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Thursday, June 30, 2011

U.S. National Science Foundation: An Overview


Christine M. Matthews
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The National Science Foundation (NSF) was created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (P.L.81-507). The NSF has the broad mission of supporting science and engineering in general and funding basic research across many disciplines. The agency provides support for investigator-initiated, merit-reviewed, competitively selected awards, state-of-the-art tools, and instrumentation and facilities. The majority of the research supported by the NSF is conducted at U.S. colleges and universities. Approximately 82.7% ($3,320.5 million) of NSF’s FY2007 $4,049.4 million research and development (R&D) budget was awarded to U.S. colleges and universities.

On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), 2009, P.L. 111-5 (H.R. 1). The legislation provided slightly more than $3.0 billion for the NSF—$2.5 billion for Research and Related Activities (R&RA), $400.0 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC), $100.0 million for Education and Human Resources (EHR), and $2.0 million for the Office of Inspector General. Language in the conference agreement directed that within the R&RA, $300.0 million be available solely for the Major Research Instrumentation program. Additional conference language directed that of the total provided to EHR, $60.0 million be directed to the Robert Noyce Program, $25.0 million be directed to the Math and Science Partnership program, and $15.0 million used solely for the Professional Science Master’s Program.

The FY2012 request for the NSF totals $7,767.0 million, a 13.0% increase ($894.5 million) over the FY2011 enacted level of $6,859.9 million. The FY2012 request provides support for seven major directorates and other programs and activity accounts. The R&RA account is proposed at $6,253.5 million in the FY2012 request, 12.4% above the FY2011 level of $5,563.9 million. R&RA funds research projects, research facilities, and education and training activities. R&RA is also a source of funding for the acquisition and development of research instrumentation at U.S. colleges and universities, disaster research teams, Partnerships for Innovation, and the Science and Technology Policy Institute.

On April 15, 2011, the President signed into law the Department of Defense and Full-Year Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10). The act provides, among other things, funding for the NSF through the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Act, 2011. The legislation provides a total of $6,859.9 million for the NSF in FY2011, an approximate 1% reduction from the FY2010 level.



Date of Report: June 23, 2011
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: 95-307
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response: The SAFER Grant Program


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

In response to concerns over the adequacy of firefighter staffing, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act—popularly called the “SAFER Act”—was enacted by the 108th Congress as Section 1057 of the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108-136). The SAFER Act authorizes grants to career, volunteer, and combination local fire departments for the purpose of increasing the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry-minimum standards and attain 24-hour staffing to provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. Also authorized are grants to volunteer fire departments for activities related to the recruitment and retention of volunteers. The SAFER grant program is authorized through FY2010.

With the economic turndown adversely affecting budgets of local governments, concerns have arisen that modifications to the SAFER statute may be necessary to enable fire departments to more effectively participate in the program. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) included a provision (section 603) that waived the matching requirements for SAFER grants awarded in FY2009 and FY2010. The FY2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-32) included a provision authorizing the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive further limitations and restrictions in the SAFER statute for FY2009 and FY2010.

The Department of Defense and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10) funded SAFER at $405 million. The law also contained language that removes cost-share requirements and allows SAFER grants to be used to rehire laid-off firefighters and fill positions eliminated through attrition. However, P.L. 112-10 did not remove the requirement that SAFER grants fund a firefighter position for four years, with the fifth year funded wholly by the grant recipient. The law also did not waive the cap of $100K per firefighter hired by a SAFER grant.

The Administration’s FY2012 budget proposed $670 million for firefighter assistance, including $420 million for SAFER, which according to the FY2012 budget proposal, would fund 2,200 firefighter positions. The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations, 2012, bill (H.R. 2017) was passed by the House on June 2, 2011. The House bill, as amended on the House floor, would provide $335 million for SAFER and would allow FY2012 grants to be used to rehire laidoff firefighters and fill positions eliminated through attrition, remove cost-share requirements, allow grants to extend longer than the current five-year duration, and permit the amount of funding per position at levels exceeding the current limit of $100,000.

Concern over local fire departments’ budgetary problems have framed debate over the SAFER reauthorization, which is included in S. 550, the Fire Grants Authorization Act of 2011. Previously in the 111
th Congress, reauthorization legislation for SAFER was passed by the House, but was not passed by the Senate. As part of the reauthorization debate, Congress may consider whether some SAFER rules and restrictions governing the hiring grants should be permanently eliminated or altered in order to make it economically feasible for more fire departments to participate in the program.


Date of Report: June 13, 2011
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL33375
Price: $29.95

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U.S. National Science Foundation: Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)


Christine M. Matthews
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) was authorized by Congress in 1978, partly in response to concerns in Congress and the concerns of some in academia and the scientific community about the geographic distribution of federal research and development (R&D) funds. It was argued that there was a concentration of federal R&D funds in large and wealthy states and universities, and that the continuation of such funding patterns might ensure a dichotomy between the “haves” and “have-nots.”

EPSCoR began in 1979 with five states and funding of approximately $1.0 million. Currently, EPSCoR operates in 29 jurisdictions, including 27 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the NSF has invested approximately $920.0 million in EPSCoR programs and activities. When established, it operated solely in the NSF. EPSCoR was expanded in the mid 1980s and early 1990s; by 1998, seven other agencies had established EPSCoR or EPSCoR-like programs.

