Fiscal Year 2011 ends a month from tomorrow, and it looks highly unlikely that all twelve of the FY 2012 appropriations bills will be enacted in time. While Congress and the Administration will agree to provide continued funding through one or more short term measures, there is reason to believe that bitter disagreements that have prevented the passage of final appropriations legislation for many months in previous years may be avoided.
Congress returns to Washington early next month, and will have high on its priority list the FY 2012 appropriations bills. This fall, important decisions will be made that will affect the funding and conduct of scientific research in the coming years.
The decision by the Obama Administration to terminate the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository continues to draw considerable criticism on Capitol Hill. On a number of fronts, Members are pressing the Administration about the actions which it has taken.
In fulfillment of a provision in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has sent a report to Congress detailing “progress toward the coordination of policies” “related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of unclassified research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications, supported wholly or in part by funding from the Federal science agencies.”
Last month the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee received testimony from public witnesses regarding the Administration’s FY 2013 request. One of those testifying was Debra Elmegreen, President of the American Astronomical Society. Among the topics discussed in her testimony are the James Webb Space Telescope, proposed budgetary reductions for NASA’s Planetary Science Division, funding for other NASA missions, Plutonium-238 production, and funding for the National Science Foundation’s Astronomical Sciences, and Major Research Equipment and Facilities C
Members of Congress gave President Obama a standing ovation when he declared during his State of the Union that “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.” The President highlighted the importance of innovation and education as keys to America’s future competitiveness. He also provided a strong indication about his likely request for S&T and education in his FY 2012 budget request, cautioning Congress against “cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation
John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has issued a “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies” on scientific integrity. The four-page memorandum was issued on December 17, 2010, drawing the quick attention of the new chairman of a subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee who said “I look forward to evaluating these guidelines in the upcoming Congress.”
A prominent critic of the Obama Administration’s Mars exploration program offered praise following NASA’s announcement that it will send a new robotic rover to the planet in 2020. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who had denounced this year’s decision not to participate in the 2018-2020 European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars missions, issued a release applauding the new mission.