|4:57 PM EDT||
Lamar S. Smith, R-TX 21st
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Chair, first I want to thank the majority leader, Mr. Cantor, for his earlier comments about our National Science Foundation amendment. I appreciate his efforts to hold the NSF accountable for its grant funding decisions.
The Smith-Cantor amendment reduces the fiscal year 2015 funding in the bill, the National Science Foundation's Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorate, or SBE directorate, by more than $15 million. This reduction will freeze SBE at its current funding level rather than increase it to the level requested by the President.
The Smith-Cantor amendment maintains the overall level of National Science Foundation research funding in the bill. It redirects the amount of the SBE cut to the physical sciences and engineering, the areas that were prioritized in the NSF authorization act reported out of the Science Committee yesterday. [Page: H4958]
Much of the research funded through the SBE directorate has obvious scientific merit and is in the national interest. But the SBE directorate has also funded dozens, perhaps hundreds, of questionable grants. For example, when the National Science Foundation pays a researcher more than $227,000 to thumb through the pages of old National Geographic magazines to look at animal pictures, taxpayers feel as though the NSF is thumbing its nose at them.
The NSF also spent $340,000 for a study of human-set forest fires 2,000 years ago in New Zealand. Americans who have lost their homes and businesses to wildfires could ask how this helps them.
Taxpayers can't help but wonder why NSF spent $1.5 million of their money to study rangeland management in Mongolia rather than, say, in Texas.
We shouldn't reward frivolous use of taxpayer money with even more money. This is what the President has proposed.
The Smith-Cantor amendment zeros out the SBE increase for fiscal year 2015. This should encourage the NSF to apply higher standards when awarding its grants.
Yesterday, the House Science Committee marked up the FIRST Act, legislation that reauthorizes NSF programs.
My colleagues and I approved an amendment to the bill that cuts the SBE directorate to $150 million, $100 million less than the current fiscal year. That is where we think the discussion ought to start next year. So this amendment is only the first step.
I also want to point out the SBE directorate isn't the only source of questionable NSF grants. For instance, NSF that handed out $700,000 for ``The Great Immensity,'' a climate change musical, and $5.6 million for a climate change scavenger hunt and phone game.
Such grants make taxpayers even more skeptical about how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent and diminishes public support for scientific research.
Investments in science are essential if our country is to continue to lead the world in nanotechnology, supercomputing, and other fields that yield new jobs, new businesses, and, in fact, entire new industries.
The way to restore public support is not to continue funding questionable grants with taxpayer money.
The Smith-Cantor amendment is a small but important step in the right direction. It sets the precedent for the Science Committee, the Appropriations Committee, and the House to take additional steps in the future to assure that NSF-funded research is, in fact, in the national interest.
Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.