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March 16, 2006 - ASCE Statement - FY 2007 Appropriations on the NSF and the NIST

Statement of the
Before the Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice,
and Commerce, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
On the Budget for the National Science Foundation
and the
National Institute of Standards and Technology
For the Fiscal Year 2007

March 16, 2006

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is pleased to offer this testimony on the proposed budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) for Fiscal Year 2007. The President’s American Competitive Initiative (ACI) with its focus on research and development at NIST and NSF will pay dividends for the country in many areas. ASCE is encouraged by and supports ACI and with it, the Administration’s request for $6.02 billion request for NSF and $581.3 million for NIST.

ASCE believes that technological innovation has been the engine that drove the nation’s economy expansion of the last fifty years. ASCE firmly believes that by maintaining strong continuing and steadily increasing support for the research and education we will continue to enjoy the rewards of economic expansion. If we do not continue to invest in research and technology, we will loose our position in an ever more integrated and competitive world. The basic research funded by NSF, in engineering and all other areas of science, is the foundation of that investment in the future. Global competition increasingly requires the United States to make the necessary investments in science and engineering research and education.

ASCE, founded in 1852, is the country’s oldest national civil engineering organization representing 139,000 civil engineers in private practice, government, industry and academia dedicated to the advancement of the science and profession of civil engineering. ASCE is a 501(c) (3) non-profit educational and professional society.

I. National Science Foundation (NSF)
ASCE supports the Administration’s FY 2007 budget request of $6.02 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

Math and Science Partnerships - We encourage you to continue the federal commitment to math and science education by maintaining the peer-reviewed Math and Science Partnerships (MSP’s) at the NSF and supporting robust funding for both the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the NSF Math and Science Partnership programs. We urge you to oppose the Administration's budget proposal that would phase-out the NSF MSP program in favor of the new federal grant administered by the Secretary of Education that would, in effect, limit individual states’ discretion to target much-needed funds for local science and mathematics education reforms.

National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program - For the past 25 years NEHRP has provided the resources and leadership that have led to significant advances in understanding the risk earthquakes pose and the best ways to counter them. Under NEHRP, there has been a constant source of funding for seismic monitoring, mapping, research, testing, code development, mitigation and emergency preparedness. A recent study and report by the Multihazard Mitigation Council entitled “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities,”, has concluded the money spent
on reducing the risk of natural hazards is a sound investment. On average, a dollar spend by FEMA on hazard mitigation provides the nation about $4 in future benefits. The type of research to be conducted under this program has the potential to greatly increase the benefit.

The NSF strives to advance fundamental knowledge in earthquake engineering, earth science processes, and societal preparedness and response to earthquakes. Additionally, the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), operated by NSF, will expand knowledge through new methods for experimental and computational simulation.

ASCE requests that Congress direct NSF to acknowledge the $40.3 million funding level for NEHRP responsibilities at NSF and to urge NSF to fulfill that obligation. We further support the Administration request of $21.27 million for the operation of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation at NSF and ask that Congress urge NSF to maximize the potential of Network Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) through research grants.

II. National Institute of Standards and Technology
ASCE supports the President’s requested budget for NIST of $581.3 million for FY 2007 and would strongly urge Congress to fully appropriate the request as presented. ASCE is concerned that money requested for NIST’s core laboratory and standards activities may moved to fund other programs, as has happened in the past.

Scientific & Technical Research & Services (STRS) - These are NIST’s core programs that provide the measurements and standards on which the nation’s industry stands and grows. The
NIST laboratories provide industry and the science and engineering community with the measurement capabilities, standards, evaluated reference data, and test methods that provide a common language needed at every stage of technical activity. U.S. scientists rely on NIST’s evaluated data services and measurement expertise for a host of basic and applied research activities.

ASCE supports the Administration’s request of $467 million to fund the core programs at NIST. If fully appropriated, the funding would permit NIST to carryout its core responsibilities and greatly enhance U.S. competitiveness.

