An Update on 2012 Science Funding

July 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

The sciences are proposed to get less money than President Obama wanted.

The House commerce, justice, and science appropriations subcommittee released a $50 billion spending bill last week, which was $7.4 billion less than President Obama’s budget request. Many of the budgets that were cut had to do with the scientific agencies.

“This legislation includes funding for some of the most critical aspects of government – the protection of our people here at home, the competiveness of our businesses and industries, and the scientific research that will help America continue to lead the world in innovation,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers.  ” However, given this time of fiscal crisis, it is also important that Congress make tough decisions to cut programs where necessary to give priority to programs with broad national reach that have the most benefit to the American people.”

NASA is the science agency taking the largest hit of all, potentially seeing a $1.46 billion cut from last year, and almost $2 billion short of what President Obama requested. The biggest casualty in this budget reduction is the complete cut of the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope was set to be the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope and has been an ongoing project for years. True, it has experienced budget, schedule and management problems. But the project currently has all the pieces built, is undergoing assembly, with NASA showing dedication to the project and to fixing these problems.

For the NSF, the bill keeps the budget at $6.68 billion. Although this is exactly the same as last years budget, it does not include the 13% increase that Obama had wanted for the science research agency.

In addition to the cuts to NASA, the House bill calls for NOAA to be cut by $100 million (2.2%) which is $1 billion less than requested, and for the NIST to be cut by $50 million (6.5%) which is $300 million less than the Presidential request.

To be clear, there are many more steps in the budget process, so these cuts are far from final and a lot could change in the next couple weeks. Some lawmakers may choose to defend the sciences, so only time will tell in these tough economic times.

“Everything that is going on in this country will depend on whether there is an overall budget agreement,” said subcommittee chair, Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA). “Right now, all the cuts are coming out of the 12% of the budget [that funds so-called domestic discretionary spending programs like research]. So until you deal with all the entitlements—Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the other mandatories—and consider additional revenue, you won’t be able to answer any questions about next year. But I think that the sciences have come out very well in this bill.”

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