A House of Representatives subcommittee Thursday unanimously approved spending increases for agencies including the National Science Foundation and the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, increasing their share over last year's amount and shifting some of their focus from research to education-related programs.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies signed off on the $56.8 billion bill, which would fund the agencies under the panel's jurisdiction for the 2009 fiscal year. The markup amount is about $5 billion over last year's enacted funding level and more than $3.1 billion above President Bush's budget request for the year.
Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.V.), the subcommittee's chairman, said that the allocation provided to the subcommittee by the full Appropriations Committee permitted an increase in spending on climate change research and aeronautics, as well as other areas "in which the [president's] budget request was inadequate," he said.
A spokesman for Mollohan said that this year's bill is adjusting its funding priorities in certain areas.
"Under Chairman Mollohan’s leadership, the Subcommittee shifted about $50 million from research and related activities to an emphasis on education activities," the spokesman said in an e-mail. "The $50 million shift was made in recognition of America’s need for robust investments in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Specifically, these new investments are focused on Noyce Scholarships, math and science partnerships and climate change education grants."
The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program of the NSF enables colleges and universities to encourage math, science and engineering majors to become teachers in high-risk K-12 schools.
The subcommittee's bill would appropriate some $26 billion for science, technology and innovation spending -- the cornerstone of President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative, which was enacted by the America COMPETES Act but hasn't yet been fully funded -- an increase of $1.7 billion over fiscal year 2008. The NSF would receive $6.9 billion, a 13 percent increase; the bill would provide $785 million for NIST, restoring proposed cuts to a technology enhancement program, Mollohan said at the markup session.
Further details on the subcommittee's bill probably will not be available until the full Appropriations Committee meets to draft its version of the bill next Thursday.