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/