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AAS Action Alert

Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 16:32

Contact Your Representative in the House to Voice Support for Increased Funding for NASA and NSF

Summary

This Action Alert requests that AAS members email or call their Congressperson in the House of Representatives before May 28th to ask that they support the increased funding levels for basic science research at NASA and NSF in the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill when it comes to the House floor for consideration next week (likely Wednesday, May 28th). Of primary concern are any amendments that would propose moving money from these budgets to offset increases for other non-research programs in the bill. Please note that the AAS does not have a position on every provision in the bill, only the increased funding levels for NASA and NSF.

Instructions on whom to contact and how to do so are provided below, along with sample communications.

Background

The House of Representatives’ Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee is responsible for funding NASA and NSF (along with the Commerce and Justice Departments). The subcommittee’s FY 2015 bill includes increases for NASA and its Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, compared to both the President’s Budget Request for FY 2015 and last year’s budgets. The full Appropriations Committee in the House recently passed this bill out of committee, and it now heads to the floor for the full House’s consideration, subject to potential amendments. The current text of the bill and its accompanying report may be found on the Committee on Rules webpage.

The bill, as currently written, would increase the NASA top-line budget to $17.9 billion, a 1.4% increase over FY 2014 and 2.5% over the President’s Budget Request (“the request”). In that context, SMD would increase to $5.19 billion, $42 million over FY 2014 and $221 million over the request. The NSF budget would increase to $7.4 billion, a 3.2% increase over FY 2014 and 2.1% over the request. Of that total, the research account would increase to $5.97 billion, a 2.8% increase over both last year and the request; the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would increase by $1 million to $201 million, including full funding for construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (formerly the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope). The Education and Human Resources directorate, which funds science education research as well as the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, would also increase by 3.5% relative to FY 2014 to $876 million, though this is 1.5% below the request.

The majority of the bill concerns the Departments of Justice and Commerce, and the AAS does not have a position on these sections. A general provision in the bill continues restrictions on bilateral cooperation between NASA or OSTP and China in most cases. While this prohibition is unpopular in much of the science community, the AAS has not taken a formal position in opposition to it. For these reasons, the AAS does not technically support the bill as a whole, only the funding increases for NASA and NSF. Of course, members of the House will be faced with yes/no votes on each amendment and the amended bill as whole.

Under current budget rules, any increases for programs in the bill must be offset by decreases to other programs within this same bill. When the Appropriations Committee considered this bill, the chairman of the CJS subcommittee, Rep. Frank Wolf (R, VA-10), indicated that he expects some members of the House will look to augment other programs (e.g., the Community Oriented Policing Services [COPS] program) by taking money from the NSF appropriation, since the NSF research account would be at a historically high level (in nominal dollars) if the bill becomes law. The attempts to shift funding away from NSF would come in the form of amendments on the House floor when the chamber considers the bill on or about Wednesday, May 28th.

Please consider contacting your member of the House of Representatives as soon as possible and certainly before May 28th. If you do contact your Representative, we encourage you to convey a nuanced two-part message: (1) support for the NSF and NASA funding levels in the bill as introduced, and (2) opposition to amendments that would reduce these levels.

What to Do

Below is a template email for you to customize and send to your House Representative using his or her contact form; you can find your Representative’s contact information with our Contacting Congress webform.

  1. Get your Zip+4 if you don’t have it (for email contact forms).
  2. Find your Representative’s contact information.
  3. Check if your Representative is on the Appropriations Committee, then edit email or call scripts accordingly.
  4. Either…
  • customize the sample email below and submit via the contact form linked from your Contacting Congress results, or
  • customize the relevant sample phone script below and call each of your representatives using the phone numbers listed in your Contacting Congress results.

It is crucial that you customize your message. According to the Congress Foundation’s 2011 study on how Congress members respond to communications, individualized messages and phone calls are about an order of magnitude more influential than form emails (see their fig. 2).

You may also wish to tweet to your Representative. Generally, members will have links on their websites if they are active on Twitter.

Thank you for your time.


