Friday, 3 Nov 95 Washington, DC
1. TRAIN WRECK: COULD WE HAVE A YEAR-LONG CONTINUING RESOLUTION?
At least four spending bills, including Defense, are stalled in
Congress by arguments over abortion provisions. And of the bills
that are spared that ideological impasse, several, including VA-
HUD-IA and Commerce, seem certain to draw a veto. Only two of 13
spending bills have been signed. With less than two weeks before
the short term CR runs out, talk is growing of a year-long CR at
spending levels reduced by even more than the current 5%. That
might sound pretty good at the National Endowment for the Arts,
but it would mean big trouble for science at NSF, NIH and DOE.
2. DOOMSDAY MACHINE: THE DEBT LIMIT IS USED TO RAISE THE STAKES.
The House version of the Reconciliation Bill, passed last week
(WN 27 Oct 95), would dismantle Commerce and collect the tattered
remains of NOAA, NWS and NBS in a National Institute of Science
and Technology. But Commerce dismantlement will be stripped from
the bill in conference, because it violates a Senate rule barring
discretionary spending matters from reconciliation bills. So the
House freshmen are demanding a new vehicle. It could be in a new
CR, but they threaten to raise the stakes by attaching it to the
debt extension bill. The current ceiling expires on 13 November.
3. MASS SUICIDE: "ALTERNATIVE MODELS OF FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR R&D."
House Science Committee chair Bob Walker (R-PA) was quoted by US
News this week as saying, "I have to be in favor of the cuts [in
science] necessary to get us to our target." On Wednesday, the
Congressional Research Service sponsored a day-long workshop for
congressional staff to consider four "alternative models" for
reducing federal support for R&D: 1) Support only defense related
R&D; 2) In addition to defense, also support R&D in environmental
clean-up, space and health; 3) Reduce federal support of all R&D
by 30-50%; 4) Increase basic research support by 2% a year above
inflation, while cutting applied research by up to 30%. That's
how these things work: the first three are so insane that by the
time you get to the final alternative it almost looks good.
4. FINDING: COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS REPORTS HIGH R&D YIELD.
A CEA report released this week puts the social rate of return on
federal investment in R&D at close to 50%. By 2002, congressional
proposals would slash research funding by about 30%, while Japan
expects to double R&D spending by 2000. In terms of percentage
of GDP, Japan is already outspending the US on non-defense R&D.
By 1997, Japan will be outspending the US in absolute dollars!
5. LESSON: SLUMP IN THE JAPANESE ECONOMY PROMPTS DECISIVE ACTION.
The Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science supports some
250 one-year post-doctoral fellowships for foreigners. Responding
to bad economic news, the Japanese government just provided JSPS
with a budget supplement to hire another 200 short-term postdocs.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's
and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)