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Senate proposes NSF budget cut

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive a 2.4 per cent budget cut to $6.7 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2012, under a bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 15 September.

The lion’s share of the $162 million reduction—nearly $121m—would come from the agency’s Research and Related Activities (RRA) account, which funds research grants.

Back in July, House appropriators proposed flat-funding for NSF in FY2012, but boosted the agency’s RRA account by $43m. In February, President Obama had asked for NSF’s funding to be raised 13 per cent to $7.8bn.

The reductions to NSF proposed by the Senate would result in 380 fewer grants supporting 4,400 fewer researchers, students, teachers, and technical support personnel, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s report estimated.

“In a spending bill that has less to spend, we naturally focus on the cuts and the things we can’t do. But I’d like to focus on what we can do,” said Rep. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NSF and other science agencies.

“The bill invests more than $12bn in scientific research and high impact research and technology development, to create new products and new jobs for the future,” she added.

Also under the Senate proposal, NASA would receive $17.9bn, a decrease of more than $500m. However, the measure would provide $5.1bn for the agency’s Science Directorate, a rise of $165m.

In addition, the bill includes $530m for the James Webb Space Telescope, which would allow sufficient progress to aim for launch of the space telescope by 2018.

Meanwhile, FY2012 begins on 1 October, and on 14 September House Republicans introduced a continuing resolution to extend federal funding through to 18 November while Congress completes work on the FY12 appropriations bills. If approved, the continuing resolution would fund government agencies at current FY2011 levels, minus an across-the-board cut of about 1.4 per cent.