AAAS Joins Diverse Coalition Gearing Up to Combat Broad-Axe U.S. Budget Cuts

AAAS has joined a broad coalition of defense, academic, public health, high-tech, and science groups to combat automatic, across-the-board U.S. federal budget cuts scheduled to take effect 1 March under a sequestration scenario.

On 11 February, the coalition—representing more than 3500 organizations—released a study on the potential impacts of the sweeping budget cuts known as the sequester. The announcement at the National Press Club marked “the first time the defense and nondefense communities have joined together to speak with one voice about the ways in which Americans will be harmed by continued cuts to core government functions, including the military, education, public health, science, public safety, and infrastructure,” the group said.

Among the participants at the press event were the Aerospace Industries Association—including its chairman, Northrop Grumman Corp. CEO and President Wes Bush—the Task Force on American Innovation, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Universities, and NDD United, which represents nondefense and discretionary organizations.

AAAS analysis has shown that sequestration—set to happen in March unless policymakers can agree to a deficit-reduction plan—would devastate U.S. science, reducing federal R&D spending by about $54 billion over five years. Such indiscriminate budget cuts would cripple virtually all areas of research, prompting lab closures and furloughs and slowing scientific advancement for at least a generation, AAAS has said. Sequestration also would threaten many other vital national priorities and the jobs of over 2 million workers, coalition leaders said.

The association has remained active for months in an array of efforts to make clear the devastating impacts of a budget sequestration. For example, AAAS last week joined the Task Force on American Innovation, a group of businesses, universities, and science societies, in writing to the president and congressional leaders to oppose sweeping budget cuts.

Sequestration “would make short-sighted cuts to critical scientific research investments and other important federal programs that are vital to economic growth,” the letter said. “Nations such as China and India are pouring resources into developing their research capacities and their human capital in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. These investments will help them over the long term to challenge our economic as well as our military leadership.”

AAAS recently reaffirmed its support for an anti-sequestration letter first sent to Congress last summer by NDD United. “Sequestration would be devastating to the nation,” the NDD letter said, because it would affect a wide range of programs, from medical research and job training, to infrastructure and public safety.

The association also has organized a briefing on Capitol Hill, a text and video message campaign, and an online clearinghouse of sequestration resources. This week, AAAS will begin a massive drive to collect signatures on a petition to the U.S. Congress urging a bipartisan compromise on sequestration.

AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of Science, has noted in media commentaries that across-the-board budget cuts “were never really meant to happen.” The Budget Control Act, enacted in August 2011, established a two-step process for reducing the nation’s $1.1 trillion annual deficit. But a congressional supercommittee failed to agree on a deficit-reduction plan, triggering the countdown to a second, stop-gap measure: automatic sequestration. In January, policymakers postponed the first deadline for sequestration, pushing it to 1 March.

“Budget cuts seem necessary and unavoidable,” Leshner wrote. “But deficit reduction must be wise. Applying sequestration as a blunt fiscal instrument would have dramatic and long-lasting consequences for the U.S. research effort.”

Sign the AAAS petition to protect research funding from the 2013 sequestration budget cuts.

Read the 11 February letter on the impacts of sequestration from the Task Force on American Innovation.

Watch the 11 February National Press Club event on sequestration spending cuts.

View sequestration resources collected by the AAAS Office of Government Relations.