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AAS Informational Email 2008-03

Subject: Top Level Summary of the President's Budget for FY 2009 for Astronomy

Kevin B. Marvel, Executive Officer

Summary: The President released the FY 2009 budget on Monday, February 4. The news for science is good. The American Competitiveness Initiative is supported and the poor appropriations provided for Congress are compensated for in the President's request. It is now the responsibility of the science community to convince Congress to either appropriate the requested amounts or improve upon these baseline numbers.


The President released his budget on Monday, February 4. Unlike most years, when a huge pile of books is standing by the President as he reads his prepared remarks to the press, this year he held up a digital version of the budget. Change comes to Washington slowly, but it does come.

The good news is that the contents of that budget included significant proposed increases for science, specifically agencies included in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative: NSF, DOE-Office of Science and NIST. Although NASA science did not see similar increases, Alan Stern, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, shared some good budget news with the community via the NSPIRES email distribution system (sign up through this page, which is summarized below.

NSF: NSF is slated to receive $6.85B for FY2009, which is a 13% increase over the FY2008 budget level. This increase of more than $822M will support 1,370 additional research grants, provide support for new faculty and young investigators, fund graduate research fellowships and a whole range of other activities. Details can be found at How this increase is likely to impact astronomy will be summarized in a few weeks via a separate email.

NASA: NASA's Science Mission Directorate received a 1.8% funding increase. Both Earth Science and Lunar Science see some increases while the Directorate will still be able to initiate seven new space missions, including the Outer Planets flagship mission, the Joint Dark Energy Mission and a solar probe mission. All these missions are slated for launch in the middle of the next decade, but it is impressive that these new starts can take place despite the small funding increase for SMD. Luckily, R&A funding is not cut to enable these missions, quite the contrary, the R&A budget will go up within SMD. Further details will be made available once we have analyzed the budget more closely.

DOE: The Department of Energy's Office of Science, which saw its plans for significant growth shattered by the omnibus appropriations bill for 2008, will have that growth restored for FY 2009. High Energy Physics would see an increase of 16.8% over the enacted FY2008 level to $115.6M. Nuclear Physics would grow by 17.9% to $510.1M. Fusion Energy Sciences would grow by a very large amount (72%) to $493M, due to restoration of the US contribution to the ITER project. Other areas in this department also see growth. Details are available at

Overall the news in the President's budget is good. It is now up to us to advocate for these increases with members of Congress. Unfortunately, it is likely that the budget will not be passed until well into the next fiscal year due to the presidential election and Congress member's desire to modify the final appropriation to match the new president's priorities. However, Congress may try and get their work done before the end of 2008, a situation we will work to ensure as delayed appropriations significantly disrupt agency planning for projects, programs and grants to researchers.

Stay tuned for information from the AAS in the form of Action Alerts and Emails. If you have questions, or want to help, please drop us an email (marvel at We will do all we can to make sure you can have a positive impact on the policy process with the least amount of effort and time.


Mailed US members from 07 February January 2008

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