Informational Email 2011-11
Decadal Priorities and Fiscal Realities
Debra Elmegreen, AAS President
Kevin Marvel, AAS Executive Officer
Our mid-August informational e-mail (http://aas.org/node/4497) presented the latest information we had on JWST and ways for the community to express their views on the project. During the past month, the AAS leadership has continued to pay close attention to input from our members and our Division leadership as well as to the NASA budget process and to the Capitol Hill and Administration considerations of the issues at hand. At present there is no new information that has been publicly released regarding the JWST replan or any possible effects on other areas of NASA. However, during the Congressional recess, there have been many rumors, which have led to speculation, fear, and distrust. The House and Senate will soon resume discussion of future budgets. When the facts concerning JWST and the rest of NASA are known, we will communicate them to you, our members, and together we will determine the best way forward for our Society as a whole.
We know that astronomy and related disciplines are slated to suffer cuts in the President’s proposed FY12 budget announced in February, which of course are further threatened in the upcoming House and Senate negotiations. This is true even without JWST-related issues, and it is these reductions pose the biggest long-term problem for the astronomical community. We must work together to reverse the direction of this funding trend for our disciplines and achieve the goals of all the decadal surveys.
Where does the AAS stand?
We stand where we always have: as a broad supporter of outward-looking science, lobbying for generous funding of all of astronomy and related disciplines, not just at NASA but at NSF, DOE and other agencies as well. We have supported and will continue to support all decadal-survey priorities, including those from the latest planetary, heliophysics, and astronomy and astrophysics decadal reports. These include started but as yet unfinished highly ranked projects from past decadal surveys, such as ALMA, ATST, SP+, MSL, MAX-C and JWST as well as all the other priorities these community-based reports recommend.
NASA and NSF receive input from many formal agency, interagency, and National Academies advisory committees about how to allocate their budgets and how to adjust to changing circumstances while trying to meet survey recommendations as best they can. The AAS does not support any one Division or astronomical discipline above others, or to the detriment of others. The decadal reports represent a community consensus of the most compelling questions, priorities, missions, projects, and activities in each discipline. It is not the purview of the AAS to second-guess the surveys or to re-order priorities or to select from among them. Our role is to support all of our disciplines.
As we face the new economic climate, it might be worth recalling Abraham Lincoln’s words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”