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12 April 2011
Bethany Johns, John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow

Subject:  FY2011 Budget Cuts and the Affect on Science

The House, Senate, and White House came to an agreement on federal spending for FY 2011 two hours before a possible government shutdown on the night of 8 April 2011.  With negotiations completed, the House and Senate voted overnight to pass a stopgap measure to fund the government through Thursday, 14 April, preventing a break in the dissemination of federal funds.  Democrats and Republicans agreed to pass a continuing resolution (CR) with the negotiated spending cuts that will fund the government through 30 September 2011 and send it to the President by Thursday.

Although a government shutdown was averted there are still repercussions in federal support for the sciences and scientific research.

Overall, the CR totals $1.049 trillion in funding, which is a reduction of $78.5 billion from the FY2011 President's budget request and $37.6 below FY2010 levels.  The cuts include $12 billion already cut in the previous three CR and $28 billion in new cuts.  These cuts affect the areas where the field of astronomy and astrophysics receives most of its federal support.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will be funded at $6.9 billion. This is a decrease of $551 million from the FY2011 budget request and $53 million below FY2010 enacted levels.

NASA will be funded at $18.5 billion, a reduction of $515 million below the FY2011 budget request.  The level for NASA Science Mission Directorate shall be $4.9 billion, a decrease of $61 million from the FY2011 request and an increase of $447 million over the FY2010 enacted levels.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations issued a press release stating that the CR, "Preserves [a] NASA portfolio balanced among science, aeronautics, technology and human space flight investments, holding NASA's feet to the fire to build the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle and the heavy lift Space Launch System." [01]


The CR also has a statement prohibiting NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to engage in activities with China.

SEC. 1340. (a) None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division.

(b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall also apply to any funds used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. [02]

[02] p. 216-217 of

This provision may be a congressional response to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's controversial trip to China.

An article in Nature at the time of the trip on October 13, 2010, quotes a 12 October letter to President Obama from Representative John Culberson (R-TX) states: "I do not believe it is appropriate for the Administrator to meet with any Chinese officials until Congress is fully briefed on the nature and scope of Mr. Bolden's trip." [03]


The Department of Energy Office of Science receives $4.9 billion, a reduction of $252 million below the FY2011 budget request and $35 million below FY2010 enacted levels.

More details will be posted on the AAS Public Policy Blog at

You can view the full text of the legislation at:

Both the House and Senate have released summaries of the legislation at:


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