On June 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) held a hearing on the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF), featuring NSF Director France Córdova. Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) opened the hearing by recognizing the important role NSF plays as the sole federal funder of basic research across all fields of science. Culberson also added that the subcommittee is going to work in a bi-partisan fashion to ensure that NSF is “appropriately funded” despite the tough budgetary environment and the appropriations process getting off to a slow start. As COSSA previously reported, the President’s budget request includes $6.7 billion for NSF, which would be a $819 million or 11.2 percent cut.
Both Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee expressed concerns about the impact the proposed cuts would have on different scientific disciplines and NSF-funded facilities like the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Ranking Member José Serrano (D-NY) recognized the significance of the proposed cut to the NSF, as it represents the first time a President has proposed decreasing funding for the agency in its 50-year history. Unlike appropriations deliberations in recently years, there was no discussion of funding the NSF directorates at specific levels or targeting individual fields for cuts.
Director Córdova emphasized the importance of the social and behavioral sciences in an exchange with Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who inquired about the impact of the requested budget cut on research in cybersecurity. Dr. Córdova explained that the cuts would have an impact on cybersecurity research including the import interdisciplinary work being done between the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate and the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate.
While the Subcommittee members seemed in agreement that they did not want to see cuts to federally-funded basic research, the next steps for the NSF budget are unclear. Chairman Culberson mentioned that the subcommittee has yet to receive its budget allocation, which will delay an already-shortened appropriations timeline for FY 2018.
An archived webcast of the hearing and Dr. Córdova’s written testimony are available here.