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AAS ACTION ALERT 2000-5

Summary

AAS members should write letters to their members of Congress and members of the appropriations committees supporting the House VA-HUD-IA appropriations subcommittee report and seeking funding levels for NSF closer to the Administration’s request. The length of this alert is due to the addresses provided at the end of the email.

Background

 

On May 23, the House VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee (the subcommittee responsible for NASA and NSF appropriations) sent their draft VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill to the full House Appropriations Committee for approval. Approval of this draft legislation, or report, is the first stage of the appropriations process. The House Appropriations Committee will probably meet to edit and approve the bill sometime in mid-June, or earlier. To have an impact on the House version of the legislation, letters must arrive before June 5 or 6.

 

Overall, the report is very favorable to astronomy and space science. Significantly, the portion of the report covering appropriations for NASA’s Office of Space Science contains no earmarks (unlike previous year’s reports). However, the report does propose a reduction of $20 million for the ‘Living With a Star’ initiative, which is a new start program for FY 2001. Justification for the reduction was not included in the report language, but the subcommittee did request NASA’s Inspector General to review the program’s administration to “ensure that contract awards are made only after full and open competition.” The report goes on to state “until the review is complete, the subcommittee recommends no funding for the program in fiscal year 2001.” No further explanation for this reduction was available.

 

It cannot be stressed too heavily that this is one of the first times in recent memory that the NASA appropriations bill came out of subcommittee without significant reductions or earmarks. The members of the subcommittee should be heartily thanked for adhering closely to the administration’s request for NASA’s Space Science activities.

 

The report language dealing with NSF’s budget did contain significantly reduced funding levels compared with the administration’s request. In addition to reductions to a number of other directorates’ proposed FY 2001 budgets, the Mathematics and Physical Science (MPS) directorate would only receive an increase of 5.9% (~ $ 45 million to $ 803 million) if the subcommittee report is passed by the full committee. The administration originally requested an increase of 16.3% ($ 124 million to $ 881 million). Exactly how this reduction would affect the Astronomy Division (AST) is unknown, but the large percentage increase slated for the grants program (administration request = +37% or up $ 24 million to $60 million total) would be a likely target for reduction. The committee also reduced the Major Research Equipment line from the requested level of $ 139 million to $ 77 million. Details on exactly what items were reduced are not yet available. This line is important for astronomy, as it has funded telescopes such as the Very Large Array and the Gemini telescopes.

 

The next step in the appropriations process is approval of the subcommittee report by the full House Appropriations Committee, followed by similar action by the Senate appropriations subcommittee and full committee. Because this is an election year, the process has moved on a much faster schedule than normal. Input must be made now to have any impact at all.

 

Request for Action

 

AAS members are encouraged to perform three simple tasks to help the situation for Astronomy funding for FY 2001. Remember to keep your letters to one concise page and to add some personal detail to the letters to your own legislators.

 

1) Write to the members of the House VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee (addresses below) thanking them for the favorable markup. You may wish to especially thank them for their budgetary and policy leadership as demonstrated by the lack of earmarks in the NASA OSS budget.

 

2) Write to your own Representatives and Senators supporting the Administration’s proposed funding levels for NASA and NSF, especially those for NASA’s Office of Space Science and the MPS Directorate at NSF. Ask your members of Congress to encourage their colleagues on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to follow the Administration’s request. The Physics division, the Office of Polar Programs and the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate, also fund some astronomical related research and programs. Finally, the Major Research Equipment budget line has funded the construction of national observing facilities and should always be endorsed when possible. No telescopes, no research is the basic message here.

 

3) Write to the members of the House Appropriations Committee, the Senate VA-HUD-IA Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Committee (addresses below) supporting the House version of the VA-HUD-IA Appropriations bill. No bill number has been assigned, so mention it by name.

 

 

(NOTE: The following sample letter is meant as an EXAMPLE only! Letters should be personally written and contain a basic message and some level of personal detail. Your voice will carry far more weight using this method than by using form letters. Besides, you may not agree with all the opinions expressed in the sample letter below, but still support its overall message. )

 

Sample Letter

 

Senator Kit Bond

Senate VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Senator Bond,

 

I am writing to ask that you follow the example of the House VA-HUD-IA appropriations subcommittee and at least meet their markup levels for the VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill.

 

As you know, both NASA and NSF fund Astronomy and Space Science. NASA’s Office of Space Science supports space-based and balloon-borne astronomical research efforts (such as the Hubble Space Telescope or the Boomerang Antarctic balloon experiment) while NSF provides grants to individual researchers, ground-based observing facilities (such as the Gemini telescopes, the Arecibo radio telescope and the Very Large Array) and educational/outreach funding as well as partnering with NASA on a variety of projects. These agencies have made the United States astronomy research enterprise the best in the world today. However, ultimately the true responsibility for our Nation’s success is Congress’ leadership and foresight in providing adequate funds for our researchers to succeed in their research endeavors.

 

The House VA-HUD-IA appropriations subcommittee version of the VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill is a fine example of Congressional leadership in this regard. Working within the subcommittee allocations, the members were able to nearly fully fund the Administration’s request for NASA’s Office of Space Science and provide a significant increase for the Mathematics and Physical Science Directorate at NSF. I hope your subcommittee will try to do the same. Although some room for improvement for NSF’s budget still exists, there can be no doubt that the funding levels passed by the subcommittee are substantially adequate for our Nation’s astronomers to move into the next fiscal year well prepared for the discoveries ahead

 

Thank you again for your continued support of scientific research in the United States. Your support for NSF, NASA and other research-oriented agencies has been strong. I know you continue to appreciate the importance of scientific research and the benefits it provides our Nation. Please provide the funds that will let scientists fulfill their role of providing the know how to keep our Nation at the forefront of research and technology. If I can be of any service to your office or your committee, do not hesitate to call on me.

