The conference on the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies spending bill for agencies including NSF, NASA, and EPA concluded on October 1, and both the House and Senate have now passed the conference agreement, which awaits the President’s signature.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will receive $3.429 billion, an increase of $159 million or 5% over the FY97 level and $62 million more than the President’s request. In his remarks on the appropriation, NSF Director Neal Lane commented, “I am particularly grateful for the efforts made by the science and engineering community to work with the Congress. These efforts played a large part in obtaining such strong Congressional support for NSF.” The Research and Related Activities account also increased by 5% over FY97 to $2.546 billion, but the Geosciences Directorate lagged behind, receiving only a $5 million, or 1.1% increase to $451 million, $2 million less than the President’s request. The original reason given for the small increase was that it reflected a shift in funding to the Major Research Equipment account to fully fund construction of the Polar Cap Observatory, a $25 million request. That request was denied, however, after Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) learned that the observatory was to be built in Canada (near the North Magnetic Pole) rather than Alaska. NSF is to study the matter and consider alternative sites. The Antarctic fared much better in the Major Research Equipment account, receiving $70 million for the rehabilitation of the South Pole Station in the Antarctic of a total $109 million in the account, $29 million above FY97. Political interests also intervened in the Biological Sciences Directorate, which received a $40 million increase over the President’s request, earmarked by subcommittee chairman Kit Bond (R-MO) for a merit-reviewed plant genome research program. The increases for research and equipment came at the expense of NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate, which will receive $535 million, just a 1.1% increase over FY97.

NASA is slated to receive $13.6 billion overall. AAAS estimates that R&D spending totals $9.8 billion, up 5.4% from FY97. The bulk of the R&D spending — and all geoscience-related spending — comes from the Science, Aeronautics, and Technology (SAT) account, which will receive $5.7 billion, up 4.3% from FY97. Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) will receive $1,422 million, up $66 million or 4.4% over FY97 and $5 million more than the President requested. In additional MTPE news, NASA has indicated that present cost saving techniques will allow the agency to increase its funding for data analysis by up to $165 million by 2000. Much of this increase will be used to fund grants to researchers.

EPA funding is set at $7.4 billion, up $564 million or 8.3% over FY97. Most of EPA’s R&D spending is located in its Science & Technology account, which is funded at $631 million, a $79 million or 14.3 percent increase over FY97. The bulk of the increase, $50 million, is to be used for particulate matter research, reflecting congressional concerns about the lack of scientific data to support EPA’s new rule under the Clean Air Act regulating ozone and fine particulate matter. Academic researchers will benefit from an increase in funding available for extramural competitive research grants, as much as $186 million. Under threat of a presidential veto, conferees agreed to $1.5 billion in funding for the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program with the promise of up to $2 billion next year if a reauthorization bill can be completed by May 15, 1998.

*** Update Prepared by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey ***

*** Sources: AAAS, AESOP, American Institute of Physics, Environment & Energy Weekly Bulletin, House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Library of Congress ***