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AAS Informational Email 2007-08

Jeremy Richardson, AAS John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
Kevin Marvel, AAS Executive Officer
Jack Burns, CAPP Chair

As a result of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and broad support in Congress for research and education activities aimed at fostering American innovation, the budgets for NSF, NIST, and DoE's Office of Science appear to be in good shape for FY 2008. The gains in these three agencies are particularly exciting given the 1% decline in federal, non-security, discretionary spending that shapes the FY 2008 budget request. NASA, on the other hand, is not currently considered part of the innovation agenda, and its budget outlook is murky.

On 15 February 2007, the President signed Public Law 110-005, which appropriated funds for most federal agencies for FY 2007, more than five months after the start of FY 2007. Most agencies remained at FY 2006 levels, but thanks to our advocates on the Hill, science funding was able to make some significant gains. In particular, NSF's Astronomical Sciences Division (AST) received the full level of the President's FY 2007 request of $215 million, which is $15 million over the final FY 2006 amount of $200 million (7.5% increase).

The story for NASA, on the other hand, is not quite as positive and much more unclear. Although it is fortunate that some funding was restored to NASA over the FY 2006 level, the FY 2007 final amount is still $78.8 million (or 1.5%) below the President's request of $5.33 billion for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The situation is worse still for Exploration Capabilities, which is short $577 million from the FY 2007 request of $3.98 billion (-14.5%). Administrator Griffin testified before Congress that this would mean a delay of six months in the first launch of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (pushing it back from late 2014 to early 2015).

How these cuts will be realized for the current fiscal year remains uncertain, for two reasons. First, NASA has once again changed its method of full cost accounting, complicating budget comparisons between years. (The figures for the FY 2007 NASA budget referenced above are from the old accounting method.) Second, NASA has not yet made public its FY 2007 operating plan, which will reveal the details of how the cuts are distributed. It is likely that the nearly $600 million shortfall will be spread evenly among the Directorates, implying that SMD could help offset some of the cuts to Exploration Capabilities.

Now that work on the FY 2007 budget is complete, Congress has moved on to the FY 2008 budget. Building on the President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), announced last year, the total budget of NSF, NIST, and DoE's Office of Science is on track to double by 2012. Broad bipartisan support among members of Congress promises to bring the issues of innovation and education to the top of the agenda this year. In fact, although it is early in the budget process, there are indications that Congress intends to fund scientific research and education programs overall at $450 million above the President's request.


HIGHLIGHTS

Below is the comparison of the President's FY 2008 request to the final FY 2007 amount, as enacted by the CR.

NSF: top line increases from $5.916 billion to $6.429 billion (8.7%)

-AST increases from $215 million to $233 million (8.3%) Approximately 20% of the NSF-AST budget will be available for new grants in FY 2008. The Astronomy Research and Education portion grows from $89.86 million to $102.78 million (14.4% increase); this represents the bulk of the increase to AST, and the part of the budget that goes directly to researchers in the form of grants.

NASA/SMD: increases from $5.388 billion to $5.5161 billion (2.4%)
-Earth Science increases from $1.443 billion to $1.497 billion (3.7%) Funds are added to the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) for schedule assurance and to the Glory Mission for cost growth.

-Heliophysics increases from $1.013 billion to $1.057 billion (4.3%)

-Planetary Science increases from $1.391 billion to $1.396 billion (0.4%)

-Astrophysics increases from $1.540 billion to $1.566 billion (1.6%) The Astrophysics budget is dominated by the continued development of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission. The Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) is reduced after being changed to a technology-only mission. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has been reinstated after a senior review.

Taking inflation into account, these changes to the NASA budget represent barely increasing or decreasing budget authority in real dollars.

In short, the budget paints a rosy picture for NSF, but the effect on NASA Science is more uncertain.

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