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AAS ACTION ALERT 2001-04

SUMMARY

This Action Alert requests members to write letters to their member of Congress (and send cc's to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Committee) to request increases in funding for basic science in the VA-HUD-IA Appropriations bill. Members should complete their communications no later than the week of 18 June, although regular communication throughout the summer would be very helpful.

Anneila Sargent President, American Astronomical Society

Kevin B. Marvel Associate Executive Officer for Policy Programs, American Astronomical Society

BACKGROUND

Each year the House Veteran's Administration, Housing and Urban Development and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee begins the funding cycle on Capitol Hill for both NASA and NSF. This year, the schedule for completing the appropriations process for VA-HUD-IA is fairly tight and input must be received by members of Congress relatively early.

The current schedule for House processing of the VA-HUD-IA bill is:

26 June - VA/HUD subcommittee markup

10 July - VA/HUD bill considered by full appropriations committee

14 July - VA/HUD bill and report filed

16 July - VA/HUD bill to Rules committee

17-19 July - VA/HUD bill to House floor

The current appropriations situation for NSF is extremely serious. The AAAS reports (from "A Preview of AAAS Report XXVI: Research and Development FY 2002") that overall funding for R&D at the agency would actually decline under President Bush's request.

"Although the National Science Foundation (NSF) enjoyed a nearly 13 percent increase in its budget and its R&D funding in FY 2001, the total NSF budget would barely increase in FY 2002 and NSF's R&D investments would actually decline 1.6 percent to $3.2 billion.

There would be an expansion of NSF's science and mathematics education activities, but most of the research directorates in Research and Related Activities (R&RA; down 0.5 percent to $3.3 billion) would face budget cuts. Only mathematics and nanotechology-related research would receive inflationary increases, leaving research in nearly 30 other program areas such as information technology research, physics, and the social sciences with flat or declining funding."

In the President's budget there is an additional concern for the astronomy community. It is proposed that a further year of Design and Development funding for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope be moved from the Major Research Equipment budget line within NSF (where large construction projects are typically funded) into the AST Division budget. This would have a major impact, potentially affecting the funding available for grants to individual researchers as well as the budgets of all of the National Centers.

Since the shift is still "proposed" and a final decision has yet to be reached, now is the time to let Congress know how you feel about this issue. The combination of a healthy grants program and strong national facilities are of vital importance to the continuing success of US astronomy, and this point must reach policy-makers.

NASA and the Office of Space Science (OSS) fare a bit better under the President's budget. AAAS reports that while the situation for OSS looks good, the other research areas at NASA would receive large cuts.

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would see its total budget increase by 1.8 percent to $14.5 billion in FY 2002. NASA's R&D would increase 0.4 percent to $10.0 billion. NASA proposes a major restructuring of its accounts to incorporate formerly separate mission support costs into program costs. While Space Science would increase by 6.2 percent to $2.8 billion, there would be cuts totaling $201 million in the Earth Science enterprise (down 11.7 percent to $1.5 billion). Biological and Physical Research (formerly Life and Microgravity Sciences) would decline 4.7 percent to $361 million. Aero-Space Technology would increase 7.3 percent to $2.4 billion because of a 75 percent increase to $475 million for the Space Launch Initiative to explore technologies for reusable launch vehicles. While the budget contains a $2.1 billion request for the International Space Station (down 1.2 percent), there are few details for FY 2002 because the entire project is currently undergoing a major review which will likely result in a heavily restructured and scaled-down station."

Congress can always increase or decrease funding levels in the President's budget. AAS members should remember that 'what goes around, comes around' and urge increased research support for NASA in general, while at the same time applauding the generous enhancement to the OSS allocation in the President's budget.

REQUEST

At this point, budgetary decisions are about to be made by the members of the House VA-HUD-IA appropriations committee, especially the Chairman (James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th district, Syracuse) and the Ranking Member (Alan Mollohan, D-WV 1st district, Morgantown).

AAS members in these districts are requested to write directly to the Chairman and Ranking member requesting overall increases for basic research, and especially for astronomy at NSF. Since OSS has fared well under the President's proposal, it should be enough to encourage support for all basic science and NASA including Space Science and the other Enterprises. Remember, your personal letters are particularly powerful.

All other AAS members are requested to write to their own members of Congress with a cc of the letter to the Chairman and Ranking member of the VA-HUD-IA subcommittee. This powerful double letter technique will tell your own member of Congress what your views and interests are and also let the key decision makers know that other members of Congress have been contacted on this issue. Using this mode of writing makes it more likely that non-constituent letters will get attention in the Chairman and Ranking Member's offices.

ADDRESSES

The Honorable James Walsh

Chairman, House VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee

H-143 Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Alan Mollohan

Ranking Member, House VA-HUD-IA Appropriations Subcommittee

2346 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

For other Addresses, the AAS maintains a link to the Congress Merge database service for the benefit of our members. This easy-to-use map-based interface will allow you to quickly get a "cut'n paste" address for your member of Congress.

http://www.aas.org/policy/aas.bios.html

SAMPLE LETTER

DO NOT SEND THIS LETTER!

USE IT AS A MODEL FOR YOUR OWN VERSION

Dear Congressman Mollohan,

I am writing to you to request that you increase the funding levels for NSF and NASA, especially in the areas of basic research.

As an astronomer, I can say that the American public appreciates the work I and my colleagues do. Almost every day a basic research result is reported in a major newspaper or on the TV that is based on research supported by the Federal government. The public values this work and wants the support to continue at adequate levels.

I am concerned that the President's requested level of support for NSF and NASA R&D is inadequate to meet the taxpayer's desire for high-quality research. An analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that basic research funding at the NSF would drop 1.6%. This level of funding is clearly not adequate for an agency that provides the basic research results that ultimately drive our Nation's economic engine. Basic research performed today leads to the breakthrough technologies and developments decades into the future.

Although the President did request a modest increase for space science research at NASA, there is much that could be accomplished with a larger increase. Further, other areas of research at NASA would receive significant cuts under the President's budget proposal. The public wants more basic research at NASA, not less.

I urge you to increase the level of funding for NSF, especially in the area of astronomy research and also to increase the amount of funding for basic research at NASA. I know that my fellow taxpaying citizens would support me and I hope that you will too.

If I can be of any help to you now or in the future, please do not hesitate to let me know how I may be of service.

Sincerely,

Stahrs R. Tweenkluhn

Staff Astronomer, A college in your district

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[Mailed from aas.org at 9:45am 30 MAY 2001]

To read previous AAS Informational Emails visit http://www.aas.org/policy/InformationalEmails.html

To read previous AAS Action Alerts visit http://www.aas.org/policy/ActionAlerts.html

Comments, questions and complaints to: mailto:marvel@aas.org

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