AAAS Letter Expresses “Grave Concerns” for OSTP Budget

In a letter dated 8 November 2011, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of Science, expressed “grave concerns regarding the prospect of a 50 percent reduction in the budget of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP),” as proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We believe such a drastic reduction to OSTP’s budget will dramatically inhibit the ability of the federal government to coordinate, prioritize and manage the federal research and development (R&D) effort,” Leshner wrote. “This kind of reduction would also seriously limit the ability to take appropriate account of science and technology considerations in the formulation of diverse policies.”

Established in 1976 and mandated by Congress to advise the president, OSTP fosters collaborations between agencies, thus helping to reduce redundancies and minimize waste within federal programs, AAAS noted. The office is key to setting forth critical national science and technology policies in areas such as national security, health, science education, advanced manufacturing, and technology transfer to spur innovation and economic growth, Leshner said in his letter.

“Whether it involves providing advice during a local disaster, such as the Gulf Oil Spill, or providing technical expertise in the face of a global disaster, such as the earthquake in Fukushima, OSTP staff are critically involved in shaping and implementing policies,” he added.

The AAAS letter was sent to Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), ranking member of the committee; Representative Harold Rogers (R-Kentucky), chairman of House Appropriations Committee; and Representative Norman Dicks (D-Washington), ranking member of the committee.

AAAS had earlier this week reported, via its Policy Alert newsletter, that the Senate on 1 November voted 69-30 to pass the Commerce/Justice/Science (CJS), Transportation, and Agriculture “minibus” appropriations package.

On 3 November, Representative Rogers announced that the two chambers would hold a joint Conference Committee hearing to begin ironing out differences between them on funding levels and paving the way for final passage. (See a list of House conferees.)

There are notable differences between the House and Senate funding levels for a number of the agencies under the CJS bill, AAAS reported. For example, the Senate bill provides more funding for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but less funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as compared with the House bill. Read a summary analysis from AAAS.

Read the full letter from Alan I. Leshner, AAAS CEO and executive publisher of Science, to appropriations leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Learn about a recent letter from AAAS to the congressional deficit supercommittee on the need to preserve U.S. research and development investments.