Senators worried NSF overwhelmed

Senate appropriators on Thursday questioned the National Science Foundation's

capacity to handle a historic proposed $675 million budget increase for

fiscal 2001 and new program responsibilities.

"While auditors have not identified any significant financial or management

problems with NSF, I am concerned about NSF taking on more responsibilities,

especially when its staffing resources have remained flat over the past

several years," said Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-Mo.), chairman of the

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban

Development and Independent Agencies. Bond spoke during a hearing on fiscal

2001 budget requests for NSF and the White House Office of Science and Technology

Policy.

While Bond and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) expressed support for the

agency's lead on initiatives in biotechnology and information technology

research and development, they voiced concern about NSF's ability to handle

large, multiagency initiatives.

In its fiscal 2001 budget request, the Clinton administration appointed

NSF the lead agency for the national nanotechnology initiative.

NSF and other agencies involved in the nanotechnology initiative are

developing an implementation plan to coordinate various agencies' activities,

said Neal Lane, the president's science adviser. That plan may include a

small coordination committee based at NSF, he said.

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