NASA and NSF have resumed operations under a continuing resolution that keeps the government funded at fiscal year 2013 (FY2013)  levels until January 15, 2014.  To fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2014 (FY2014), a bipartisan budget conference committee composed of 29 Senators and House members is working to reach a deal by December 13, 2013.

If that budget conference committee fails, the spending reductions of FY2013 will be locked in. Plus, ANOTHER $20 billion in cuts must be made for the rest of FY2014.  These additional FY2014 cuts result from the second round of sequestration. Remember that sequestration was designed to be so distasteful to both parties that it would force lawmakers to come up with a smarter package of fiscal restraint. But they failed to do so, which is why last March, the first set of cuts went into effect. Now the other shoe is poised to drop.

In the weeks leading up to that December 13 deadline, the FRS will advocate for planetary science funding. Last week, the DPS — together with the planetary sections of the AGU and GSA, as well as The Planetary Society — sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to continue their support of NASA’s Planetary Science Division budget. We will follow this letter up with other advocacy efforts, including a call to action by our members, as we approach December 13.

Planetary science certainly faces significant budget challenges, but I am optimistic for several reasons:

  •   We have been successful in garnering support from Congress, resulting in partially restoring cuts made by the Administration.
  •   Our community is very engaged: many planetary scientists are eager to advocate for our community and willing to respond to calls for action.
  •   Planetary exploration inspires and excites the public. When we engage with the public, we make them care, and we make it harder for drastic reductions to go without protest.

The FRS looks forward to working with all of you as we strive to secure the resources needed to continue the excellent work of our community.

Update from Makenzie Lystrup, Chair of the Federal Relations Subcommittee (FRS)