WASHINGTON-Whether any possible new projects under the controversial Advanced Technology Program include composite plastics is under discussion following passage of the 1996 federal fiscal-year budget, a spokesman for the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Tech-nology said April 26. The final budget, delayed seven months by political positioning, contains $221 million for the full 1996 fiscal-year funding for ATP. The main portion of ATP funding will go to continuing ``competitions,'' or programs, NIST spokesman Michael Blum said.
``There's been no decision on whether new competitions will be awarded under the 1996 budget. Given the lateness of the year, it's impossible to tell at this point if any new competitions will be announced,'' Blum said.
NIST's report to the White House, containing recommendations for ATP funding priorities, is due at the end of May, Blum said.
Prior to the final passage of the 1996 budget, the ATP had been operating on a budget of $255.6 million, or 25 percent less than the 1995 fiscal year funding level of $340.7 million.
The Clinton administration had asked for $430 million in its budget proposal last October. Congress then voted to eliminate funding for the ATP, after both houses termed the public-private partnership an example of ``corporate welfare.''
Hearings in the House on the 1997 budget - due for completion Oct. 1 - also have eliminated ATP funding.
Actively awarding research grants to private companies under its emerging technology mission, ATP competitions are intended to help entire industries study technologies that private firms say will not show any profit for many years. The ATP has provided funding for 22 programs for the composites industry since 1994.
According to Blum, the Clinton administration favored the ATP program and wanted to see that funds were ``certainly not cut off before we had a chance to see results.''