 

Members of the House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Appropriations (listing in order of seniority):
Frank Wolf (R, VA-10), Chairman Chaka Fattah (D, PA-2), Ranking Member
John Culberson (R, TX-7) Adam Schiff (D, CA-28)
Robert Aderholt (R, AL-4), Vice Chairman Mike Honda (D, CA-17)
Andy Harris (R, MD-1) Jose Serrano (D, NY-15)
John Carter (R, TX-31)  
Mario Diaz-Balart (R, FL-25)  
Mark Amodei (R, NV-2)  
     
Members of the Full House Appropriations Committee (listing in order of seniority):
Harold Rogers (R, KY-5), Chairman Nita M. Lowey (D, NY-17), Ranking Member
Jack Kingston (R, GA-1) Marcy Kaptur (D, OH-9)
Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R, NJ-11) Peter J. Visclosky (D, IN-1)
Tom Latham (R, IA-3) Rosa L. DeLauro (D, CT-3)
Kay Granger (R, TX-12) James P. Moran (D, VA-8)
Michael K. Simpson (R, ID-2) Ed Pastor (D, AZ-7)
Ander Crenshaw (R, FL-4) David E. Price (D, NC-4)
Ken Calvert (R, CA-42) Lucille Roybal-Allard (D, CA-40)
Tom Cole (R, OK-4) Sam Farr (D, CA-20)
Charles W. Dent (R, PA-15) Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D, GA-2)
Tom Graves (R, GA-14) Barbara Lee (D, CA-13)
Kevin Yoder (R, KS-3) Betty McCollum (D, MN-4)
Steve Womack (R, AR-3) Tim Ryan (D, OH-13)
Alan Nunnelee (R, MI-1) Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D, FL-23)
Jeff Fortenberry (R, NE-1) Henry Cuellar (D, TX-28)
Tom Rooney (R, FL-17) Chellie Pingree (D, ME-1)
Chuck Fleischmann (R, TN-3) Mike Quigley (D, IL-5)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R, WA-3) Bill Owens (D, NY-21)
David Joyce (R, OH-14)  
David Valadao (R, CA-21)  
Martha Roby (R, AL-2)  
Chris Stewart (R, UT-2)  

Draft AAS Member Email to Representative on the Appropriations Committee:

[EDIT BEFORE SENDING]

Dear Representative X,

My name is [YOUR NAME], and I am an [astronomer / astrophysicist / planetary scientist / heliophysicist] from [City, State] and a constituent of [Rep. Congressperson]. I work at [Institution] in [City, State].

I am writing to thank you, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, for supporting the strong funding levels for science research at NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in H.R. 4660: Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act, 2015. These two agencies together provide the majority of the federal support for research in my field. The increase to $17.9 billion for NASA, particularly to $5.2 billion for the Science Mission Directorate, and to $7.4 billion for NSF will enable researchers to accomplish even more of the strategic visions laid out in the National Academy of Sciences’ decadal surveys and train the next generation of scientists.

Federal investments in basic research [drive our deepening understanding of the universe and our place within it]. They also spur innovations whose effects are felt throughout society and for decades into the future. I urge you to protect these investments in America’s future economic growth and international competitiveness as the House considers this important legislation.

[Personalized/local story about the positive impact of federal investment in research. E.g., As a research astronomer, I have federal funding through the National Science Foundation. In addition to enabling my research on the constant stream of particles from the sun we call the solar wind, this grant provides resources for me to visit some local schools in our district to get kids excited about science.]

If you have any questions about the role of basic research, or if I can be of any further help in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to help in whatever way I can.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jane Q. Astronomer



Draft AAS Member email to Representative NOT on Appropriations Committee:

[EDIT BEFORE SENDING]

Dear Representative X,

My name is [YOUR NAME], and I am an [astronomer / astrophysicist / planetary scientist / heliophysicist] from [City, State] and a constituent of [Rep. Congressperson]. I work at [Institution] in [City, State].

I am writing to ask that you support the strong funding levels for science research at NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in H.R. 4660: Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act, 2015. These two agencies together provide the majority of the federal support for research in my field. The bill would increase funding for science research at both agencies above last year’s levels and those in the President’s Budget Request. The bill includes $17.9 billion for NASA overall and $5.2 billion for science within that—a modest but important increase over last year. The bill also includes $7.4 billion for NSF, a critical three percent increase over last year. 

