Earlier this month an innocuous congressional resolution (H.R. 1307) marking the 60th anniversary of the National Science Foundation failed to win unanimous approval, passing the House of Representatives 370-2.
Rep. Paul Broun, half of that cabal of two, represents District 10, my own home district. Broun, a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, also has oversight of the NSF and several other science agencies.
"Dr. Broun opposes funding for NSF primarily because it is not a constitutional government program," claims Debbee Keller, his communications director.
However, Broun appears to be confused on this matter, for three reasons.
First, according to the U.S. Constitution, Congress is supposed to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" here in the United States.
Second, in 1950, shortly after we dropped our atomic bombs, we discovered Russia had our nuclear secret. At the time the NSF was created, both we and the Soviet Union were engaged in a desperate race to get hydrogen bombs first; therefore, the NSF was created to help the United States achieve our military/scientific goals as a matter of national defense. The Constitution says: "Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence," as well as "To raise and support Armies ... ."
Third, we have seen the stated mission of the NSF, an independent federal agency created "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense ... ." The statement then continues: "(w)e are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing."
At this point, the NSF is central both to the U.S. homeland defense against terrorists and against cyberwarfare. And that mission statement entirely comports with the letter and spirit of Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
Go ahead. Look it up and see for yourself.