CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, June 13, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5049, the NSF Major Research Facility Reform Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5049 was introduced on April 26, 2016 by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), and was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on April 27, 2016.
H.R. 5049 directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to maintain a Large Facilities Office to support its research directorates in the development, implementation, and assessment of major multi-user research facilities. Specifically, the NSF shall appoint a senior agency official responsible for the oversight and management of large-scale projects, and who ensures policies for developing and maintaining major multi-user research facility construction costs are consistent with best practices. H.R. 5049 addresses needed reforms in four areas, including: pre-construction verification of project cost; incurred cost audits; better control over contingency funds; and proper use of taxpayer funded management fees. In addition, the legislation authorizes NSF to pay management fees as a part of their research awards under certain conditions and requires the agency to provide additional education and training for NSF managers and staff regarding employment protections for persons reporting a possible misuse of government funds.
Major multi-user research facilities are centers for research in various fields including physics, astronomy, geosciences, engineering, and nanotechnology. In 2015, $1.1 billion was appropriated to NSF for the operation, development, construction, and maintenance of more than 20 such facilities.
Reforms included in the bill are meant to ensure that no current or future large-scale project faces the same financial mismanagement that plagued the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). NEON is a continental-scale ecological observation facility sponsored by NSF to gather and synthesize data on the impacts of climate change, land use change, and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity. According to the Committee, the project was $80 million over budget and 18 months behind schedule.
Last year, NSF Director Dr. Cordova agreed to commission a study by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to take a closer look at how NSF could better manage large-scale projects. NAPA identified 13 recommendations to improve NSF’s management and oversight of cooperative agreements. The full report can be found here.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates implementing H.R. 5049 would cost about $2 million annually and $10 million over the 2017-2021 period. Enacting H.R. 5049 would not affect direct spending or revenues, therefore pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.