Kevin B. Marvel, Executive Officer
As part of the annual appropriations process, subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee are the first to draft proposed appropriations bills for the coming fiscal year. On July 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice and Science posted a press release and the draft bill language on their website for the bill that funds NASA, NSF and other science related agencies along with the Departments of Commerce and Justice. On Thursday, July 7 at 10:15am, the subcommittee will "mark up", or debate, amend and rewrite proposed legislation. It is highly likely that the bullet points included in the press release will remain intact in the final marked-up version of the bill.
The press release is here:
The draft bill text is here:
http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/CJSFY12_SUBC_xml.pdf (note, the specific language cutting JWST is not included in this bill, it will appear in the subcommittee report, which should become available after the markup, which takes place on July 7 at 10am).
A summary table of the top-line funding for each department or agency is here:
The bill represents a proposal from the House for the funding levels for FY2012, not an actual reduction or cut. The Senate must act and the two houses must meet and resolve differences in their funding proposals before the bill is finalized and sent to the president for his signature. Often, this process takes many months and sometimes even ends in an omnibus appropriations bill being created instead of individual bills being passed. In any event, this proposal from this appropriations subcommittee is but the first step in a much longer process.
Along with the proposed termination of the JWST, NASA's overall budget is proposed to be reduced by $1.6B compared to last year's level and $1.9B lower than the president's proposed level for NASA. NSF is also impacted, with a proposed budget about $907M less than the president's proposed level, but in-line with last year's funding level.
Other cuts are mentioned in the press release, but it is difficult to assess their impact until the full report language is available. In some years, reductions actually represented movements of one area of work (e.g. the Deep Space Network) from one budget line to another. When the full details become available, the AAS will issue an Informational Email describing them and their impact.
What to Do Now
Obviously, this proposal from the House Appropriations Subcommittee for CJS is upsetting. The astronomy community knows the value of the JWST, recognizes that nearly all technical hurdles have been overcome and that a review of the program's management, budget and completion plan is nearly complete. It is important to remember that the release of the House versions of the appropriations bills is just the first step in the lengthy appropriations process. For now, this termination is a proposal and one we should take seriously with the knowledge that making a few communications now to legislators will not be the end of a process, but merely the beginning. The outrage and upset the community is experiencing cannot be merely today or this week, we must ration our energy to effectively participate throughout the whole appropriations process.
When it is particularly effective for AAS members to write or contact their members of Congress, we will issue an Action Alert. Action Alerts should be read carefully and, if possible, acted upon expeditiously. We only send them when the action of our members will have a direct and positive impact.
If you haven't met your member of Congress, don't know who they are exactly or aren't quite sure how the appropriations process proceeds, take the time now to educate yourself. The AAS provides a web page under the public policy pages that allows you to identify your members of Congress and obtain their contact information. The AAAS maintains a comprehensive web page that provides educational information about the budget process with historical information about funding as well as regular updates on the appropriations process throughout the year at www.aaas.org/spp/rd. Other resources are linked to from the AAS public policy pages.
AAS Statement on Proposed JWST Cancellation
The AAS leadership is crafting a statement on the proposed JWST cancellation, which will be released today and is working to formulate responses to the other proposed cuts to science that the subcommittee's press release describes. We will keep our members informed and help find ways to have a meaningful impact on the appropriations process.