But a lobbyist familiar with the MREFC approval process told Science, "the ecologists felt that they didn't have to do much because [NSF director] Rita [Colwell] would make it happen."
NSF put MREFC funding for NEON in the 2003 budget it proposed, but once more Congress balked.
Indeed, major MREFC requests are typically preceded by NAS studies.
In 2005 NSF established NEON Inc., a nonprofit corporation, to elaborate the design of the observatory and to build it as MREFC funding became available.
After all, the LHC had received gobs of MREFC money to quantify the strong and weak forces that hold together the nucleus of an atom.
NEON differs from other MREFC projects in two ways.
In 2012, when BIO proposed to award a $433.7 million MREFC budget to NEON Inc., OIG commissioned an independent audit that issued three inadequacy memos to the effect that the proposed budget was not auditable and failed to provide the information needed to determine a fair and reasonable price.
Because rules that govern MREFC funding prohibit cost overruns, BIO had to cut back or "rescope" the project to bring it within the budget.