NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has passed a $6.9 billion budget for the National Science Foundation for fiscal 2012 that would keep its total funding nearly equal to 2011 but would fall around $650 million short of President Barack Obama's proposed 2012 NSF budget.
Under the House plan that passed this week, NSF would receive$5.6 billion for funding Research and Related Activities, an increase of $43 million over this year. The agency's funding for Education and Human Resources would dip by $26 million to $835 million, and its Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would fall buy $17 million to $100 million.
The $50.2 billion 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which includes the NSF funding, also includes more than $1 billion to fund science, technology, engineering, and math education programs across the NSF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and other science-funding agencies.
The bill also includes a budget of $700.8 million for NIST, a $49 million reduction from 2011 and $300.3 million less than the White House's budget request.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said in a statement that because the US is "faced with record-high deficits, we have to rein in spending and prioritize what is most important – what would have the greatest benefits for American taxpayers and businesses to promote economic growth and job creation."
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, along with 140 other science interest groups, sent a letter to the committee this week supporting NSF science and urging Congress not to single out specific programs when they search for places to cut spending.
AAAS and the other signatories to the letter were concerned that some research projects, particularly those in NSF's Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences division, could be flagged as wasteful or unnecessary and used to tarnish science funding in general or be marked for easy cutting by deficit hawks.
Defunding specific programs or entire scientific disciplines and by-passing the peer review process "sets a dangerous precedent that, in the end, will inhibit scientific progress and our international competitiveness," the letter warned. "Allocating federal investments competitively through scientific merit review is the very process that has led this country to be the world leader in science."
It was not immediately clear if any programs at NSF were singled out in the bill to be cut.