The American Astronomical Society’s Public Policy blog (i.e. this blog) will be on hold while the AAS conducts a review of its communications channels. Please feel free to email me if you have any comments about the blog that you would like to share.
The President has released his Administration’s budget request for FY 2011. Science has fared well despite the spending freeze proposed by the President on all non-discretionary spending. This budget request asks for a 5.9% increase in non-defense R&D spending (an increase of $3.7B for a total of $66B). The country’s total R&D budget request for FY 2011 is $147.7B once the defense R&D funding is included. This is an increase of $343M or 0.2% over the enacted FY 2010 level. There is also significant investment in programs to foster the next generation of S&T workers, both at the NSF, DOE and the Department of Education.
The breakdown for the agencies relevant to the astronomy community is as follows:
NSF: The NSF request is for $7.4B, an increase of 8% over 2010 levels. The Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (MPS), which houses the Astronomical Sciences (AST) within NSF, receives a 4.3% increase and AST receives a 2.5% increase to $251.77M.
Of the facilities supported by MPS, the AST facilities have done very well getting a majority of the funding increases. The requests and the percent increase over FY2010 estimates are: ATST – $2M, ALMA – $23.5M (33.8%), Gemini – 1$19.58M (2.5%), IceCube – $2.5M (16.3%) and LIGO – $30.30 (6.3%).
The Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program sees a 16.4% increase to $158.24M while the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) sees a 6.5% increase to $209.16M. There is also an additional investment of $103M to realign and consolidate existing programs to broaden participation by under-represented groups in the S&T workforce.
NASA: The biggest change at NASA is of course a new vision for the manned space flight program. NASA’s total budget request is for $19B with $5B for the Science Mission Directorate. The biggest increase within SMD goes to Earth Science in line with the Administration’s focus on renewed investment in global climate change research.
Planetary Science sees a small increase, targeted to identify and catalog Near Earth Objects. Some really good news for planetary science is that the Plutonium-238 production restart is called out prominently. Members might recall that the Administration had requested $30M in funds in the last budget for the Pu-238 production restart required to power missions to explore other planets in the solar system. Congress had zeroed out the request citing inadequate detail. This request reopens the dialogue. Heliophysics sees a small increase as well of roughly $13M. Astrophysics funding declines over 2010 levels by 2.5% (~$27M). The good news for the astronomy community is that new money has been requested to fund the increased investment in earth science and space science was not cut to fund that increase.
DOE: The Office of Science at DOE receives a 4.4% ($217.7M) increase for a total of $5.1B. The High Energy Physics program, which supports astronomical programs such as Fermi, receives a 2.3% increase for a total of $829M. Fusion energy sciences are down 10.8% to $380M. Of some interest to our community might be that the U.S. ITER project sees a decrease of $55M compared to FY 2010 levels. This is a reflection of the pace of construction and W.F. Brinkman, the Office of Science Director, is quoted as saying that the DOE was not willing to provide money for ITER until it had solved some underlying problems and the funding reduction was intended to “send a message.”
The President’s budget request reflects the priorities of the Administration. It is very supportive of science, including curiosity-based science, but has focused its big investments in climate change research, renewable energy sources, and STEM education. There is also a substantial investment in technology development at NASA. We must now engage Congress about the role astronomy plays in the national agenda and what our community can contribute to the nation. Everyone is awaiting the report from the Decadal Survey to set funding priorities for astrophysics. But we need to start talking to lawmakers now about the role of astronomy in the innovation agenda.
Useful links for further information:
NSF budget page: http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2011/index.jsp
NASA budget page: http://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/index.html
DOE budget page: http://www.energy.gov/about/budget.htm
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program page: http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/fy2011/
Here is a list of astronomy policy-related events at the AAS meeting in January that might be of interest:
Monday, Jan 04, 2010: NSF Town Hall, 12:45 PM-1:45 PM; Marriot Ballroom Salon 1
Tuesday, Jan 05, 2010:
- Invited Talk by Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator; 12:30-1:45 PM; Marriott Ballroom
- NOAO Town Hall, 11:30-12:30 PM; Thurgood Marshall North
- JWST Town Hall, 11:30-12:30 PM; Thurgood Marshall South
- NRAO Town Hall, 6:30-8:30 PM; Thurgood Marshall North
- NASA Town Hall, 12:45 – 1:45 PM; Marriott Ballroom Salon 3
- US Gemini Town Hall Meeting, 12:45-1:45 PM; Marriott Ballroom Salon 1
The Senate has voted to pass the FY2010 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. It will now go to the President for his signature. This bill included funding for NASA and NSF.
