Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 12:36:00 -0600
Subject: DPS Mailing #06-01: Important Message From the Chair: NASA Budget Cuts
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR:
NASA FY06 and FY07 Budget Cuts Threaten Solar System Exploration -
Your Action Required TODAY
NASA's budget proposal, now being reviewed by Congress, transfers
three billion dollars (over the next five years) from solar system
exploration to the human space flight program to help pay for shuttle
flights and the completion of the International Space Station. This
budgetary raid has grave consequences for robotic exploration of the
solar system and fundamental research and analysis programs.
Planetary missions have been delayed or canceled, FY07 funding for
scientific research is cut by more than 15% from current levels, and
the astrobiology program alone is slashed by 50%. NASA's operating
plan for FY06 contains comparable substantial cuts to research
funding (for full details, see
Tapping the solar system exploration budget to pay for the shuttle
and ISS pits human exploration against robotic missions, rather than
drawing on the strengths of both. The reductions in research grants
undercut our nation's ability to plan for future missions and to
interpret the results of past and ongoing missions. They are contrary
to the President's Vision for Space Exploration, which calls for a
robust program of robotic exploration across the solar system for
scientific purposes. They are contrary to the President's American
Competitiveness Initiative, announced in the State of the Union
address, to "increase Federal investment in critical research" in the
physical sciences. They threaten the health of Research and Analysis
(R&A) programs that are fundamental to NASA's exploration mission
and provide core support for DPS planetary scientists.
As the world's largest professional society of planetary scientists,
DPS members must take an active role in establishing national
priorities for planetary research and exploration, and in
demonstrating to Congress that it is in the national interest for
NASA to maintain a vigorous research program.
The NASA budget battle will require our collective efforts throughout
the spring. Over the coming weeks and months, the DPS Committee will
be calling on you to take direct action and to participate in a
vigorous debate about funding priorities within NASA. The DPS Federal
Relations Subcommittee (FRS) will soon reactivate its website,
providing details of the federal budget, links to position statements
of other organizations, activities of the DPS Committee, results of
the DPS demographic on-line survey completed last fall, and
suggestions for actions you can take. We will work with the AAS,
AGU, and other organizations to present a united front, calling for
the restoration of funding to scientific research and a restoration
of balance in NASA priorities, both across the agency and within the
solar system exploration division.
As a first step, your help is urgently needed TODAY to help restore
funding to the planetary research programs THIS YEAR and in FY07.
The House Committee on Science will conduct hearings on the proposed
NASA budget THIS THURSDAY, February 16. Committee Chairman Sherwood
Boehlert (Republican, NY), is a strong supporter of science, and a
critic of the proposed cuts in research (see his remarks at
What you should do TODAY:
FAX a letter BY WEDNESDAY, February 15, to The House Committee on
Science (FAX 202-226-0113):
Your letter should be brief and to the point (no longer than one
- who you are
- your concerns and how this issue affects you
- the specific actions you want taken
- your thanks
Here are some 'talking points' you might wish to include in your letter:
1. R&A is the "seed corn" for the ideas and opportunities from
which new missions arise; without doing the basic research now, we
can't be prepared to do the missions of the future.
2. R&A is also where we get the pay-off for the missions that
have been flown. It makes no sense to spend half a billion dollars to
collect data, and then cut back the funding to analyze the data.
3. The recent planetary science community/NRC 'Decadal Survey'
recommended a robust fundamental research and analysis program in
solar system exploration. NASA's planned FY06 actions and the
proposed FY07 budget are not consistent with this or other key
recommendations of that fundamental community consensus study.
4. The President's American Competitiveness Initiative calls for
increased funding of scientific research, while the NASA FY07 budget
cuts research funding by 15%. R&A programs are a principal source of
funding for training students and new planetary scientists. Current
plans to cut research programs immediately, outlined in the FY06
Operating Budget, will damage our nation's present and future
capability in solar system exploration as we lose critical skills and
personnel. We do not want American leadership in this area to be yet
5. A small change in the R&A Budget has a disproportionately
large effect on the productivity of the field and on NASA's impact
across the country. Cutting R&A creates serious problems for both now
and the future, while saving relatively little money.
6. As stated by Rep. Boehlert, "Science missions have been
NASA's most successful activities, and they are also the activities
at NASA that most enhance human understanding of our world (the true
meaning of Explorationé) and that have the greatest potential to
develop new technologies.~Science funding should not be taking a back
seat to operational programs that have much less impact."
NASA should be directed to restore the 15% cuts to Science in the
FY06 Operating Plan and in the FY07 proposed budget, particularly
those funds supporting research programs.
NASA should be directed to seek a more effective means of balancing
space science and human exploration, with both having equal footing,
as was articulated in the Vision for Space Exploration.
NASA should be directed to support the President's American
Competitiveness Initiative and increase funding for scientific
The DPS Committee and I thank you for your help and welcome your
thoughts. We realize that time is very short for getting a letter to
the House Committee in time for the Thursday hearings, but in any
event, we encourage you to contact your Congressional delegations as
soon as possible. We'll be providing additional information and
sample letters in the near future
I'd appreciate it if you would forward to me copies of any letters
you send to the House Science Committee or to your congressional
Dick French, DPS Chair