Budget plan restores funds to research lab


President Bush's spending plan for the next fiscal year restores the $3.4 million budget of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, which had been eliminated under an earlier spending proposal.

Submitted to Congress yesterday, the fiscal 2003 federal spending proposal includes the salaries of 43 employees at the center, a leading facility for research on Chesapeake Bay ecology and on coastal ecosystems worldwide.

In a preliminary federal spending plan prepared by the federal Office of Management and Budget late last year, the budget for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center - known as SERC - would have been transferred to the National Science Foundation.

"We're pleased by the decision that OMB made," said Ross B. Simons, SERC's director for four years and a 30-year employee of the Smithsonian Institution.

Simons had said that the proposed cuts threatened the existence of SERC because its scientists would have had to compete for their salaries and for money to fund their research. A small portion of SERC's $3.4 million budget is used for research, but most of the money goes toward salaries and operating costs, he said.

Scientists at thecenter - located on 2,700 acres and 12 miles of shoreline on the Rhode River - manage 48 projects with $19 million in grants awarded by public and private organizations.

Under the budget proposal, an outside group would be appointed to review all Smithsonian research funding to recommend how much of its money should be awarded competitively.

The proposed budget also restores money that would have been shifted to the National Science Foundation from two other Smithsonian research sites, in Panama and Cambridge, Mass.

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