NSF funding called inadequate

Lawmakers plan to push for more funding for the National Science Foundation to ensure that essential research and development is not curtailed.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), new chairwoman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds the National Science Foundation, said she is concerned with the administration's fiscal 2002 budget request for the agency.

"This is the first time in the NSF's 50-year history that an administration has requested Congress to cut NSF's research budget below the previous year's level," Mikulski said in her opening statement Wednesday.

The budget proposes cuts in core programs for math and physical sciences, engineering, computer science and the geosciences by close to $50 million below last year's level, she said. "I cannot believe this administration really thinks this R&D budget is the right one for the country.

On the plus side, Mikulski said she is pleased with the 16 percent proposed increase for NSF's nanotechnology budget.

Overall, NSF would receive $56 million above fiscal 2001 funding levels. However, Mikulski and Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said they would like to see the NSF budget double in the next five years.

"I agree the budget is inadequate," Bond said at the hearing. "I hope to see an administration recommendation [that] puts us back on the" path to double the NSF budget in five years. If this does not happen, Bond said he is prepared to get more critical.

NSF wants to make sure that it can continue to make investments in core research and education initiatives such as graduate student stipends and math and science programs in schools, said Rita Colwell, NSF director. Other agency priorities include nanotechnology research and information technology research into making large-scale networking, software and systems more stable and secure.

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