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Informational Email 2012-03

Bethany Johns
John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow

Astronomy in the President's FY 2013 Budget Request

The President released the FY 2013 Budget Request on February 13, 2012. Federal funding for astronomy is mainly from NASA and NSF. Below is a quick analysis of the proposed budget compared to FY 2012 estimated actual dollars for both agencies.

The President's FY2013 budget request for science and technology and research and development supports the Administration's commitment to double the budgets for three key science agencies. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is one of the three agencies the President has committed to doubling, over a reasonable timescale. However, NASA is in not included as one of the key agencies.


The President has requested $17.7114 billion in FY 2013 for NASA. This is a decrease of about $60 million compared to FY 2012.

The Science Mission Directorate (SMD) which houses the Astrophysics, Planetary Science, Heliophysics Divisions, and JWST, is requested to be $4,911.2 million for FY 2013, a decrease of $161.5 million compared to FY 2012; a decrease of 3.2 percent.

Planetary Science is proposed to decrease $309.1 million from $1,501.4 million in FY 2012 to $1,192.3 million in FY 2013; a decrease of 20.6 percent.

Astrophysics is proposed to decrease $13.3 million from $672.7 million in FY 2012 to $659.4 million in FY 2013; a decrease of 2 percent.

James Webb Space Telescope received the requested amount according to the new re-plan, increasing $109 million from $518.6 million in FY 2012 to $627.6 million in FY 2013; an increase of 21 percent.

Heliophysics increased $26.5 million from $620.5 million in FY 2012 to $647 million in FY 2013; an increase of 4.3 percent.

Within the SMD, Planetary Science decreased by the largest amount. At the NASA budget release roll-out event, Charles Bolden, the NASA Administrator, said, "We could not do another flagship right now." Beth Robinson, the CFO of NASA, stated, "Planetary science's decline is due to MSL and other expenditures going down." The stated plan for planetary science is to identify and define a synergy with science and human space flight, efficiently accomplishing two agency priorities.

No specifics on an integrated strategy were presented, but a rough timeline for progress was mentioned, with a goal of summer for an internal process with input from the community. Bolden emphasized that the directorates are not merging, but creating a synergy. NASA is not ready to define a combined mission, but will work with scientists and the National Research Council's Vision and Voyages Planetary Decadal Survey in the next months.

Plutonium-238 is proposed to be funded at $10 million from the Technology line item within Planetary Science. The is no cost-share agreement with the Department of Energy, as in past years.

The explorer programs in Astrophysics and Heliophysics are both proposed to decrease the most. Each decreased 33.1 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively.


The President has requested $7,373.1 million in FY 2013 for NSF, a proposed increase of $340 million from $7,033.1 million in FY 2012 and an increase of 4.8 percent.

Astronomy (AST) is funded through the Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS) Directorate in the Research & Related Activities (R&RA).

AST is proposed to increase $10 million from $234.55 million in FY2012 to $244.55 million in FY 2013, an increase of 4.3 percent. AST Research is requested to increase by $10.63 million, from $73.23 million in FY 2012 to $83.86 million in FY 2013; an increase of 14.5 percent.

The increase in AST Research is due mainly to a proposed growth in the Enhancing Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS) program increase of $9.0 million. AST is the home of radio spectrum management for the entire NSF, and this is where the EARS program was founded.

The NSF budget document states, "Approximately 57 percent of AST's budget is used to support current operations and future development of large multi-user astronomy facilities, while 33 percent supports individual investigator grants and 6 percent supports the development and operation of advanced instrumentation and experiments based on such instrumentation. In general, about 19 percent of the AST budget is available for new research grants, while the remainder funds long-term facilities and continuing awards for grants made in previous years."

The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) is proposed to remain relatively flat at $197.17 million. In FY 2013, Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) is ramping down, but the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) is ramping up to $25 million.

The American Astronomical Society will release a statement on the FY 2013 President's Budget Request in the coming weeks.