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AURA Reaction to FY13 President's Budget Request for NASA
February 13, 2012
The FY13 budget released today by the White House gave NASA an almost flat budget compared with FY12, maintaining the substantial decrease from FY11 (NASA is roughly 0.5% of the federal budget). The proposed budget language identifies "highest priority astronomical observatories and robotic solar system explorers, including a successor to the Hubble telescope and a mission to return samples from an asteroid, while delaying unaffordable new missions."
NASA's Science Mission Directorate drops 3.2% in the FY13 request, and maintains a flat funding level over the next five years. Despite the reduction in SMD's overall funding level, the FY13 budget request supported an increase in funding for the Earth Science Division, an Administration priority, as well as increased funding for the Heliophysics Division.
Last year, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden clearly articulated that Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), was a top Agency priority. Responding to a Congressional Review in 2010 after budget overruns were revealed, NASA replanned for the least expensive realistic path to earliest launch, showing that the Agency could achieve a 2018 launch if JWST's budget increased $100M in FY13. The Administration provided the increase. "Supporting JWST at the requested level keeps the program on budget and launches Hubble's successor on schedule, giving taxpayers and scientists the best return on their investment," said Dr. Dan Clemens of Boston University, Chair of the AURA Board of Directors.
Other aspects of NASA's Science Mission Directorate saw reductions in FY13. The Astrophysics Division decreased, and the Planetary Science Division dropped by about $300M, a 20% cut, much of it in the Mars missions line. "This is so disappointing for the planetary community," was the reaction of AURA Vice President Heidi Hammel, a planetary scientist who
participated in that community's recent decadal survey. According to the proposed budget, NASA seeks to "implement a lower cost program of robotic exploration of Mars that will advance science and also help lay the foundation for future human exploration."
AURA is a non-profit consortium of universities and institutions that operates astronomical facilities on behalf of NASA and the National Science Foundation, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
William S. Smith, Jr., President
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
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