Friday, May 23, 1997
1. BUDGET DEAL: ANOTHER FIVE YEARS OF CUTS IN SCIENCE
It looks like a done deal. The House and Senate
failed to reach a final agreement before the Memorial Day break.
Differences are small, but reconciliation will have to wait. As
it stands, the agreement is bad news for science. Budget Function
250, General Science, Space and Technology, would drop 7% by
2002, the year the budget is supposed to be in balance. That's
on top of the 7% cut in science spending over the past five
years. It came down to a choice between investment and tax cuts.
George Brown's "Investment Budget"
(WN 28 Mar 97), which called for annual increases of 5% in
research, but no tax cuts, was offered in the House as a
substitute; it was defeated 91-339. Meanwhile, a General
Accounting Office report was released showing that investment in
research, infrastructure and education has already dropped from
2.6% of the GDP in 1981 to 1.9% in 1996.
2. REALITY CHECK: BUDGET RESOLUTIONS ARE NOT APPROPRIATIONS.
It may be a done deal, but it's not necessarily a big deal. A
budget resolution is a lot like a New Year's resolution -- it
sets broad goals, but does not have the force of law. We should
view the budget agreement as a reminder that the scientific
community still has a lot of persuading to do -- and not a lot of
3. GRAMM BILL: A BIPARTISAN CONSENSUS IS BEING FORGED.
heads of five scientific societies, including Allan Bromley of
the APS, met last week with Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), who asked
for their help in building bipartisan support for the National
Research Reinvestment Act, S. 124
(WN 24 Jan 97).
His bill calls for doubling basic science funding
in ten years, but Gramm indicated he is willing to broaden the
language to include precompetitive engineering research. That
would appear to bring S.124 into line with the objectives of the
Senate Science and Technology Caucus (WN
14 Feb 97), a bipartisan group headed by Bill Frist (R-TN).
4. LHC: SENSENBRENNER NEGOTIATES AGREEMENT BETWEEN DOE AND
The Chair of the House Science Committee announced on
Wednesday that his concerns are satisfactorily addressed by
modifications to an agreement reached between CERN and DOE in
February. A tough negotiator who is willing to engage in shuttle
diplomacy, Sensenbrenner had insisted that the interests of U.S.
taxpayers and researchers be protected in writing. His specific
concerns included a guarantee of open access to CERN facilities
for U.S. scientists and an appropriate management role for the
U.S. He also insisted on written protection in case of LHC cost
overruns, reciprocity if and when the next high-energy facility
is built, and a funding cap on U.S. contributions. Sensenbrenner
insisted that these concerns be addressed before any funds were
actually transferred to the project. Changes to the initialed
February agreement must still be approved by the CERN Council.