Senate Panel Tells NSF to Train More Cyber-Security Personnel

A Senate spending panel wants the National Science Foundation (NSF) to triple its investment in training the next generation of cyber-security professionals. But pleading poverty, it's trimmed in half NSF's request to start building a National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).

The commerce, justice, and science subcommittee that has jurisdiction over NSF released its report language today as its $60 billion spending bill was approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee. NSF would receive all but $71 million of its $7.4 billion request—a 6.2% increase—for the 2001 fiscal year that begins on 1 October. Within NSF's two largest accounts, it sliced $51 million from a $6.02 billion request for research while preserving the $892 million for education. But the panel did some intriguing reshuffling within those parameters.

The biggest boost to NSF's request would be a tripling, to $45 million, of a $15 million scholarship program to train cyber-security professionals who work for the federal government. The panel said a 92% placement rate for graduates of the program, begun in 2001, warranted the large increase. The panel also specified that "not less than $20 million" of the increase be spent on those seeking graduate degrees in the field.

The cut in construction funding for NEON (Science, 23 April, p. 418) would be the latest obstacle for a $434 million project that has suffered numerous setbacks and delays since it was launched more than a decade ago. The plan was to spend $20 million in 2011 to begin installing instruments for the first two of what will eventually be 20 sites around the country. The panel reduced that to $10 million while supporting the requested amounts for four other large facilities already under way.

The committee also tried to squash NSF's plans to revamp its programs to train more minority undergraduates in science and engineering. "One size will not fit all," it declared in telling NSF not to merge three programs that support research and education at historically black institutions and tribal colleges. "These three programs each have different purposes and engage students and colleges in a different manner."

The bill must now go to the full Senate and be reconciled with a sister version in the House of Representatives, a process that may not be finished until after the November elections.