Federal investments in basic research [drive our deepening understanding of the universe and our place within it]. They also spur innovations whose effects are felt throughout society and for decades into the future. I urge you to protect these investments in America’s future economic growth and international competitiveness as the House considers this important legislation.

[Personalized/local story about the positive impact of federal investment in research. E.g., As a research astronomer, I have federal funding through the National Science Foundation. In addition to enabling my research on the constant stream of particles from the sun we call the solar wind, this grant provides resources for me to visit some of the local schools in our district to get kids excited about science.]

If you have any questions about the role of basic research, or if I can be of any further help in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to help in whatever way I can.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jane Q. Astronomer



Sample Phone Call to Representative on Appropriations Committee:

STAFFER: Hello, Congresswoman Kaptur’s office, can I help you?

AAS MEMBER: Yes, I would like to speak with a staffer about science or space issues.

STAFFER: OK, I will see if she is in right now. <pause> She can speak with you now [note; you may get voice mail, leave same message as the next bit of conversation]

SCI. STAFFER: Hello, I'm [staff name] and I'm responsible for science issues... How can I help you?

AAS MEMBER: Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME], and I am an [astronomer / astrophysicist / planetary scientist / heliophysicist] and a constituent of Congresswoman Kaptur. I am calling to thank the Congresswoman for supporting the strong funding levels for science research at NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in H.R. 4660: Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act, 2015. These two agencies together provide the majority of the federal support for research in the astronomical sciences.

This increased investment will lead to exciting new discoveries, [like the recent revelation that there are likely billions of other habitable worlds in our galaxy.] The past has shown that investments in basic research, including in the astronomical sciences, also spur technological innovations whose effects are felt throughout society and for decades into the future.

In addition to thanking the Congresswoman for her important work as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I would like to ask for her continued support in protecting these important increases for science research at NASA and NSF when the House considers H.R. 4660.

SCI. STAFFER: Thank you for your message, I'll let the Congresswoman know your point of view.

AAS MEMBER: Thanks so much. If I can ever be of help to Congressman Kaptur, please let me know. I am happy to help however I can.



Sample Phone Call to Representative NOT on Appropriations Committee:

STAFFER: Hello, Congressman Hurt’s office, can I help you?

AAS MEMBER: Yes, I would like to speak with a staffer about science issues.

STAFFER: OK, I will see if he is in right now. <pause> He can speak with you now [note: you may get voice mail, leave same message as the next bit of conversation].

SCI. STAFFER: Hello, I'm [staff name] and I'm responsible for science issues... How can I help you?

AAS MEMBER: Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME], and I am an [astronomer / astrophysicist / planetary scientist / heliophysicist] and a constituent of Congressman Hurt’s. I am calling to ask that the Congressman support the strong funding levels for science research at NASA and the National Science Foundation in H.R. 4660: Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act, 2015. The bill includes $17.9 billion for NASA overall and $5.2 billion for science within that—a small, but important increase over last year. The bill also includes a three percent increase over last year for the National Science Foundation. These two agencies together provide the majority of the federal support for research in the astronomical sciences.

This increased investment will lead to exciting new discoveries, [like the recent revelation that there are likely billions of other habitable worlds in our galaxy.] The past has shown these investments also spur technological innovations whose effects are felt throughout society and for decades into the future.

I would like to ask the Congressman to help protect these important increases for science research at NASA and NSF when the House considers H.R. 4660.

SCI. STAFFER: Thank you for your message, I'll let the Congressman know your point of view.

AAS MEMBER: Thanks so much. If I can ever be of help to Congressman Hurt, please let me know. I am happy to help however I can.


Sample Tweets:

.@RepRonBarber support budget inc. for #NASA & #NSF in HR 4660. Important investments in our #science enterprise & our future.

.@RepRonBarber help close the #InnovationDeficit by supporting budget increases for #NASA & #NSF in HR 4660.

 

Joel R. Parriott
Deputy Executive Officer and Director of Public Policy
American Astronomical Society (AAS)