3 December 2012
AGU Science Policy Alert 12-50
With a contentious election season over, President Obama and the lame duck 112th Congress will refocus on one of the most difficult political and economic issues facing the country that could have significant ramifications for scientific research: the “fiscal cliff.” If political leaders do not take action, on 2 January 2013 the Bush-era tax cuts will expire and, most relevant to researchers, sequestration will begin.
Sequestration, a series of deep budget cuts to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending including funding for scientific research, was never intended to take effect. Instead, it was a condition of the resolution of the 2011 Debt Ceiling Crisis intended to spur bipartisan cooperation on a federal budget plan.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 raised the debt limit, cut spending, and required Congress to make additional spending reductions or face the harmful effects of the indiscriminate cuts caused by sequestration. Because legislators failed to agree on a proposal, sequestration will begin in January if Congress and the President do not take action.
What Sequestration Means for Geoscience Research
The White House Office of Management and Budget estimates that sequestration would cut federal scientific research funding by approximately 8.2%. Over the next five years, that would mean almost $22 billion in cutsto federal funding for non-defense geoscience research and development at DOE, NSF, NASA, NOAA, USGS, and NIST. This would be a serious loss not only to scientific discovery, but also to future American economic competitiveness in science and technology, our ability to mitigate and manage natural and manmade hazards, and our understanding of energy and water resources.
Take Action Now
- Sign the AGU letter to show you stand with other scientists against sequestration.
- Contact your legislators. It is essential that policymakers hear from their constituents about the importance of preventing sequestration and supporting innovative scientific research.
Some talking points to assist you when you contact your legislators:
- Even during these difficult economic times, a majority of Americans disapprove of cutting funding for scientific research as a way to reduce the national debt. Members of Congress should work across the aisle and with the President to prevent sequestration from taking effect.
- Federally funded Earth and space science research provides significant benefits to Americans across the country, allowing scientists to better understand water and energy resources, predict extreme weather events, and mitigate the damage from natural hazards.
- Sequestration could cripple U.S. scientific and technological innovation and economic competitiveness as students decide to enter other fields and researchers seek support abroad.
Research is a long-term investment in our future that drives the economy through scientific discovery and technological innovation. Deep cuts today deprive the entrepreneurs of tomorrow of the tools and knowledge they will need to keep the U.S. competitive in the global economy.