In what is expected to be a tight budget year, the U.S. House of Representatives seems intent on offering three major science agencies more than the president's 2006 request: The Department of Energy (DOE), NASA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The House also approved budgets more generous than the administration's request for the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
DOE received the best news. Yesterday the full House approved a $66 million (1.8%) increase for its Office of Science, to $3.67 billion, as part of a broader appropriations bill for energy and water projects. That would more than reverse a $137 million cut requested by the Bush Administration. Along with $39 million more for an advanced computing initiative, $70 million for biological and environmental research (including $35 million in earmarks), and a $5.6 million boost for fusion science, DOE's high-energy and nuclear physics were brought back roughly to fiscal year 2005 levels. The $22 million increase for high-energy physics would be split between neutrino physics and linear collider work.
Also yesterday, a newly configured House spending panel bumped up small increases requested by the president for NASA and NSF. The new NASA figure of $16.5 billion would be $275 million more than in 2005, and $15 million more than the White House requested. Some of that increase would go to aeronautics, which the Administration has said it wants to scale back, and $40 million would boost spending on various science projects. But the panel hasn't provided nearly enough to cover the cost of flying the space shuttle, adding a Hubble shuttle servicing mission, and overruns on a host of programs such as the James Webb Space Telescope.
For NSF, the panel added $38 million to the president's $133 million increase, for a total of $5.64 billion. The agency's research account would grow by an additional $44 million, to $4.38 billion, and its education programs would gain back two-thirds of a proposed $104 million cut, to $807 million. To pay for those boosts, the panel has made unspecified cuts in the $250 million requested for five major new facilities, as well as for salaries and operating expenses.
Details on the NSF and NASA budgets won't be available until after the spending bill is taken up by the full Appropriations committee on 7 June. The Senate has yet to take up either that bill or H.R. 2419, the one covering DOE programs.
In other action, the House last week approved the Interior appropriations bill. The bill provides a 4.1% increase to USGS's budget, raising it to a total of $974.6 million--$38 million more than this year. The administration request would have cut the budget to $933.6 million and slashed funding of mineral research, which the House has restored (Science , 20 May, p. 1101). EPA would get $765.3 million for science and technology in the House bill, an increase of $21.3 million above this year and $4.7 million more than the Administration request. The bill now goes to the Senate.
-–ANDREW LAWLER, JEFFREY MERVIS, CHARLES SEIFE