November 14, 2023
On 7 November 2023, AGU sent a letter to leadership on the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate regarding appropriations for Fiscal Year 2024. AGU thanked the committees for averting a government shutdown in September but urged them to continue working towards full and robust support of scientific agencies. Read the full text of the letter below.
On behalf of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and our worldwide Earth and space science community, thank you for your efforts both to keep the government open and to finalize fiscal year 2024 (FY24) appropriations. We respectfully urge you to reach a bipartisan agreement that prioritizes and safeguards investments in our nation’s scientific enterprise and complete the FY2024 appropriations process without further harmful delays. As it stands, the proposed cuts to and uncertainty of future funding for federal science agencies and programming, threaten the nation’s economic growth, American public health and wellbeing, and U.S. national security.
The U.S. scientific enterprise has long been the foundation of our nation’s economic success, but the lack of long-term investments in science will impair our ability to grow and strengthen the economy.
- Weather, climate, and oceanographic research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alone is vital for more than one-third of the U.S. GDP. For example, America’s farms, which contributed $223.5 billion to U.S. GDP in 2022, depend on NOAA’s forecasts to make decisions about planting, irrigation, and harvesting. Proposed cuts to NOAA’s budget would impair the National Weather Service’s forecasts, watches, and warnings and investments in the next generation of weather and space-weather satellites that will ensure continuous weather and climate observations in the coming decades.
- Investments in science help mitigate adverse impacts to the economy, such as those resulting from extreme weather events, including hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. As of October 10, 2023, there have already been 24 extreme weather events in the U.S. this year that each cost at least $1 billion, surpassing the previous record of 22 such events in 2020. Disaster response organizations heavily rely on data from multiple NASA Earth-observing satellites to identify damaged areas and plan mitigation efforts following these disasters. However, cuts to the Earth Science Division within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate would delay imperative missions that collect and disseminate Earth-observing data, thereby disrupting essential disaster relief efforts.
Science is also crucial to understanding how environmental changes or exposures affect and impact public health.
- The Collaborative Centers on Children’s Environmental Health Research and Translation at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) develop new tools and approaches that can be used or adapted by researchers, federal and state agencies, health care professionals, and community members to develop practical solutions to protect children’s health. Cuts to the NIEHS’s budget would threaten the long-term success of these and other impactful public health programs, which require sustained, predictable investment to ensure that long-term goals and objectives can be prioritized and realized through rigorous research.
- Similarly, the Environmental Health Program at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducts research to understand and mitigate public health threats associated with environmental contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pathogens, and a variety of algal toxins. For example, USGS scientists recently developed an interactive mapping tool to illustrate PFAS measurements in water resources and drinking water across the nation. Cuts to the USGS budget would prevent stakeholders, including key federal agencies and industry partners, from accessing the Environmental Health Program’s science, data, and tools needed to identify, understand, and prioritize efforts to reduce the risk of environmental contamination.
The scientific enterprise also plays a central role in service of U.S. national security interests. From monitoring nuclear weapons, to maintaining and managing the U.S. presence in the Artic, to assessing and securing our energy, water, food, and mineral resources, to understanding our changing climate, researchers and scientists are an indispensable part of our national security interests. These services, require training for the next generation of the scientific workforce and an ability to maintain global leadership in innovation and technological advances, such as pivotal research in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and space.
- Federal science agencies play a major role in inspiring and training the next generation STEM workforce and affect critical outcomes such as research productivity, degree completion, and career placement. The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program, for example, enables graduate students to achieve high levels of success in their academic and professional careers, generating future leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching in STEM and STEM education fields. Similarly, NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Project (“Space Grant”) supports a national network of colleges and universities in educating our nation’s next generation of space scientists, engineers, and explorers. However, cuts to these and other STEM education programs would result in thousands of fewer awards and hundreds of thousands of people who could not be supported in their pursuit of STEM.
- NSF is the nation’s largest non-defense federal funder of AI research. Earlier this year, NSF announced the establishment of eleven new NSF National AI Research Institutes that will advance AI research related to ethical and trustworthy AI systems and technologies, novel approaches to cybersecurity, solutions to climate change, understanding of the brain, and enhanced education and public health. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science also funds essential AI research. Recent DOE strategic plans and workshop reports have identified new AI applications that would, among other things, accelerate the design, discovery, and evaluation of new materials for clean energy technologies and advance the development of self-driving laboratories and scientific workflows. However, with overall funding for these agencies continuing to hover at a 25-year low (as measured by GDP), further reductions to research investments are jeopardizing U.S. global innovation leadership and increasing the likelihood that the AI systems American engage with in their everyday lives will be developed by competing countries.
- NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is essential for national security related to technological assets in space and the nation’s leadership in space exploration. The groundbreaking Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission will return samples from the Martian surface to Earth, including samples already collected by the Mars Perseverance Rover. Cuts to the Planetary Science Division will force suspension of the mission, directly undermining U.S. competition with China. Similarly, cuts to the Heliophysics Science Division will lead to the postponement of the Multi-slit Solar Explorer (MUSE) mission and the continued suspension of the Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC) mission, both of which are integral to our understanding of space weather and its impacts on the electric grid, satellites, and other crucial technologies.
In support of a thriving scientific enterprise and STEM ecosystem, for FY2024 we urge you to secure the highest possible funding allocation for:
- The National Science Foundation (NSF)
- NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and Office of STEM Education
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
- The Department of Energy’s Office of Science
- The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), including its Superfund Research Program
We also urge you to strike all appropriations riders that block funding for vital scientific research, hurt the recruitment and retention of the nation’s STEM workforce, and undermine efforts to strengthen public trust in federally funded science, including provisions that prevent use of funding for:
- understanding and addressing the impacts of climate change,
- addressing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility issues in the federal workforce,
- advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities by the federal government,
- preventing and combating discrimination and sexual harassment, and
- ensuring free, immediate, and equitable access to federally funded research.
Flat or reduced science budgets will severely set back the U.S. scientific enterprise. While we appreciate the funding challenges that Congress faces in addressing all the nation’s priorities, America cannot risk the detrimental impacts to economic progress, public health, and national security because of stifled scientific investments. Thank you for your consideration.