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Discovery September 1999

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IN FOCUS

 

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.

  • 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.

Tom McCoy is MSU Vice President for Research.

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