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To Stay Within the Budget

This post has been edited to clarify that there was a potential for cost overruns.

The US House of Representatives science committee has approved a measure that would introduce new rules for how the National Science Foundation builds and operates large facilities, ScienceInsider reports.

The voice vote passing the measure comes in response to predicted large cost overruns at NSF's National Ecological Observatory Network. The project was behind schedule and was predicted to go $80 million over budget if it stayed on its course; NSF fired the contractor in charge.

Committee chair Representative Lamar Smith (R–Texas) says this measure would ensure better management of taxpayer funds. "It addresses gaps in project oversight and management through solutions identified by the NSF inspector general, auditors, an outside review panel, and the committee's own work," he says.

NSF officials, however, say that it would prevent the agency from hiring the best managers and would entail unnecessary new requirements as the agency has already put its own measures into place following the NEON mishap. "NSF already has rigorous oversight, reporting, and control processes regarding its major facilities, and is currently implementing internal standard operating guidance to further clarify and codify these processes," an NSF spokesperson tells ScienceInsider.

ScienceInsider notes that the bill has no Senate counterpart and "faces steep odds of winning final passage."