AAS ACTION ALERT 2003-03
Act By: September 1, 2003
The Space Environment Center operated by NOAA received a severe cut to its budget in the Omnibus appropriations bill of FY2003 and this cut has not been restored in the House Appropriations Bill for FY2004. Members are asked to contact their Senators to help address this issue.
The Space Environment Center provides a range of services to the Nation related to space weather phenomena. Among other activities, the Center provides real-time monitoring and forecasting of solar and geophysical events, conducts research in solar-terrestrial physics, and develops techniques for forecasting solar and geophysical disturbances.
The center also jointly operates the Space Weather Operations Center with the U.S. Air Force and serves as the national and world warning center for disturbances that can affect people and equipment working in the space environment.
In the Omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2003, the SEC received a severe cut to its budget of about 40% with no explanation for the reduction.
Although the President requested about $8.3 million for SEC in his FY 2004 budget request (an amount consistent with its past budgetary levels), the House Commerce-Justice Appropriations subcommittee provided only $5.2 million, or roughly 40% less than the amount necessary to maintain the SEC at its current operational effectiveness. No explanatory text was included in the bill to justify this reduction, but it is consistent with the overall reduction to the Department of Commerce R&D budget of 21.5%.
The Senate has not yet crafted its Commerce-Justice appropriations bill and the House version has not yet made it to the floor of the House for a vote, leaving AAS members plenty of time to act on this issue.
AAS members are asked to contact both their Representative and their Senators asking that the Space Environment Center, which is funded through the Department of Commerce be supported at the President's requested level of $8.291 million for FY 2004. A sample letter is included below for reference. Please modify the letter to reflect your personal opinions and experience.
The Space Environment Center is located deep within the hierarchy of the Department of Commerce. It is one of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, which are all operated by the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It is due, in part, to this very deep location in the Department of Commerce structure that its budgetary cuts have not been widely noticed.
Caty Pilachowski, AAS President and Kevin B. Marvel, Deputy Executive Officer
I am writing to you to ask that you contact the appropriations committee and request that the Space Environment Center (SEC) be funded for FY2004 at the President's requested level of $8,291,000.
The SEC is one of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, which are operated by the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The SEC was strongly endorsed by the National Research Council in the recently released decadal strategy report for solar and space physics. Additionally, the SEC provides a number of services that are important for our Nation and our Nation's security. For example, GPS satellites are sensitive to space weather and have broad relevance for both civilian safety and national security. With early alerts, the satellites can be made secure against the worst impacts of severe space weather.
The center, in cooperation with the US Air Force, operates the Space Weather Operations Center, which serves as the national early warning center for space disturbances that can affect people and equipment working in the space environment. This includes research satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope as well as communications satellites and the astronauts on the Space Station. The center also performs research in solar-terrestrial physics, develops techniques for forecasting solar and geophysical disturbances and provided real-time monitoring and forecasting of solar and geophysical events. I encourage you to visit their website http://www.sec.noaa.gov/ to fully appreciate their importance to our Nation's space endeavors.
If I can be of any assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. I am happy to provide further expert advice on any issue related to science or arrange for a tour of our facility for you or your staff.
Stahrs R. Twinklin, Ph.D.
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