 

Sincerely,

 

Iama S. Upernova

 

 

ADDRESSES

 

You can find the addresses for your own Congressional representatives on the AAS Public Policy Web pages: http://www.aas.org/policy/Contact.html

 

All House Addresses are: Washington, DC 20515

All Senate Addresses are: Washington, DC 20510

 

Since there are so many members of the House Appropriations Committees, first send letters to the chair and ranking member (Young, Obey) of the full committee and the chair and ranking member of the VA-HUD-IA subcommittee (Walsh,Mollohan) and any members from your home state or a state you go to observe or do research).

 

The Senate Chair and Ranking Member of the full committee are Stevens and Byrd. The VA-HUD-IA subcommittee Chair and Ranking Member are Bond and Mikulski.

 

VA-HUD-IA subcommittee members are marked with a * next to their room number.

 

House Appropriations Members

 

State Name Building & Room

 

Alabama

Robert Aderholt LHOB 1007

Sonny Callahan RHOB 2466

Robert Cramer RHOB 2350 *

Arizona

Jim Kolbe RHOB 2266

Ed Pastor RHOB 2465

Arkansas

Jay Dickey RHOB 2453

California

Randy Cunningham RHOB 2238

Julian Dixon RHOB 2252

Sam Farr LHOB 1221

Jerry Lewis RHOB 2112

Ron Packard RHOB 2372

Nancy Pelosi RHOB 2457

Lucille Roybal-Allard RHOB 2435

Connecticut

Rosa DeLauro CHOB 436

Florida

F. Allen Boyd CHOB 107

Carrie Meek CHOB 401 *

Dan Miller CHOB 102

C.W. Young RHOB 2407

Georgia

Jack Kingston LHOB 1034

Illinois

Jesse Jackson CHOB 313

John Porter RHOB 2373

Indiana

Peter Visclosky RHOB 2313

Iowa

Tom Latham CHOB 324

Kansas

Todd Tiahrt CHOB 428

Kentucky

Anne Northup LHOB 1004 *

Harold Rogers RHOB 2470

Maryland

Steny Hoyer LHOB 1705

Massachusetts

John Olver LHOB 1027

Michigan

Carolyn Kilpatrick CHOB 503

Joseph Knollenberg RHOB 2349 *

Minnesota

Martin Olav Sabo RHOB 2336

Mississippi

Roger Wicker CHOB 206 *

Missouri

Jo Ann Emerson CHOB 132

New Hampshire

John Sununu CHOB 316 *

New Jersey

Rodney Frelinghuysen CHOB 228 *

New Mexico

Joe Skeen RHOB 2302

New York

Maurice Hinchey RHOB 2431

Nita Lowey RHOB 2421

Jose Serrano RHOB 2342

James Walsh RHOB 2351 *

North Carolina

David Price RHOB 2162 *

Charles Taylor CHOB 231

Ohio

David Hobson LHOB 1514 *

Marcy Kaptur RHOB 2366 *

Ralph Regula RHOB 2309

Oklahoma

Ernest Istook RHOB 2404

Pennsylvania

John Murtha RHOB 2423

John Peterson CHOB 307

South Carolina

James Clyburn CHOB 319

Tennessee

Zach Wamp CHOB 423

Texas

Henry Bonilla LHOB 1427

Tom DeLay CHOB 341 *

Chet Edwards RHOB 2459

Kay Granger CHOB 435

Virginia

James Moran RHOB 2239

Frank Wolf CHOB 241

Washington

Norman Dicks RHOB 2467

George Nethercutt LHOB 1527

West Virginia

Alan Mollohan RHOB 2346 *

Wisconsin

David Obey RHOB 2314

 

 

Senate Appropriations Members

State Name Building Room

 

Alabama

Richard Shelby Hart 110 *

Alaska

Ted Stevens Hart 522

Arizona

Jon Kyl Hart 724 *

California

Dianne Feinstein Hart 331

Colorado

Ben Nighthorse Russell 380

Hawaii

Daniel Inouye Hart 722

Idaho

Larry Craig Hart 520 *

Illinois

Richard Durbin Russell 364

Iowa

Tom Harkin Hart 731 *

Kentucky

Mitch McConnell Russell 361A

Maryland

Barbara Mikulski Hart 709 *

Mississippi

Thad Cochran Russell 326

Missouri

Christopher Bond Russell 274 *

Montana

Conrad Burns Dirksen 187 *

Nevada

Harry Reid Hart 528

New Hampshire

Judd Gregg Russell 393

New Jersey

Frank Lautenberg Hart 506 *

New Mexico

Pete Domenici Hart 328

North Dakota

Byron Dorgan Hart 713

Pennsylvania

Arlen Specter Hart 711

South Carolina

Ernest Hollings Russell 125

Texas

Kay Bailey Hutchison Russell 284 *

Utah

Robert Bennett Dirksen 431

Vermont

Patrick Leahy Russell 433 *

Washington

Slade Gorton Hart 730

Patty Murray Russell 173

West Virginia

Robert Byrd Hart 311

Wisconsin

Herbert Kohl Hart 330

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