16 March 2015

AAS Action Alert: Support the NSF & the DOE Office of Science

Joel Parriott American Astronomical Society (AAS)

Ask Your Representative to Sign Bipartisan Letters in Support
of the DOE Office of Science and the National Science Foundation

The AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) asks you to consider contacting your member of the House of Representatives this week to ask them to sign two bipartisan letters in support of the NSF and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science.


A regular part of the annual appropriations process in Congress is the submission of “programmatic requests” by individual members or groups of members to the various appropriation subcommittees. These requests can include explicit funding levels for specific agencies and programs, or they can include more general statements of priorities. Currently there are two bipartisan group letters circulating in the House of Representatives: one for the DOE Office of Science and another for the National Science Foundation. The representatives who originated these letters are seeking the support of additional representatives. 

The deadline for additional representatives to add their signatures to the DOE Office of Science letter is Monday, March 16th. The deadline for the NSF letter is Wednesday, March 18th.

For additional budget background and AAS perspectives on the astronomical sciences in the president’s FY 2016 budget, please see Josh Shiode’s blog post, the astronomy and astrophysics chapter of the AAAS R&D report, and a recent Council statement.

DOE Office of Science

The Office of Science, in particular the Cosmic Frontier program within the Office of High Energy Physics, is a critical and growing source of research and facility support for our field. The president’s FY 2016 budget request included an increase of $12 million (+12%) above the FY 2015 level for the Cosmic Frontier program.

The DOE letter and information on its original four cosponsors appeared today in FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News. This letter is fairly general in nature and requests that appropriators provide “strong and sustained” support for the Office of Science.

National Science Foundation

The FY 2016 request includes a $2 million (+1%) increase for the Astronomical Sciences Division, a $12 million (+5%) increase for the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division, and a $15 million (+14%) increase for telescope construction projects. While the AAS is not satisfied with the administration’s allocation of research funds within the NSF request, the overall 5% increase for NSF is quite good, and the letter in question concerns only the top-line request.

The NSF letter and information on its original two cosponsors also appeared in an AIP FYI Bulletin today. This letter is more specific in nature and requests that NSF be funded at $7.7 billion in FY 2016, equal to the top line requested by the president.

How to Act

To find your representative, enter your voting address at our Contacting Congress webpage. Your search should result in 3 hits (one representative and two senators), though you may need your ZIP+4 in some urban districts if more than one representative is returned.

Almost every representative uses a “contact me” webform rather than giving you an email address. Please use the form and keep your note short.

(1) Your note should begin with some information on who you are, what you do, and how you benefit from federal research funding.

(2) Here is some SAMPLE text for the specific request. Please tweak this to make it your own.

“The Appropriations Committee is working on FY 2016 funding levels, and I am aware of two “dear colleague” letters that concern programmatic requests for two federal agencies of importance to me. I’m writing to ask that Representative [your representative's name here] add their signature to both letters. The first letter is authored by Representatives Hultgren, Lujan, Newhouse, and Foster; it requests “strong and sustained” funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and signatures are due by Monday, March 16th. The second letter is authored by Representatives Butterfield and McKinley; it requests $7.7 billion for the National Science Foundation, and signatures are due by Wednesday, March 18th.” 

NOTE: If your representative happens to be one of the original cosponsors, please send them a note thanking them for their efforts and asking them to sign the other letter.

(3) Thank them and sign off.