted bill passed,
but even with Star Wars eliminated, the margin was insufficient to
override a threatened veto. Asked about the veto threat, Speaker
Gingrich issued a threat of his own: "We have appropriations bills
coming...there are many ways to make our point." Since no companion
legislation has been introduced in the Senate, however, most observers
think the bill is now dead.
2. VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE: GOP FRESHMEN VOW TO AXE
On Tuesday, 50 GOP House freshman announced the formation of four
task forces to work out details for eliminating the Departments of Housing
and Urban Development, Commerce, Education and Energy.
But in the Senate, Pete Domenici (R-NM), chairman of the Budget
Committee, declared that DOE is safe as long as he's in charge.
3. NIST: FY 96 BUDGET REQUEST LOOKS A LOT LIKE TECHNOLOGY
If the President has his way, the National Institute of Standards
and Technology will get another whopping increase; R&D would rise
20% to $938M, but Manufacturing Extension Partnerships and the
Advanced Technology Program--both under attack by Republicans--
account for two-thirds of that. NIST's in-house R&D, which has grown
37% in just two years, would go up by another 17% to $310M.
4. NASA: THE BIG STORY IS THE OUT-YEAR
PROJECTION--"STREAMLINING" is the euphemism. In FY 96, the asking
budget would increase R&D
0.7% to $9.5B. But Space Science takes a 2.7% hit, falling to
$1.96B, and Physics and Astronomy drops 5.4% to $1.13B. And it's
going to get worse! By FY 2000, NASA expects the Space Science
budget to drop by 18%. Since they're not likely to save that much with
"new millennium spacecraft" (WN 10 Feb 95), Dan Goldin announced an
agency-wide buyout plan to downsize the agency.
5. OTA REPORT ON THE FUSION ENERGY PROGRAM SHAPES HOUSE
A background paper on the Tokamak Physics Experiment (TPX) and
alternate concepts was released at a House hearing. According to
OTA: "The fusion energy program focused on the tokamak primarily for
budgetary rather than technical reasons. This narrowing is widely
perceived to have been premature and did not reflect the benefits of
pursuing alternative concepts." No one brought up cold fusion or mining
the Moon for helium-3, but the Energy
Subcommittee chairman, Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), did ask about
sonoluminescence. The TPX is awaiting congressional approval.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's
and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)