Friday, 27 Oct 95 Washington, DC
1. HEY, WHY DON'T WE CALL IT "THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF
Back in the days before "strategic research" became
"corporate welfare," the lab's name was changed to the National
Institute of Standards and Technology. The new name was meant to
appeal to a Congress fixated on competitiveness. For awhile it seemed
to be working; NIST got big annual increases, at least in industry-
oriented technology. That was then. Now Congress is fixated on
balancing the budget. The humongous budget bill that passed the House
yesterday kills the Commerce Department, but saves NIST -- sort of. It
strips off all the technology stuff, such as the Advanced Technology
Program, and in case somebody missed that message, "Technology" is
expunged from the name of the lab. The new/old name would be the
"National Bureau of Standards." The bill would also create a new
agency called the National Institute of Science and Technology to house
NBS and NOAA (WN 13 Oct 95). Since it
preserves the acronym NIST, NBS can use the old towels.
2. SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW? THE DENOUEMENT MAY BE SEVERAL WEEKS
The Senate will pass its version of the Reconciliation Bill
later today. A House-Senate Conference Committee will try to resolve
differences next week; both houses must agree to the new version. The
President has promised to veto it on several grounds, one of which is
dismantling Commerce, but he might sacrifice that for agreement on
other issues. Since neither chamber has the votes to override, the
White House and Congress will begin negotiating. If a compromise is
reached, it must be approved by both houses.
3. ENERGY APPROPRIATIONS: CONFEREES FIND ANOTHER $15M FOR
Yesterday the House-Senate Conference Committee filed its
report on the Energy & Water spending bill. Approval by both houses is
assured, and there is no veto threat. $15M was added to the House
number for fusion, bringing the total to $244M; that's a lot less than
the $363M request, but it may keep one of the large fusion machines
operating. Basic Energy Sciences is at $792M, compared to a request of
$805M. High Energy Physics is $667M, $15M below the request. Nuclear
physics gets $304.5M, compared to a request of $319.5M. And is there
scientific pork? Of the $14.5M for hydrogen research (twice the
request), $250,000 is earmarked for "an institution with expertise in
electrochemical, thermochemical and photochemical reactions for
hydrogen production." Where might that be? Why, the University of
Oklahoma, as Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) established in a floor colloquy
a year ago (WN 22 Jul 94).
4. WALKER PREDICTS THE SPACE STATION WILL PRODUCE A NOBEL PRIZE!
In an interview with Popular Science, the House Science Committee
chair also plugged his Hydrogen Futures Act, cold fusion, and a
Department of Science. NASA could derive revenue by selling EOS data
and "save tremendous amounts of money" by miniaturizing satellites.
Umm. Perhaps they could start with the space station.
AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's
and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)