As the details about the House Appropriations Committee’s proposed FY2012 NASA budget sink in, more individuals and organizations are raising concerns about the budget. The one item that has received the most attention has been the committee’s plan to terminate funding for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), effectively ending the program. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) released a statement Thursday calling on Congress to “support JWST to its completion” but also “provide strong oversight” for a project that has suffered major cost overruns and schedule delays. “It is time to complete construction and look ahead to JWST’s launch and science operations,” the AAS statement notes.
The proposed termination of JWST has attracted the attention of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the corresponding appropriations subcommittee in the Senate. “It was a shortsighted and misguided move,” she said in a statement about the House appropriators’ decision to kill the project, noting that ending JWST would “kill 2,000 jobs nationwide and stall scientific progress and discovery.” She also called on the White House to “step in and fight for the James Webb Telescope.”
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) also made similar comments about the attempt to kill JWST. “I worry about the message we send to our students to reach for the stars and pursue careers in the sciences while simultaneously eliminating projects that further research and technology and keep us on the cutting edge of competitiveness,” she said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told the Burbank Leader that he would move to restore proposed cuts in NASA’s budget when the full appropriations committee marks up the budget next week. Schiff, who serves on the CJS subcommittee that proposed the budget, said he was concerned about “dramatic cuts to space technology research and development and other vital efforts” in the budget. The Space Technology account was by over 60 percent from the administration’s budget request.
Cuts to space technology as well as potentially to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program are at the heart of a political call to action issued Friday by the Space Access Society. The organization is asking people to contact their members of Congress by no later than midday Tuesday (in advance of Wednesday’s scheduled markup by the full appropriations committee) about full funding for those two programs. “There are lots of cuts coming this year, and the ones who protest the loudest, i.e., generate the most calls, are the ones who may get some of their funding back,” the alert notes.
Finally, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said he would consider voting against the proposed appropriations bill if it reaches the House in its current form. Brooks did not mention objections about specific programs cut in the bill, like JWST, but instead appeared to object to the overall cuts to the agency.