Science Public Policy News

Annual Appropriations Testimonies Begin on Capitol Hill

APA's Acting Executive Director for Science, Merry Bullock, testified before the House VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee about the Administration budget request for psychological research.

By Heather O'Beirne Kelly

Spring in Washington ushers in both cherry blossoms and the annual appropriations process on Capitol Hill. As part of this yearly congressional rite, all of the subcommittees of the two House and Senate Appropriations Committees begin "marking up" bills to fund federal agencies for the next fiscal year (FY05), which begins on October 1. Following release of the President's budget request in early February, the Budget Committees in both houses allocate lump sums to each Appropriations Subcommittee, out of which each must fund all of the agencies within its jurisdiction. Throughout the spring (and often summer) months, members of these influential subcommittees and their staff have a number of formal and informal meetings with federal agency staff, other interested members of Congress, and in some cases, outside groups to gather funding and programmatic recommendations.

Merry Bullock testifies before the House VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee

The House and Senate Subcommittees on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies (known colloquially as "VA-HUD") are responsible for appropriating funds to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in addition to the huge Department of Housing and Urban Development and a host of smaller agencies. Both House and Senate VA-HUD Subcommittees hold formal hearings to which the heads of the agencies are invited, and Members of Congress take turns asking questions of the agency directors on the record. In addition, the House VA-HUD Subcommittee holds what is known as "public witness testimony," for which outside groups (including associations, coalitions, etc.) request and are given slots for representatives to appear before the Subcommittee. Because NSF, NASA and the VA provide grant funding to psychological researchers, APA's Public Policy Office is a strong, active player in the VA-HUD appropriations process and each year requests one of the five-minute public witness testimony slots.

On March 25th, APA's then Acting Executive Director for Science, Merry Bullock, testified before the House VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee (the Subcommittee's website). APA's testimony (view the full written testimony) highlighted concerns about the Administration budget request for psychological research within each of these agencies. APA and the larger Coalition for National Science Funding urged the Subcommittee to increase both the overall funding for NSF and the line item support for the special research priority in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences ("Human and Social Dynamics"), over and above the President's request. At NASA, the Administration's request for both the Office of Biological and Physical Research and the Office of Aero-Space Technology appears adequate, but APA provided concrete suggestions for strengthening psychological and human factors research programs in each. The VA's research budget was actually cut in the President's request, and APA and a veterans' medical care and research coalition made a forceful case for congressional intervention to restore these funds. Across agencies, Bullock stressed the need for continued, strong investment in human-centered research, even given the current climate of tight budgetary constraints on discretionary spending and a host of competing needs.

APA's CEO, Norman Anderson, will testify later this month before the House Appropriations Subcommittee that directs funds, within the Department of Health and Human Services to the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and a variety of other health agencies as well as the Department of Education. We are still waiting to hear if APA will be granted a public witness testimony slot before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense in early May.

Public witness testimony is one of many advocacy strategies the Public Policy Office staff put into action during the often frenzied appropriations process. For those Subcommittees that do not conduct public witness hearings, APA submits written testimony to subcommittees for inclusion in their deliberations. We also conduct numerous "Hill visits," (meetings with staff and/or Members of Congress) alone or in conjunction with various coalitions; we bring in psychological researchers to testify at topical hearings before Congress and present at APA-sponsored congressional briefings; we sponsor scientists who showcase their research during lobby day research exhibitions; we train groups of psychologists in advocacy and arrange for them to meet with their congressional delegations here in Washington as well as back at home; and we activate our grassroots to call Congress when we need to garner support for (or ensure defeat of) a bill. We encourage all of our psychological scientists to keep up with these legislative issues through our monthly Science PPO e-newsletter, SPIN Science Policy Insider News [now APA Science Policy News] and our PPO grassroots network, PPAN (Public Policy Action Network). Sign up now and be a part of APA's science advocacy network in Washington! For more information on SPIN, visit the SPIN website and the PPAN website for Public Policy Action Network.