APS News

January 2012 (Volume 21, Number 1)

The Washington Dispatch

ISSUE: Budget and Authorization Environment
US Capitol viewed through trees

Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations
The November Dispatch reported Congress was set to pass a series of “minibus” bills, wrapping several appropriations bills into one piece of legislation.  Only one succeeded, covering Commerce, Justice, and Science; Agriculture; and Transportation/HUD.

To bridge the spending gap, Congress passed another continuing resolution (CR) that kept departments and agencies operating through December 16th.  Narrowly averting a government shutdown, the dueling interests settled their differences at the eleventh hour, and passed a catchall bill to fund the rest of the government through the balance of the fiscal year.  The list of key science appropriations for FY12 follows.

Commerce, Justice, & Science Appropriations:

  • NSF (Total) [$6.8B in FY11] – $7.03B
◊ Research and Related Activities (RRA) [$5.56B]: $5.72B.
◊ Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction     (MREFC) [$117M in FY11]:  $167M.

◊ Education and Human Resources (EHR) [$861M in FY11]: $829M.

  • NIST Core [$578M in FY11] – $622M
◊ Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) [$507M in FY11]: $567M.
◊ Construction of Research Facilities (CRF) [$70M in FY11]:  $55M.

◊ NIST Technology Innovation Program (TIP) [$45M in FY11]: $0.

  • NASA Science [$4.94B in FY11] – $5.09B. The bill restores funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, per the Senate plan.  As you will recall, the House bill zeroed out the program, while the Senate version restored funding while bumping JWST support $150M above the presidential request in order to achieve a 2018 launch. It would also cap the project cost at $8.8B.

Energy & Water Appropriations:

  • DOE Office of Science (Total) [$4.84B in FY11] – $4.89B
◊ Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) [$422M in FY11] – $442M;
◊ Basic Energy Sciences (BES) [$1.68B in FY11] – $1.69B;
◊ Biological and Environmental Research (BER) [$612M in FY11] – $612M;
◊ Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) [$376M in FY11]– $402;
◊ High Energy Physics (HEP) [$796M in FY11] – $792M;

◊ Nuclear Physics (NP) [$540M in FY11] – $550M.

  • ARPA-E [$180M in FY11] – $275M
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) [$1.80B in FY11] – $1.82B

Labor, Health, & Human Services Appropriations:

  • NIH (Total) [$30.69B in FY11] – $30.64B

Defense Appropriations: 

  • DOD 6.1 (Basic) [$1.95B in FY11] – $2.10B
  • DOD 6.2 (Applied) [$4.45B in FY11] – $4.70B

Be sure to check the APS Washington Office’s Blog, Physics Frontline (http://physicsfrontline.aps.org/), for the latest news on the FY12 Budgets.

ISSUE: Deficit Reduction Cuts to the Federal Budget (Sequestrations)

Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Cuts
Potential funding cuts will be triggered a year from now in the form of automatic across-the board reductions – technically called sequestrations–mandated by the 2011 amendments to the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 1985. According to the amended BCA, the recent failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (AKA: the Super Committee) to come to an agreement on a debt reduction plan, will initiate $1.2 trillion in sequestrations over nine years, beginning with Fiscal Year 2013. The effect on science funding is not yet known, since the sequestrations will apply to appropriations bills that have yet to be written. However, once Congress has acted and the bills have been signed into law next year, sequestrations will automatically reduce defense appropriations by 11% and every account in non-defense appropriations by ~8%, effective January 2, 2013. For example, if appropriators choose to increase the National Science Foundation’s Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account by 2% in the Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) bill, their action would result in a 6% decrease in the R&RA account at the start of calendar year 2013.

In addition to triggering sequestrations, the BCA amendments mandate caps for overall discretionary spending over a ten-year period beginning with Fiscal Year 2012. Appropriators must adhere to those caps in the aggregate, but they may alter individual accounts to reflect their priorities. As a result, Congress has the ability to increase science funding relative to other accounts. But it will do so only if lawmakers believe the rationale is compelling.

In the past, the scientific community has been able to rely on a few congressional champions to provide continued federal support for research and education, but the political and fiscal landscape has changed substantially. Budget constraints will require scientists to weigh in if they want to see sustained federal funding. The ability and efficacy of the scientific community’s speaking out about program cuts proposed earlier this year was clearly evident in November when Congress restored Fiscal Year 2012 funding for NSF, NIST, and NASA Science during final House-Senate negotiations on the appropriations bill covering CJS. But with the federal budget tightening in the coming years, the community will have to step up its efforts if it wants to achieve comparable positive results.

During the next year you will have ample opportunity to contact your representatives in Congress and impress upon them why science funding is important. Doing so through visits, phone calls, and letters will let them know their constituents care about these issues. APS will alert you throughout the year about advocacy opportunities and when advocacy will be most effective. If enough voices combine together, Congress will hear the message.


Since early May 2011 there has been considerable legislative activity associated with the Energy Critical Elements report: most recently the Chair of the study, Robert Jaffe, provided a briefing to Congress (November 29th) and testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment (December 7th).

POPA is currently considering two new studies: (1) reductions of non-strategic nuclear weapons, a joint workshop in partnership with the center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS); (2) science-backed education standards.

At its last meeting, the APS Executive Board approved the revised proposal for an educational component associated with the Direct Air Capture Technology Assessment presented by the POPA Subcommittee on Energy & Environment.

POPA Study Suggestions
If you have suggestions for a POPA study, please send in your ideas.
Gray arrow Suggest Future POPA Studies

ISSUE: Media Update

To persuade the now-defunct Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to maintain robust federal support of science funding, APS members wrote op-eds and were quoted in an editorial in several newspapers in Ohio, Michigan, and Massachusetts.

John Mergo, a graduate research assistant at Cornell University and an Ohio native, wrote an op-ed titled, “Congress must protect our nation’s sciences” for the Chillicothe Gazette; the piece appeared in the paper on Nov. 11th.
Gray arrow Congress Must Protect Our Nation's Sciences

Former U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers wrote an op-ed on Nov. 12th for the Grand Rapids Press titled, “Retain robust federal support for scientific research.”
Gray arrow Retain Robust Federal Support for Scientific Research

APS Executive Officer Kate Kirby and Smithsonian physicist Hossein Sadeghpour were quoted in an editorial in The Republican, which stated that scientific innovations have fueled economic growth in the U.S.The paper published the editorial on Nov. 16th under the headline, “Research funding must remain steady.”
Gray arrow Research Funding Must Remain Steady

APS Washington Office

Gray arrow APS Public Affairs Website

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos

January 2012 (Volume 21, Number 1)

Table of Contents

APS News Archives

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Articles in this Issue
APS April Meeting Celebrates Cosmic Rays and More
APS Report Stimulates New BA Programs at Michigan Tech
APS Members Advocate For Science on Capitol Hill
Mid-East Accelerator Getting Close to Completion
New President Ready to Move Forward with Strategic Plan
Middle Tennessee State University Takes on Physics Teacher Preparation
Varied Research Featured at Fluid Dynamics Meeting
Letters to the Editor
The Back Page
The Washington Dispatch
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
International News
Profiles in Versatility