Senate Approps Rejects Bush Proposals for Increased Funding for Tech Related Agencies

July 24, 2002. The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) reported and released its Commerce Justice State (CJS) FY 2003 appropriations bill. This bill includes appropriations for most of the technology related departments and agencies of the federal government, including the USPTO, FCC, FTC, and Antitrust Division. President Bush's proposal, released back in February, called for significant increases for these entities. The Senate bill provides for no increase, or very small increases, at most agencies. However, it would reinstate the NTIA's TOP grant program which Bush seeks to eliminate.

FCC. The FY 2002 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appropriation is $245 Million. The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) would hold this constant. President Bush proposed a $33 Million increase to $278 Million.

FTC. The FY 2002 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) appropriation is $156 Million. The SAC bill increases this to $159 Million. President Bush proposed a $21 Million increase to $177 Million.

The FTC has dual roles: antitrust and consumer protection. Its consumer protection functions have placed increased demands upon it to deal new technology related issues, such as spam, children's online privacy, financial privacy, identity theft, and online fraud.

Antitrust Division. The FY 2002 Department of Justice's Antitrust Division appropriation is $130 Million. The Senate Appropriations Committee bill increases this to $133 Million. President Bush proposed a $12 Million increase to $142 Million.

USPTO. The most significant difference between the SAC and the President is over funding for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Smoke and mirrors aside, the President proposed a 21% increase to $1,365 Million, while the SAC bill calls for only $1,146 Million.

The USPTO seeks to reduce patent pendency from its current average level of over two years, improve the quality of patents issued on increasingly complex applications, and convert more of its records and operations to electronic format. USPTO Director James Rogan announced earlier this year that with the increased funding contained in the President's proposal, the USPTO would hire an additional 950 patent examiners.

NIST. The President's proposal for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) called for an increase in appropriations for scientific and technical research and services, from $321 Million to $402 Million. However, it provided for decreases in other categories, thus leading to an overall decrease from $687 Million to $577 Million. The SAC bill provides a total appropriation of $692 Million.

NTIA. The SAC bill provides $14 Million for FY03 for the expenses of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). President Bush proposed $18 Million. However, the two differ on funding for grant programs. The SAC provides for $16 Million for Information Infrastructure Grants (IIG), and $52 Million for grants for public telecommunications facilities. Bush, who wants to end the grant program that has gone under various names (TIIAP, TOP, IIG), proposed $44 Million for NTIA grant programs.

The SAC approved (and ordered to be reported) S 2778, the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, 2003. The Committee released a press release of on July 18. On July 24, the SAC reported (and released the language of) the bill. The Senate Report is numbered 107-218.

See, extended excerpts from S 2778 as reported, including the entire text pertaining to the USPTO, NTIA, NIST, BXA, Technology Administration, Antitrust Division, FCC, FTC, and USTR.

The various documents which contain the President's budget proposal are collected in an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) web site.