Senate Panel Restores Some Technology Funding

Senate appropriators have restored funding for several Commerce Department technology programs.
WASHINGTON — Senate appropriators have restored funding for several Commerce Department technology programs, but funding for other science agencies received only modest increases or remain below last year's budget totals.

The Senate Appropriations science subcommittee earlier this week (June 21) approved $27.3 billion for federal technology programs. The panel restored $140 million for the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which House Republicans have been trying unsuccessfully to kill for the past decade. ATP is run by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Critics call the program corporate welfare.

Backers of the program said the restored funding includes $60 million for new projects. "This funding will help ATP prepare for the next few years of discovery and innovation for peer-reviewed projects involving smaller businesses and industry and university partners," said Robert Boege, executive director of the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America, based here.

The Senate panel also increased funding for NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnership to $106 million, much more than the Bush administration's request.

Overall, NIST's budget was increased by the panel to $844.5 million, an 8-percent hike over fiscal 2005 and $313 million more than the Bush administration's request.

Funding for the National Science Foundation was increased by the Senate panel by $55 million over the Bush request to $5.5 billion. However, pro-science groups said the funding total remains well below what the agency needs to promote technology innovation.

NASA funding totaled $16.4 billion, $60 million below the White House request, but at least $200 million more than last year's budget total. Part of the funding could reportedly be used for a Hubble Space Telescope rescue mission.

The full Senate is expected to vote on science and technology funding later this week. The budget debate then shifts to a House-Senate conference committee.

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