Building and Fire Research Laboratory – ASCE believes that the services provided by the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) are invaluable to the building industry. BFRL works to improve the productivity of U.S. construction industries and serves as the premier fire research laboratory in the U.S. It develops technologies to predict measure and test the performance of construction materials, components and practices. BFRL is the nation’s central laboratory for providing the tools (i.e. research and measurements) needed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

Laboratory activities include: fire science and fire safety engineering; building materials; computer-integrated construction practices; structural, mechanical and environmental engineering; and building economics. The laboratory conducts investigations at the scene of major fires and structural failures due to earthquake, hurricanes or other causes. The knowledge gained from these investigations guides research and is applied to recommendations for design and construction practices to reduce future hazards.

Construction is one of the nation’s largest industries, comparable in size to the health care and agricultural industries. Like those vital areas of the nation’s economy, the construction industry needs research and development to enhance international competitiveness and increase public health and safety. Funding for construction related research, from all sources, is a fraction of that available to the healthcare and agricultural industries. Due to the fragmented nature of the construction industry, the private sector does not have the resources to conduct the needed research and development on its own.

National Construction Safety Team Act – Public Law 107-231 - created the National Construction Safety Team at NIST with the mandate to investigate major building failures within the United States. The investigations are to establish the technical causes of building failures and evaluate the technical aspects of emergency response. The goal is to recommend improvements to the way in which buildings are designed, constructed, maintained and used. ASCE supported this act; however ASCE believes that NIST must be provided with the necessary resources. The National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Advisory Committee, established by the Act, recently released it first annual report to Congress which included a number of recommendations including the creation of a NCST office and funding.

ASCE supports these recommendations and urges Congress to appropriate an additional $2 million in FY 2006 to create a NCST office within the Building and Fire Research Laboratory at NIST.

National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) – The 2004 reauthorization of NEHRP has given the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) new responsibility as the lead agency for NEHRP and an expanded role in problem-focused research and development in earthquake engineering. However, in order for NIST to fully carry out its responsibilities, the NEHRP Coalition supports the full funding levels contained in the reauthorization for FY 2007 of $12.1 million for NEHRP responsibilities at NIST.

In addition to its leadership role, NIST is now specifically tasked to carry out problem-focused research and development in earthquake engineering aimed at improving building codes and standards for both new and existing construction and advancing seismic practices for structures and lifelines.

ASCE applauds NIST’s commitment to NEHRP by making money available and moving ahead with its responsibilities as the NEHPR lead agency in FY 2006. The President’s commitment for FY 2007 by adding $2 million for structural safety in hurricanes, fires and earthquake in FY 2007 will enable NIST to increase and expand its efforts.

The NEHRP supports the President’s request for $2 million for structural safety at NIST. In order for NIST to fully realize the potential benefits of NEHRP, the NEHRP Coalition urges Congress to build on the proposal of the Administration by appropriating the full funding levels contained in the reauthorization for FY 2007 of $12.1 million for NEHRP responsibilities at NIST.

National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program at NIST and NSF

In October 2004 the President signed Public Law 108-360 authorizing the creation of the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. As recent events on the Nation’s Gulf coast have so vividly illustrated, the nation remains highly vulnerable to major windstorms. We have not yet fully calculated the full the damage inflected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, but it will well exceed $150 billion.

This vulnerability was recognized by Congress in 2004 when it created the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. However, while the program has been authorized for FY 2006 through FY 2008, there has been no appropriation of funds or specific budget request.

ASCE urges full funding for the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. For Fiscal Year 2007 the law authorizes $25 million in spending, spread between federal four agencies. The Coalition urges the Congress to support full funding levels. Specifically, for the agencies under the jurisdiction of this subcommittee, the law authorizes:
• $9.4 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF);
• $4 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); and,
• $2.2 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Once again, thank you for the opportunity for ASCE to express its views. If you need more information, contact Martin Hight, ASCE Senior Manager of Government Relations at (202) 326-5125 or by e-mail at