The appropriations panels proposed identical spending levels for OSTP, with minor differences for NSF and NIST.

Appropriations committees for the House of Representatives and Senate have drafted proposed spending levels for the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) portion of the federal budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The panels largely agreed on funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The appropriations panels proposed identical spending levels for OSTP, with only minor differences on funding for NSF and NIST. Those and other differences aren’t expected to be hashed out, however, until after the November elections for president, the entire House, and one-third of the Senate. Both chambers reason that a deal is likelier to emerge if the issue is removed from election-year politics.

House Appropriations has scheduled a full committee markup of the CJS budget for tomorrow at 10 a.m., a week after the spending plan was approved by the panel’s CJS subcommittee chaired by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA). The April 19 subcommittee action took place the same day that Senate Appropriations approved the CJS spending bill by a 28-1 vote. The Senate Appropriations action moves the bill onto the floor, though it is not likely to be taken up until after the election and more probably, after the House and Senate agree to numbers.

As approved by Senate Appropriations, NSF would see its budget rise to $7.273 billion. That is $240 million, or 3%, above the $7.033 billion budget set for FY2012 and $100 million below President Barack Obama’s $7.373 billion proposal for next year.  House CJS subcommittee would spend slightly more for NSF, recommending approval of a $7.332 billion budget.

“NSF’s entire increase is provided to core research and education activities, which are critical to innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for an advanced manufacturing science initiative and for research in cyber-security and cyber-infrastructure,” House Appropriations said in an April 18 statement.

Senate Appropriations directed NSF to reduce the $290.85 million increase proposed for “OneNSF” multidisciplinary science initiatives, since funding for them could increase from $166.75 million in FY 2011 to $807.1 million in next year under the president’s proposal. “While the Committee supports these multidisciplinary initiatives, it cannot do so by cutting NSF’s core programs,” Senate Appropriations stated in its report detailing the CJS bill.

NSF’s major research equipment and facilities construction would rise to $196.17 million, same as President Obama’s request and 17% above the current fiscal year’s $167.055 million. The increase will fund several ongoing projects, though none in the life sciences.

NSF’s education and human resource spending, which funds a variety of science-technology-engineering-mathematics (STEM) programs at all levels, would rise almost 6%, to $875.61 million, also as proposed by Obama, from the current $829 million.

“At a time when enrollment in STEM fields of study continues to decline, it is important that NSF use its position to support students working towards degrees in these areas,” Senate Appropriations stated.

For NIST, the Senate scaled back President Obama’s $857 million request by approving $826 million for FY ‘13, still 10% above the current fiscal year’s $750.824 million. Most of that sum, $623 million, will be used toward research, up from $567 million in FY ’12. NIST will develop new Centers of Excellence designed to produce what Senate Appropriations said would be “collaborations between NIST, academic, and industry specialists on research focused on innovations in measurement science and new technology developments.”

House CJS subcommittee members went slightly higher for NIST, approving $830 million for the agency. According to House Appropriations, the spending plan sets aside $54 million more for core research activities; $128 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, $500,000 below House CJS; and $21 million for a new Advanced Manufacturing competitive research initiative, compared with $14.5 million approved by the Senate panel for the existing Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program. House CJS and Senate Appropriations both agreed to set aside $60 million of NIST’s budget for construction of research facilities, up 8% from $55.381 million in FY ’12.

The Senate panel and House subpanel also approved President Obama’s $5.85 billion proposed budget for the Office of Science and Technology Policy. That is $1.35 billion, or 30%, above FY ’12.

But in a repeat of a stipulation made last year, House CJS also upheld the prohibition on OSTP engaging in bilateral activities with China unless authorized by Congress or certified via procedures established in the bill. The stipulation, which survived in the budget approved last year by Congress, reflects concerns of subcommittee chair Wolf, who has long faulted China’s government for stealing U.S. industrial secrets and launching cyber attacks against the U.S.

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