The Senate's Science Bill

July 12, 2006

The Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee approved its spending bill for the 2007 fiscal year on Tuesday, which more money for basic science research as requested in President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative.

The subcommittee endorsed an 8 percent increase over the 2006 fiscal year for the National Science Foundation’s budget, which would bring the agency's total to $6 billion.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill, which also increases research funds for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, last month. The entire Senate Appropriations Committee will discuss the bill later this week.

Though NIST’s research budget would rise under the legislation by about 18 percent, to $467 million, NIST’s overall budget, in keeping with the president's competitiveness plan, would drop by about 16 percent from the 2006 fiscal year under the legislation. The Advanced Technology Program, for example, which provides additional funding for industry to conduct high-risk research, often at universities, received $79 million in the 2006 fiscal year, but would not get any money in 2007.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) emphasized the need for historically black colleges and universities to be included in the growth of research, and for the government to become as innovation friendly as possible, by clearing up its patent backlog and protecting American intellectual property abroad.

Mikulski, who was battling feedback from her microphone, surmised that, with the right environment for innovation, “maybe one day we can come up with a better sound system.”

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