National Science Foundation 2013 Budget Request

As part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget appropriations process, Dr. Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), appeared before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science,  and Related Agencies on Tuesday, 03/06/2012, to present and respond to the subcommittee members questions about the NSF's proposed 2013 budget.

According to Dr. Suresh's prepared statement, the 2013 request, "totals $7.373 billion, an increase of $340.0 million (4.8 percent) over the FY 2012 enacted level . . . . [Providing] increased support for core programs in fundemental research and education in all fields of science and engineering".

Dr. Suresh's prepared statement reflects the reality of budget constraints imposed by the Federal government's need to reduce the level of the Federal deficit. noting that "As good stewards of the public trust, we have reduced or eliminated lower priority programs . . . . "

Among the programs targeted for reductions in funding are the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers (NSECS). . . .

because the state of research in this area has matured significantly and the research should advance more rapidly in  a different, more use-inspired research center program. Several NSECS grants may transition to the Nanosystems Engineering Research Centers (NERCS) as the nanodevices and processes created at graduating NSECSs move to the systems level and potential commercialization. NSF will continue to support eleven NSECs in FY 2013 including the Nanomanufacturing ERC.

As described in a 2001 program solicitation the NSECs could be be "based at a single institution or may consist of a lead institution in partnership with one or more partner institutions".  These Centers were designed to

address opportunities that are too complex and multi-faceted for individuals or small groups of researchers to tackle on their own. They will bring together researchers with diverse expertise, in partnership with industry, government laboratories, and/or partners from other sectors, to address complex, interdisciplinary challenges in nanoscale science and engineering, and will integrate research with education both internally and through a variety of partnership activities. Each center, whether based at a single institution or distributed across a number of institutions, must have an overarching research and education theme, well-integrated programs, and a coherent and effective management plan. The NSECs as a whole will span the range from exploratory research, focused on discovery, to technology innovation and will involve a broad spectrum of disciplines such as engineering, mathematics, computer science, the physical sciences, earth science, and biological sciences.

The following is a list of these centers:

Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing
University of Massachusetts—Amherst

Center for Nanoscale Systems (NSEC)
Cornell University

Science of Nanoscale Systems and their Device Applications (NSEC)
Harvard University

Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology
Rice University

Center for Integrated Nanopatterning and Detection Technologies (NSEC)
Northwestern University

Center for Electron Transport in Molecular Nanostructures (NSEC)
Columbia University

Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures (NSEC)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Center for Scalable and Integrated Nano-Manufacturing (NSEC)
University of California—Los Angeles

Center for Chemical-Electrical-Mechanical Manufacturing Systems (NSEC)
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Center on Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale
University of Wisconsin

Center for Probing the Nanoscale
Stanford University

Center for Affordable Nanoengineering of Polymeric Biomedical Devices
Ohio State University

Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems
University of California—Berkeley

Nano-Bio Interface Center
University of Pennsylvania

Center for High Rate Nanomanufacturing
Northeastern University

Center for Nanotechnology in Society
Arizona State University

Center for Nanotechnology in Society
University of California—Santa Barbara

Societal Interactions with Nanotechnology—NanoCenter
University of South Carolina

Dr. Suresh's statement does not indicate how much funding is being cut from the NSECs program budget.

As with other Federal Departments and agencies, this hearing was only the beginning of what can sometimes be a tedious and fractious process. While the possibility of Congress increasing NSF's FY 2013 budget over President Obama's request, the more likely possibility is of it being reduced further from the proposed $7.373 billion.

We'll continue to monitor the NSF budget as it makes it's way through Congress and will post updates.

FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act: The Senate Version

On June 17, 2011, the Senate Committee on Armed Services announced that S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 had been passed unanimously and had been reported out of Committee and sent on to the Senate for debate.

S. 1253 provided $200 million in funding for the "Rapid Innovation Program" established by PL 111-383, the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.  $50 million of this is directed to the development of advanced materials, including nanomaterials, as described in S. Report 112-26

    2. Developing advanced materials: $50.0 million for increased investment in a broad range of materials technologies, both organic and inorganic, that can provide enhanced performance in extreme environments; enhanced strength and reduced weight for the spectrum of applications from aerospace to lighter soldier loads; enhanced survivability of ground, air, and naval systems; and tailored physical, optical, and electromagnetic properties for a wide variety of the challenging environments and unique properties demanded of military systems. Such materials could include advanced composites and metals, nanomaterials, and rare-earth alternatives. Investments could also address new techniques for manufacturing and processing these materials, including advancements in forming, joining, and machining. Whether increasing survivability or improving fuel efficiency for greater performance, advanced materials are a foundational enabling component of military systems across all services and all warfighting domains;

S. Rept. 112-26 also contains the following language, which doesnot appear in S. 1253 as reported:

Nanotechnology research

The Department of Defense (DOD) is one of 25 federal agencies that are part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) that was launched in 2001. The goals of the NNI are to: advance a world-class nanotechnology research and development (R&D) program; foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit; develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and the supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology; and support responsible development of nanotechnology. As a participant in the NNI, DOD leverages its own and other federal investments, primarily in basic research, to discover and exploit unique properties of materials at the nanoscale to enable new applications enhancing future weapon systems capabilities.

Given the broad applicability of nanotechnologies to important areas such as power and energy, electronics and sensors, and advanced materials and coatings, the committee seeks to ensure that the DOD is engaging with as broad a research community as possible to maximize its access to innovative ideas and products. Hence, the committee directs the Department to provide a briefing to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives no later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act reviewing its sources of nanotechnology research and engineering for defense purposes. Furthermore, the briefing should address whether these sources are adequate to ensure that the Department has sufficient scientific and technical access across the spectrum

S. 1253 now awaits debate in thge Senate, as does HR. 1540, the House version of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. A likely scenario for both bills would be for the Senate to call up HR 1540 and amend it by substituting the language of S. 1253 after the enacting clause, which would send the amended bill back to the House. If the House agrees to the amendment, the bill would be passed and sent to President Obama to be signed into law or vetoed. A more likely scenario would be for the House to disagree with the amendment, sending it to a Conference Committee , which would be tasked with producing a comprise version that both the Senate and the House could agree to pass.

As with other legislation affecting nanotech, we'll monitor S. 1253's progress and provide updates.