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ALERT: Request Increased Funding for NSF, DOE Office of Science and NIST

(Posted 9-12-08)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL:Representatives Vernon Ehlers and Bill Foster are asking their colleagues in the House of Representatives to sign onto a "Dear Colleague" letter to House leadership and appropriators asking for support for increased funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) in a continuing resolution or any final fiscal year 2009 (FY09) funding bill. Please contact your Representative by telephone, fax or email and ask them to sign the letter in support of geoscience R&D within these agencies.

The federal government will likely be run on a continuing resolution for several months after September 30, 2008. This means that the budget of the NSF will remain at the FY 2008 level and NSF will not receive the almost 14 percent increase requested by the administration and recommended by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Additionally, the DOE Office of Science will also fail to receive the 18 percent increase requested by the administration and the 21 percent increase recommended by the House Appropriations Committee. And NIST will not receive the 4 percent increase recommended by the House Appropriations Committee.

"Dear Colleague" letters allow members of Congress to demonstrate their support for a specific agency, program, or project and a large number of signatures indicate strong support for the program discussed in the letter, increasing the chances that the request will be considered favorably by House leaders.

Communication with such a positive and simple request provides a great opportunity for members of the geoscience community to also briefly tell Congress about the value and importance of geoscience research. In your brief correspondence, please note that geoscience is a critical component of competitiveness and innovation initiatives put forward by Congress, the Bush Administration and dozens of competitiveness reports, from the National Academies and others. Ask for support for essential increases in federal investments in geoscience research at NSF, DOE Office of Science, NIST and other federal agencies.

The text of the letter that will go to the House leaders is copied below. House members who would like to sign the letter should contact Julia Jester in Rep. Ehlers’ office at (202) 225-3831 or Matt Ploszek in Rep. Foster’s office at (202) 225-2976.

No deadline has been set for signing the letter, but things tend to move quickly, so contact your member’s office today.

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Text of Dear Colleague Letter from Representatives Ehlers and Foster

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Boehner, Chairman Obey and Ranking Member Lewis:

We are writing to urge you to support our national competitiveness and long-term economic future by increasing funding for the science programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in any future appropriations bill considered by the 110th Congress.

When Congress passed the America COMPETES Act in 2007, we agreed on the importance of providing substantial funding for the NSF, the Office of Science, and NIST in order to maintain our economic future. The House passed and the Senate considered appropriations bills which aligned closely with the COMPETES authorization. However, the fiscal year 2008 omnibus provided the Office of Science, NSF and NIST with approximately $850 million less than those levels. Quite frankly, if funding is merely continued at current levels, these agencies will be unable to fund scientists, teachers and students across the country. The America COMPETES Act authorized $7.3 billion for NSF, $5.2 billion for the Office of Science, and $882 million for NIST labs and research for fiscal year 2009. A continuing resolution at the 2008 enacted level would be $2.5 billion below the levels approved in the America COMPETES Act.

We are extremely grateful for your support of science funding in the first supplemental spending bill which restored some of the losses in fiscal year 2008. Funds included in that measure helped stave off hundreds of layoffs at the Department of Energy laboratories and allowed some NSF facilities and researchers to continue their work. Despite this support, however, these agencies are still suffering. An infusion of additional funding in any appropriations vehicle - whether it be an economic stimulus package, supplemental appropriations bill, or continuing resolution - would stimulate innovative jobs and inspire the future generation of scientists currently discouraged by the dismal outlook for science. It is crucial to our national economy to include additional funding for the National Science Foundation, DOE Office of Science and NIST in any appropriations bill considered in the remainder of the 110th Congress.

Thank you for your consideration of this critical request.

End of Letter

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To determine who your Representative is, go to www.house.gov and enter your zip code+4. The link will also provide the contact information for your Representative, so you can call, fax or email them.

1. Call your Representative's Washington, DC office.

You may obtain the phone number from their official website (via www.house.gov) or you may call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask to be connected to Representative [name] office. NOTE: You must know the name of your Representative prior to calling the switchboard; they will not be able to tell you who your member of Congress is.

Ask to speak to the legislative assistant responsible for science funding. When connected: Encourage the staffer to have Representative [name] sign the Ehlers-Foster Dear Colleague letter. Be prepared to mention how important NSF, DOE Office of Science or NIST funding is to your research, academic department/institution, and/or your community. Please note that geoscience is a critical component of competitiveness and innovation initiatives put forward by Congress, the Bush Administration and dozens of competitiveness reports, from the National Academies and others. Ask for support for essential increases in federal investments in geoscience research at NSF, DOE Office of Science, NIST and other federal agencies.

Legislative staff are busy, so you may be asked if you would like to leave a voice mail - you do. Simply convey the same information you would have if you spoke to the staffer in person, but be sure to leave your contact information.

2. E-Mail or Fax your Representative
Your Representative's e-mail address and fax number are available on their website at www.house.gov.

Tips for an effective e-mail or fax message:
-Be sure that the subject line in your e-mail is clear: Please sign the Ehlers-Foster Dear Colleague, or Request Rep. [name] support increased funding for NSF, DOE-Office of Science and NIST.

-Be sure that you include your contact information at the top of the e-mail/letter; this must include your name, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address. NOTE: many offices will discard correspondence that does not include contact information, or that comes from outside of their district.

-In the opening paragraph of your message, clearly state that you are writing to ask that your Representative to sign the Ehlers-Foster Dear Colleague letter. Tell them that the letter requests that Congress provide the NSF, DOE Office of Science and NIST with increased levels of funding in a continuing resolution.

-Briefly explain why NSF, DOE Office of Science and/or NIST funding is important to you and/or your institution (e.g., only source of funding for your area of research, helps support undergraduate/graduate student research experience, leads to innovation, etc).

-Please note that geoscience is a critical component of competitiveness and innovation initiatives put forward by Congress, the Bush Administration and dozens of competitiveness reports, from the National Academies and others. Ask for support for essential increases in federal investments in Earth science research at NSF, DOE Office of Science and other federal agencies.

DEADLINE:
Please contact your Representative as soon as possible. There is no specific deadline for this letter yet, but things tend to move quickly. Please fax or e-mail a copy of your letter to AGI at Government Affairs Program, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502; fax 703-379-7563; email govt@agiweb.org.

Thank you for taking your time to be an active citizen-geoscientist!


Alert prepared by Marcy Gallo and Linda Rowan, Government Affairs Staff

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted September 12, 2008


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