NSF got $6.927 billion, which splits the difference between the House and Senate numbers. This is an increase of $436.1 million (6.7%) over FY2009 (without including the stimulus funding). NSF funding in Fy2009 was nearly $9.5 billion when the stimulus funding is included.
NASA received $18.7 billion, which was the budget request and includes funding for the human spaceflight program. The Science Mission Directorate received $4.469 billion. This is close to the budget request and is a 0.75% cut from the FY 2009 levels (without including the stimulus funding). It is to be noted that NASA science is not included in the doubling agenda for science funding in the United States. NSF, DOE, and NIST are included in this doubling agenda.
On another note, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) has decided not to run for re-election in 2010. He was the influential chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and a great advocate for science. Congressman Jerry Costell (D-IL) has expressed interest in seeking the chairmanship of the full committee. He is currently the second ranking Democrat on the S&T committee.
As this year is drawing to a close, there are still many big issues Congress is grappling with – healthcare, the war in Afghanistan,… But what I am hearing in meeting after meeting I attend is that there is going to be a big focus on job creation next year. This Administration and Congress are generally very supportive of science, but the jobless rate is a big issue. And next year is an election year – so, its going to be all about jobs.
Its hard to equate R&D funding for basic research with immediate numbers of jobs created in a way that would make the bean counters happy. But one of the things I am learning in this role is reinforcement of an axiom I learned in grad school – you don’t ask, you don’t get. These are tough economic times and there are always tons of competing priorities. So we need to make our case standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those who are asking for funding to cure childhood leukemia (for example). We aren’t entitled to funding just because we do really cool stuff. We must sharpen our arguments for why what we do is relevant to society and deserves tax-payer funding – and then we need to share that with policymakers. Fact – if Congress doesn’t hear from you, they assume you are happy and don’t need anything.
We need to participate in order to be heard. Build support for funding basic research – innovation drives the economic engine! Write letters to newspapers, opinion pieces, letters to Congress. Check out the AAS’s Contacting Congress page to see how to contact your Congressperson.The Science Works website was launched a few weeks ago. Take a look at the site and see if any of the funding you have received should be on there and highlighted.
The Senate has passed the FY2010 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill, which appropriates funds for NASA and NSF. The House passed their version back in June. The Bill is now headed to a conference vote where the differences between the House and Senate reports will be reconciled.
The Administration’s budget request for NASA was $18.686 billion, an increase of 5.3% over the FY2009 appropriation of $17.782 billion. The NASA science budget request was $4.477 billion, 0.6 percent below the FY 2009 appropriation level of $4.503 billion.
The House recommended $18.203 billion overall for NASA and $4.496 billion for science. The Senate provides the full amount of the Administration’s request for NASA and provides $4.517 billion for science at NASA. The major difference in NASA funding between the House and Senate reports is that the House appropriators decided not to fully fund the request for the exploration program pending the Augustine report.
The details of the appropriations are in the House Report (111-149) and Senate Report (111-34). The two reports are similar but highlight a couple of different aspects in science funding. The House language directs NASA to provide a projected full lifetime budget outline for the Outer Planets Flagship mission scheduled to launch in 2020. They ask for anticipated contributions from foreign partners and an alternative budget profile that would accelerate the launch to 2018. The House bill also includes funds requested to enable SIM-Lite to continue mission concept, technology and risk reduction efforts in fiscal year 2010. The Senate directs $21M to continue the development of the International Lunar Network and provides the full budget requirements for HST, JWST, and JDEM.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill provide funding for the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission and the Solar Probe mission, and call out support for a robust Mars Exploration program. Both bills also allocate $50M within the astrophysics budget to continue efforts for servicing existing and future observatory-class scientific spacecraft.
