Board Statements

APS Statements are public policy statements that undergo a meticulous  process of draft and review, including receiving comments from APS members, before being voted on by APS Council at one of its semiannual meetings.

Board Statements expedite the APS Statement draft and review process in cases where more rapid action is necessary. If Board Statements are not eventually submitted to APS Statement review procedures, they are archived after one year and may not be renewed.

Science Funding and James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

August 1, 2011

America must get its fiscal house in order, but responsible budgeting requires making wise choices. Even in difficult times we must strive to nourish programs that create jobs and help build a better America. For more than half a century science has played such a role, allowing our nation to prosper and remain secure.
As Congress and the White House work to reduce deficits, the Executive Board of the American Physical Society (APS), representing more than 48,000 physicists in universities, industry and national laboratories, urges policymakers to recognize that innovation, the engine of the modern American economy, relies more than ever on strong, sustained federal support of scientific research. Placing that support at risk is very destructive policy.

Yet bills to drastically reduce domestic discretionary spending with across the board cuts and cancellation of major scientific projects would do just that. They would threaten our nation’s ability to innovate and compete in the global economic arena. The APS Executive Board asks Congress and the White House to reject budgets that contain deep reductions for science.

The Board expresses particular concern and dismay that impending House action on appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies has already identified the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as a prime candidate for termination. The APS rarely advocates for specific science projects, but it believes JWST deserves special attention, especially now.

  • Successor to the extraordinarily successful Hubble Space Telescope with similar potential to transform astronomy, JWST is the centerpiece of the future American space astrophysics program. It was the highest-ranked mission in the 2000 National Academy of Sciences’ Astronomy Decadal Survey and is a cornerstone of the 2010 Survey 
  • JWST is 100 times more powerful than Hubble and would revolutionize our understanding of the birth of the Universe, reveal much about the first stars and galaxies, and play a crucial role in the quest to find life on distant planets.
  • 75 percent of the JWST hardware is being fabricated or has been delivered, and 3.5 billion dollars (about half of the total cost) has been spent. The Casani report, commissioned by Senator Mikulski, found no technical problems and NASA and its contractors have corrected management deficiencies that the report identified.
  • JWST would continue Hubble’s legacy as one of the greatest inspirations for young people and as a symbol of American leadership in science and space.
  • Cancellation of JWST would eliminate thousands of high-tech jobs, especially in the aerospace industry.
  • The Canadian and the European Space Agencies are contributing around a billion dollars to JWST; cancellation would again call into question our nation’s record as a reliable international partner.  

Therefore, the Executive Board of the American Physical Society urges Congress to restore funding for the James Webb Space Telescope and allow the project to advance toward its planned launch in 2018.