EPSCoR is a university-oriented program, with the goal of identifying, developing, and utilizing the academic science and technology resources in a state that will lead to increased R&D competitiveness. The program is a partnership between NSF and a state to improve the R&D competitiveness through the state’s academic science and technology (S&T) infrastructure. Eventually, it is hoped that those states receiving limited federal support would improve their ability to compete successfully for federal and private sector funds through the regular grant system.

The NSF FY2012 budget request proposes $160.5 million for EPSCoR activities, approximately $13.4 million (9.1%) above the FY2010 enacted level of $147.1 million. (As of this writing, a full-year FY2011 appropriation has not been enacted; therefore NSF is operating under a continuing resolution.) The FY2012 request supports a portfolio of three complementary investment strategies—research infrastructure improvement ($116.1 million), co-funding ($42.8 million), and outreach ($1.7 million). NSF indicates that approximately 24.0% of the funding for EPSCoR is to be used for new research awards in the FY2012 request. The remaining is to be used to provide continuing support for grants made in previous years.

On April 15, 2011, the President signed into law the Department of Defense and Full-Year Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10). The act provides, among other things, funding for the NSF through the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Act, 2011. P.L. 112-10 provides a total of $6,859.9 million for the NSF, a 1% reduction from the FY2010 enacted level. Included in the total for FY2011 is $146.9 million for EPSCoR. This report will be updated periodically.



Date of Report: June 17, 2011
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RL30930
Price: $29.95

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Funding Emergency Communications: Technology and Policy Considerations


Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

The United States has yet to find a solution that assures seamless communications among first responders and emergency personnel at the scene of a major disaster. Since September 11, 2001, when communications failures contributed to the tragedies of the day, Congress has passed several laws intended to create a nationwide emergency communications capability. The 111th Congress considered pivotal issues, such as radio frequency spectrum license allocation and funding programs for a Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN), without finding a solution that satisfied the expectations of both public safety and commercial network operators. Congressional initiatives to advance public policies for Next Generation 911 services (NG9-1-1) also remained incomplete. The 112th Congress is under renewed pressure to come to a decision about the assignment of a block of radio frequency spectrum licenses referred to as the D Block, and to provide a plan for federal support of broadband networks for emergency communications. The cost of constructing new networks (wireless and wireline) is estimated by experts to be in the tens of billions of dollars over the long term, with similarly large sums needed for maintenance and operation. Identifying money for federal support in the current climate of budget constraints provides a challenge to policy makers. The greater challenge, however, may be to assure that funds are spent effectively toward the national goals that Congress sets.

After years of debate, a majority in the public safety community has agreed to implement common technologies using Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled networks and the wireless technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE) to build the nationwide PSBN. IP-enabled networks are also considered essential to the introduction of NG9-1-1. The adoption of the Internet Protocol for emergency communications represents a significant advance in the technologies available for response and recovery operations. IP-enabled technologies are faster and smarter, capable of analyzing and directing communications as they move through networks. Achieving the transition to a leading-edge, broadband network powered by the next generation of IP technologies requires significant changes in operations and long-standing agency traditions, major investments in infrastructure and radios, and the development of enabling technologies.

The need appears increasingly urgent for timely decisions by policy makers on new infrastructure for emergency communications and spectrum allocation for public safety radios. Commercial deployment of wireless networks using LTE standards that might also support public safety use are out-pacing the planning efforts of public safety and government officials. Additionally, a number of projects that received Broadband Technology Opportunities (BTOP) grants are moving forward to build broadband infrastructure that could, if the planning is in place, be used to link wireless networks as well as to upgrade 911 systems. Appropriations for BTOP were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5). Failing to leverage BTOP-funded infrastructure is likely to further increase the costs of emergency communications networks, especially to rural communities.

Legislation that has been introduced in the 112
th Congress to address some of these issues includes the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act (S. 28, Rockefeller), the Broadband for Public Safety Act of 2011 (S. 1040, Lieberman), the Broadband for First Responders Act (H.R. 607, King), and the Strengthening Public-safety and Enhancing Communications Through Reform, Utilization, and Modernization (SPECTRUM) Act (S. 911, Rockefeller, as amended).


Date of Report: June 14, 2011
Number of Pages: 44
Order Number: R41842
Price: $29.95

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Friday, June 24, 2011

United States Fire Administration: An Overview


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA)—which includes the National Fire Academy (NFA)—is currently housed within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The objective of the USFA is to significantly reduce the nation’s loss of life from fire, while also achieving a reduction in property loss and non-fatal injury due to fire. The United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008 was signed into law on October 8, 2008 (P.L. 110-376).

The Department of Defense and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10) funded USFA at $45.588 million, the same as the FY2010 level. The FY2012 budget proposal requested $42.538 million for USFA, about 7% under the FY2011 level. The budget proposal reflects an overall $1.72 million program reduction.

The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations, 2012, bill (H.R. 2017) was reported by the House Appropriations Committee on May 26, 2011. The House bill would provide $42.538 million for USFA, the same as the Administration request. H.R. 2017 was passed by the House on June 2, 2011.

As is the case with many federal programs, concerns in the 112
th Congress over the federal budget deficit could impact budget levels for the USFA. Debate over the USFA budget has focused on whether the USFA is receiving an appropriate level of funding to accomplish its mission, given that appropriations for USFA have consistently been well below the agency’s authorized level. An ongoing issue is the viability and status of the USFA and National Fire Academy within the Department of Homeland Security.


Date of Report: June 13, 2011
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS20071
Price: $19.95

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