No One Is Serious About The Science Budget, Still

Checking old posts, it seems I gave up on tracking the new normal of late budgets and continuing resolutions in February of 2011.  And yes, the trend continues.  Fiscal Year 2013 will start on October 1 under a continuing resolution.  The federal government will be operating on the FY 2012 budget (plus a tiny increase) until late in March 2013.

However, what’s new – sort of – this year is the ‘fiscal cliff’ or sequester.  Signed into law in August of 2011, the Budget Control Act set up some significant budget cuts in the event a ‘supercommittee’ of members of Congress failed to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts (over a ten-year period) by January 15 of 2012 (no surprise, it didn’t).  The cuts would come from both security (read defense) and non-security discretionary spending on a fifty-fifty split.  It would cover fiscal years 2013 through 2021.  The first sequester must happen on January 2, 2013.  True, Congress could go ahead and change those guidelines, but it would have to pass a bill and have President Obama sign it (regardless of the election, this first sequester happens during the Obama Administration).

What annoys me is that science advocates have really only started paying public attention to the sequester in the last few weeks.  Know that these cuts (roughly 8 percent across the board) were officially scheduled since January, the 8 month wait seems ridiculous.  Granted, the effort required to successfully change this course is significant, but far greater than the effort needed to at least point out the problems for science programs.  Science advocates have been rubbish at communicating the problems researchers face in the current environment of uncertain budgets (hard to plan on having a certain amount of money for the fiscal year when you don’t know when during the year you will get it).  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the community has felt either inadequate or incompetent to the task of explaining the impact of serious cuts.

Yes, federally funded science and technology is one of many interests that will take a big hit from the sequester.  It would be hard to get your voice heard amidst the likely noise.  But to not even try for months when the amounts could be estimated?  What are those scientific and technical associations paying their lobbyists for?

(Just a guess, but this letter from July suggests the community isn’t much of a community, but a mass of shifting interests and organizations.)


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