Jun 15

FY2019 Senate Appropriations Bill Provides Valuable Funding for the Future of U.S. Astronomy

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations, led by Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), approved the fiscal year 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill crafted by Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Vice Chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Following the bill’s 30-1 vote out of committee, AURA’s President Matt Mountain made the following statement:

This bipartisan spending bill establishes strong levels for our Nation’s science agencies with broad support for the astronomy community, including valuable funding for the U.S. ground-based and space-based telescope operations that AURA manages under the direction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

On behalf of AURA, its university and institutional partners, and the U.S. astronomical community, I want to thank Subcommittee Chairman Moran and Vice Chairwoman Shaheen, as well as Full Committee Chairman Shelby, Vice Chairman Leahy, and their colleagues on the entire Senate Appropriations Committee for their solid leadership for increasing funding for basic scientific research in the 21st century. Their focus on supporting the astronomy community is appreciated by AURA.

The Subcommittee Chairman and Vice Chairwoman sent a strong message that the U.S. shall continue to lead the world in space-based astronomy, starting by rejecting proposed cuts to our Nation’s current space-based workhorse, the Hubble Space Telescope, followed by maintaining the full requested funding for our next-generation observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). I am most grateful for the Committee’s direction to provide the necessary $352 million for the WFISRT space telescope, a justified figure that reflects the telescope’s independent external technical review, and keeps WFIRST on a path to overlap with JWST.

I also greatly appreciate the Committee’s support for the full construction funding under NSF for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. That funding, coupled with the language recognizing that the U.S. should continue to support our existing ground-breaking telescope facilities as well as astronomy and astrophysics grants programs, shows that the Committee understands the need to adequately account for both facility operations and basic research.

Finally, the topic of space weather played a prominent role throughout the Committee’s bill. AURA’s facilities, particularly DKIST, were recognized as valuable assets that should play a direct role in assisting the Nation’s future research-to-operations to accurately forecast solar storms. AURA stands by to support NSF in following the Committee’s direction to assist NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense to maintain this critical national security priority.

We are very appreciative to the Senate Appropriations Committee, and look forward to working with Chairman Moran and Vice Chairwoman Shaheen as the fiscal year 2019 CJS bill moves to the floor of the U.S. Senate for full consideration.