Letter urges prioritization of spending for science and technology

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Publication date: 
8 March 2013

The Optical Society and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) were joined by 31 scientific associations and organizations in sending a letter to all Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives urging the continued prioritization of federal funding for science and technology.  “Even in times of austerity, investment in scientific research is vital to ensuring our country’s long-term prosperity and competitiveness.”  The letter calls “measures to reduce our federal deficit” to be made in a “thoughtful responsible way.”  The Optical Society is an AIP Member Society, as are the Acoustical Society of America, American Astronomical Society, American Geophysical Union and American Association of Physics Teachers who also signed this letter.

This letter comes as efforts are underway on Capitol Hill to fund the federal government beyond the expiration of the continuing resolution, a short-term legislative mechanism, on March 27.  On March 6, on a mostly party line vote of 267-151, the House passed the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act for FY 2013.  This bill takes two House-passed appropriations bills and combines them with language providing flat funding for other federal departments and agencies through the end of the fiscal year.  The bill maintains the previously agreed upon overall spending limit, and gives the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs greater flexibility in funding their programs.

On Monday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is scheduled to release her version of a final funding bill.  While resulting in the same overall spending limit, she wants her bill to contain more Senate-passed appropriations bills, providing more flexibility in program funding.  Of note, as reported by CQ News, is Mikulski’s statement about her bill:  “I understand, no poison-pill riders, no cute little gimmicks, but focusing on funding which goes to meeting the needs of our national security, compelling needs. We’ve got a shot at creating jobs and investment in science.”

The letter follows:

“Dear Members of Congress:

“In this time of great budget difficulties, we are writing to remind you that budget cuts alone will not lead to economic growth. Even in times of austerity, investment in scientific research is vital to ensuring our country's long-term prosperity and competitiveness. The U.S. simply cannot afford drastic, indiscriminate cuts to federal science research and development programs. While it is true that we are facing challenging economic decisions and must take measures to reduce our federal deficit, we must do so in a thoughtful, responsible way.

“A healthy science program is one of the essential components to ensuring a healthy economy. Many technologies now central to daily life - including the Internet, GPS technology, lasers, and microchips - were initially funded by federal research dollars. Scientists and engineers need your support in order to continue to break new ground in our understanding of scientific principles and their applications.

“Scientific advances often allow people to reach beyond what was thought possible. Indeed, America was discovered because of that spirit, and today it allows us to lead the world in cutting-edge innovation. While reducing deficits is necessary for achieving long-term prosperity, it is equally necessary that we continue to prioritize spending on science and technology. For more than half a century, breakthrough scientific and engineering research has provided the foundation for US innovation and economic growth. As our economy slowly rebounds, now is not the time to break that trend.

“Thank you for your time and consideration of this critical issue. Please do not hesitate to contact us if our societies can provide any additional support or information as you move forward.”  

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