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Update on congressional budget actions
STANFORD -- A task force of House Republican freshmen held a press conference June 8 to announce their plan to introduce the "Department of Energy Abolishment Act," which would dismantle the Department of Energy (DOE) within three years. According to an aide to Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who chairs the task force, the legislation will be introduced in the House by Tiahrt and in the Senate by Sen. Rod Grams (R-Minn.).
The fate of university research programs is ambiguous in the Tiahrt plan, which clearly states that the Clean Coal program would be terminated immediately and that the Fossil Fuel and Energy Conservation programs would be phased out over three years. The legislation would establish a presidentially appointed commission, similar to the military base closure commission, that would review DOE labs and make recommendations on their reconfiguration, privatization and closure.
The commission also would identify all research and development activities carried out at DOE laboratories that it considers critical to the long-term economic well-being of the United States. This does not include general science programs. According to an aide to Tiahrt, his "best guess" is that DOE's general science programs, which totaled $984 million in FY 1995, would end up at the National Science Foundation.
On June 14, the House Science subcommittee on Basic Research marked up the National Science Foundation (NSF) reauthorization legislation. The bill provides more for Research and Related Activities than previously reported -- a total of $2.226 billion, which represents a cut of $54 million from FY 1995 appropriated levels. For FY 1997, the bill authorizes $2.286 billion for Research and Related Activities, an increase of 2.7 percent over the amount proposed for FY 1996.
The subcommittee's bill does not propose any changes to the structure of NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, for which it authorizes FY 1996 funding of $11.3 billion. House Science Committee Chairman Robert Walker (R-Pa.) reportedly is still considering amendments affecting this directorate for the full committee's markup, scheduled for June 22.
The subcommittee adopted three new provisions: prohibiting indirect cost reimbursement for university matching funds provided under the Academic Research Facilities Program; requiring universities to allow students to serve on active duty with the National Guards or Reserves with no academic or financial sacrifice; and prohibiting congressional lobbying activities with NSF funds.
The subcommittee also adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) that provides that "the impact that a grant or cooperative agreement by the National Science Foundation would have on undergraduate and graduate education at an institution of higher education shall be a factor in any decision whether to award such a grant or agreement to that institution."
Excerpted from memoranda prepared by the Association of American Universities.
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