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This message was sent from aas.org on 08 MAY 2000 at 12:10pm ET

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AAS ACTION ALERT 2000-4

SUMMARY

This action alert summarizes the current appropriations situation and urges AAS members to continue to write their representatives and senators regarding funding for science and technology and especially astronomy and space science. Current levels of available funds (302 B levels) for appropriators are not able to meet the President's funding request.

 

BACKGROUND

 

The start of every legislative year begins with the passage of a joint budget resolution by the House and Senate. This piece of legislation is not a law, but merely a joint statement by both houses of Congress setting initial appropriations targets. How the budget resolution will affect subcommittees is difficult to assess because the resolution only sets maximum appropriations levels for various functional categories.  The functional categories, or budget functions, break government spending up into 21 broad areas. Perhaps the most important for scientists being General Science, Space, and Technology aka, budget function 250. The bill title is House Concurrent Resolution 290. The AAAS has compared the President's request with this joint budget resolution. A summary document is available at the following web page http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/rd/bdgres01.pdf. In short, the President and Congress differ by about 3% in their function 250 levels, with the President's level being $20.8 billion for FY 2001 and the Congress' level being $20.2 billion. This roughly $600 million difference would have an impact on the President's proposed increase for NSF and NASA. NSF would be funded $92 million below the President's level and NASA would be funded $95 million below the President's request. However, the situation is not that simple.

 

The so-called Cardinals, the members of the appropriations committee itself, decide the true apportionment of funding levels amongst the appropriations subcommittees. These "302(b) levels" were released on May 4th and an early analysis has been made by the AAAS (http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/rd/302up505.htm) and is discussed below. Their decision is not favorable for the President's proposed increase for R&D and could severely affect both NSF and NASA. Both the House and Senate VA-HUD-IA subcommittees fall about $6 billion less than the President's request and slightly less than their total budget authority for FY 2000. These committees are responsible for funding NASA and NSF. Their allocation is a clear cause for concern. Both the dramatic increase requested for NSF and the first increase in many years requested for NASA will stand out as likely targets for hard-pressed subcommittee staffers who will be forced to squeeze all of their budgets within the Cardinals' allocation. As the budget season progresses, only vocal constituencies will not see their proposed funding levels shrink. Since 2000 is an election year, Congress is on a fast track to finish business early and return home to campaign. There will be little time to respond to crises later in the year. The best strategy is to initiate contact with key members of Congress now, accompanied by direct contact with your elected officials.

 

 

REQUEST FOR ACTION

 

AAS members are requested to continue their contact with Congress by writing directly to the chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committee and the subcommittees responsible for NSF and NASA funding. Their addresses are below. Further, please send copies of these letters to your own elected representatives so that they know their constituents are concerned enough with the appropriations process to contact the appropriators directly. AAS members can find the addresses for their Congressional representatives at the following link: http://www.aas.org/policy/aas.bios.html.

 

ADDRESSES

 

House Appropriations Committee

 

Chairman Bill Young (FL)

2407 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Ranking Minority Member

David Obey (WI)

2314 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

House Appropriations Committee

Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies

 

Chairman James T. Walsh (NY)

2351 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Ranking Member Alan B. Mollohan (WV)

2346 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Senate Appropriations Committee

 

Chairman Ted Stevens (AL)

522 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Ranking Member Robert Byrd (WV)

311 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Senate Appropriations Committee

Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies

 

Chairman Christopher S. Bond (MO)

Russell Senate Office Building 274

Washington, DC 20510

 

Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (MD)

Hart Senate Office Building 709

Washington, DC 20510

 

Sample Letter

 

Dear Senator Bond,

 

I am writing in support of the President's requested specific funding levels for NSF and NASA and in support of the function 250 levels more generally. As you know, science and technology play a key role in our economy. Our current economic success can be directly linked to federal investment in basic research during the 1960's and 1970's. This funding allowed the development of fundamental technologies used today in computers, automobiles, airplanes manufacturing and even in modern children's toys. In short, federal investment in basic research is responsible for our nation's success today. Astronomy receives most of its funding through the NSF and NASA, but also receives important resources from the Department of Energy, the Navy and the Air Force. Basic astronomy research helps with navigation, the functioning of satellites (for both military and other applications) as well as helping scientists understand the fundamental physics of the universe, which can lead to the development of new energy technologies. NSF has supported the country by helping to maintain a scientifically trained workforce as well as providing support for fundamental research. For our nation's astronomers, NSF provides both research grants and support for national observatories, which are of fundamental importance for the entire US astronomy community. Finally, NASA also provides funding for astronomical research as well as for orbiting observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray observatory. All of these agencies help keep our nation on the cutting edge of astronomical research.  As our nation moves into the new millennium, it is of the utmost importance that we increase the federal investment in basic research. The President's requested budget seeks to begin this increase. I hope that as your committee works to prepare the budget you will strive to meet his budget targets.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

P. D. Q. Astronomer

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