By Tom McCoy
By the time you read this, Congress will have reconvened following its summer recess.
Although it is still a long and arduous path to the final appropriation of federal funds for
fiscal year 2000, I'd like to comment on some of the initiatives that MSU is pursuing.
While I'm optimistic that we will receive earmarked funds for several of these projects,
I'm also aware that this is an incredibly uncertain year. Two gigantic "C's" loom as ominous
roadblocks to success: Cuts, as in tax cuts, and Caps, as in budget caps. Just before the start
of the summer recess, the House and Senate passed tax cut bills that would significantly reduce
projected budget surpluses. Furthermore, budget cap legislation passed a few years ago has created
deficient funding levels. Neither party wants to break the caps. Thus, the budget battles are
currently at "crisis" levels, according to some members of Congress.
Prognosticators are pointing to an omnibus bill, similar to the one passed in October 1998, as
the only way out of the impasse. If so, the uncertainty will increase, because earmarked funds
can be inserted or deleted at a moment's notice. Stay tuned as we march through another fall.
When the dust settles on the federal appropriation process, we hope a number of MSU programs will
benefit. A summary of those programs appears below.
Tom McCoy is MSU Vice President for Research.
- The Spectrum Lab, the Thermal Biology Institute and the MSU TechLink Center. MSU is seeking
appropriations from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for these programs as well
as an appropriation from the Department of Defense for the Spectrum Lab. The Spectrum Lab focuses
on next-generation solutions for massively parallel data and signal processing and data storage.
The Thermal Biology Institute examines life in extreme thermal environments, namely Yellowstone
National Park. TechLink joins companies in Montana and the surrounding states with NASA and Defense
Department laboratories for transfer and commercialization of new technologies.
- The Drinking Water Assistance Program at the Montana Water Center. We requested funds through
the Environmental Protection Agency to continue this program and to create a demonstration
wastewater treatment facility in the MSU classroom/laboratory building currently under design.
- A high-tech business development center located in the MSU Tech Park. In essence an incubator
for high-tech start-ups, this center would assist small companies interested in commercializing MSU
technologies or other technologies. Funds would come from the Departments of Housing and Urban
Development and Commerce.
- Within the appropriation bill for the Department of Agriculture we have sought funding for
numerous projects including: 1) Feed Barley for Rangeland Cattle, 2) Sustainable Pest Management
for Dryland Wheat, 3) Development of a Sustainable Beef Supply Network, 4) Vaccine Development
for Brucellosis in Bison, 5) Trade Research Center, 6) Center for the Discovery of Bioactive
Compounds (funds are also being requested through the Energy and Water appropriation), 7) Small
Grains for Value-Added Markets, and 8) Ecologically Based Noxious Weed Management. In addition
we would like to construct a large animal biocontainment facility.
- Research on whirling disease at MSU through the National Partnership on the Management of Wild
and Native Coldwater Fisheries. The Department of Interior is being asked to provide continued
support for this project.
- MSU also has requested funds through the Labor, HHS and Education appropriation. Projects
include a "Tele-Health Intervention Project for Rural Elderly", "A Distance Learning Demonstration
Model for K-12 Schools," an "Educational Technology Leadership Institute for School Administrators."
All three requests are for programs that involve the Burns Telecommunications Center and faculty
from the Colleges of Nursing and/or Education.
- In addition to current support from the Department of Transportation for the Western
Transportation Institute, we have requested funds for "Geosynthetics in Transportation Pavement
Systems." This technology is aimed at reducing maintenance costs and extending roadway life.