NSF: The Administration’s request for the National Science Foundation for FY2010 was $7.045 billion with a request for Research and Related Activities at $5.7 billion and $117.3 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction.
The House has appropriated $6.94 billion for NSF, $108 million below the President’s request and $446 million above 2009. The appropriation for research and related activities is $5.64 billion, an increase of $459 million over the comparable fiscal year 2009 enacted level. The reduction recommended from the request goes to enable increases in research and education funding in NOAA and NASA. The Senate provides $6.92 billion for NSF, which is $426 million above the Fiscal Year 2009 enacted level. This total includes $5.62 billion for research, $122 million for research equipment and facilities; and $857 million for education activities. Advanced LIGO, ALMA, IceCube, and ATST are all fully funded at the requested levels in both versions of the bill.
This bill will now go into a conference vote, which may happen quite quickly, if the Appropriations Bill for the Dept. of Energy was any indication. Rumors are that the final bill will have the Senate numbers for funding. It will then be sent to the President for his signature, at which point it becomes law. This Administration is very supportive of science and that support is reflected in the budgets requested for the various science agencies. NASA’s budget has not seen the big increases seen in the NSF, NIST, and DOE budgets. This may be attributed to the uncertainty about the manned spaceflight program at NASA. Now that the Augustine Report has been released, we await the Administration’s decision and see what impact, if any, it will have on NASA’s science budget.
You can also read the FYI analysis to get details on the debate in the Senate accompanying this piece of legislation.
Detailed breakdown of the amounts provided for NASA science in House Report – http://www.aip.org/fyi/2009/077.html
Detailed breakdown of the amounts provided for NASA science in Senate Report – http://www.aip.org/fyi/2009/085.html
Its been pretty quiet on the astronomy policy front lately. But the House Science and Technology Committee has been holding all sorts of interesting hearings. So I wandered into one this morning on “Geoengineering: Assessing the Implications of Large-Scale Climate Intervention.” Most of the panelists were talking about “Solar Radiation Management,” i.e., reflecting some of the Sun’s rays back into space. They were careful to stress that it is to be considered as an emergency measure only (!). The panel was advocating for research funding to explore a few concepts, not deployment of any technique anytime soon. But apparently the equivalent committee in the UK House of Commons has started to look at this as well – so people are actually starting to look at this seriously!
It was the first hearing I’ve attended in person since I started this fellowship – so I was fascinated by the dynamics of this hearing. Tinkering with the one planet we have is nerve-racking stuff. But most of the lawmakers didn’t seem too concerned about that – they used their time to discuss their own views about global warming. Some were very thoughtful, some less so. It was also interesting to see how parochial the interests seem to be – Rep. Kosmas from Florida only wanted to know if this would bring jobs to Kennedy Space Center. The most surreal conversation was between Rep. Smith of Nebraska and Dr. Alan Robock about the impact of cows and eating beef on the environment. Followed closely by comments from Rep. Rohrabacher (CA) about how climate-change alarmists will now tell people to stop flying and stop eating beef based on inconclusive evidence.
And as I approached the metro station, hundreds of people were pouring out holding Tea-Party signs. Luckily, the anti-abortion protesters who were near the Rayburn building in the morning had gone home by then. One protest at a time. Democracy at work in Washington – gotta love it!
The long-anticipated final report from the Augustine Commission has been released. You can download the full report here.
There are no big surprises in the main points of the report since the summary report was released in September. The media has covered this extensively over the past day, so I won’t re-analyze the main conclusions – you can see the various media reports on NASA Watch. What’s particularly interesting to me is that they don’t shy away from making some tough observations about the governance of the agency in Chapter 9. The Commission astutely observes that the “why” should be considered thoughtfully before the “where” of what’s next for human space flight. They mince no words in pointing out the gap between the expectations and the resources provided. They also highlight the constant redirection of policy and budget reductions as being less than conducive to running an effective program.
It is of course up to the Obama Administration to decide what they will do with this report. The Administrator of NASA and high-level officials within NASA have been discussing next steps for a little while now. Hopefully a thoughtful policy will emerge as a result of all this effort. As for how this will impact science funding at NASA, we will just have to wait and see!
What are your thoughts on the report? We’d love to hear from you.