SENATE SPENDING BILL FLAT-FUNDS NSF, BUMPS UP NASA AND NIST
The Senate Appropriations Committee kept National Science Foundation funding at FY 2015 levels -- below the level approved by House appropriators -- while providing NASA a $279 million increase over FY2015 and $29 million more for NIST. Although senators seemed more favorably disposed to NSF than the House GOP, which seeks to shrink social sciences, the Commerce, Justice, Science subcommittee led by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) was constrained by having a smaller allocation than its House counterpart. Democrats promise to block all appropriations bills on the floor in order to force Congress into a new budget agreement that boosts domestic spending.
BASIC RESEARCH STRESSED AT DoD: In approving a FY2016 defense spending bill, Senate appropriators included $39,7 million more for basic research than in the current year "in order to keep pace with the global challenges to come." This is $228.5 million more than the administration sought. Universities would benefit through University Research Initiatives, University and Industry Research Centers, more funding for research at historically black and minority institutions, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
READINESS, ENERGY, AND CYBER: Senate appropriators encouraged the Navy "to support academic institutions with strong capabilities in aviation and aerospace structures and materials testing and evaluation to enhance readiness." They also want researchers to pursue "promising alternative energy technologies," and solar research in dry dust areas. Other Senate priorities for Pentagon research include cybersecurity, cloud computing, and associated encryption. The Office of Naval Research is urged "to develop a multi-disciplinary science and technology strategy addressing dynamic cyber defense and tactical cyberspace operations."
COLD AND DEEP: Senators see a possible struggle ahead in the Arctic, and urge "research efforts to develop security capabilities and strategies for the Arctic region" and a decision by Dec. 31 on what would be needed to set up an Arctic Center of Excellence." They also provide $10 million to ONR toward "development of advanced warhead and explosives concepts for undersea warfare, and an assessment of global developments in energetic materials." And they like what the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is doing on the undersea robotics battlefront with the Anti-Submarine Warfare [ASW] Continuous-Trail Unmanned Vessel [ACTUV].