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Astronomy Research and the Fiscal Cliff

December 12th, 2012

I wanted to pass on an informational email from the American Astronomical Society on this topic:

Informational Email 2012-11

Joel Parriott, Director of Public Policy
joel.parriott@aas.org

Subject: The Fiscal Cliff and the American Astronomical Society

The President and Congressional leaders are in negotiations to forge a compromise to avoid the full array of tax increases and spending cuts that will begin to take effect on the first two days of January 2013 under current law. Since the AAS membership relies upon federal discretionary R&D programs for most of its research and education support, the automatic 8-10 percent across-the-board cuts (or sequester; see resource webpage) that would begin to hit these programs next month are a matter that the AAS is taking very seriously. For example, the NASA science and NSF research accounts would see cuts of roughly $420 million and $470 million, respectively, below their Fiscal Year 2012 levels. This e-mail is intended to update you about what the AAS has been doing on your behalf.

The conventional wisdom is that if the current negotiations are successful, they will result in a broad legislative framework with the details to be worked out by Congress in a second phase next spring and summer. Given the very high level at which the current framework negotiations are taking place, there is very little that any individual professional society can do to influence the outcome. Therefore, the AAS is not asking its membership to take any specific action at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation and will likely ask you to act in the coming months as Congress begins to work out the details of a broad compromise or whatever may happen in its place.

During this first broad negotiation phase, the AAS is continuing to work in coalition with other professional societies, university associations, and industry partners to amplify our voice and to advocate for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to discretionary research programs. In October, the AAS was a signatory on a letter from the Task Force on American Innovation to the President and Congressional leaders. Just this past week, the AAS was a signatory on a letter  that a large research and development coalition sent to the President and Congressional leaders. Further, the AAS is participating in an unusually broad coalition of coalitions–called Non-Defense Discretionary United and constituted by over 3,000 national, state,
and local organizations (see NDD United)–that is advocating for all non-defense discretionary programs.

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