20 January 2018
For the second time in five years, congressional and presidential impasses have resulted in a shutdown of the federal government. The repercussions of this shutdown destabilize scientific federal agencies that are essential to the nation’s economic stability, public health, and national security.
The far-reaching costs of such a shutdown are very real. For example, in 2017 alone, the United States experienced 16 major weather and climate disaster events, resulting in 362 lives lost and more than $300 billion dollars in economic damages. If not for the work of federal scientific agencies – including NASA, NOAA, and USGS – these losses could have been far greater. Satellite data from NOAA and NASA, for example, were integral in monitoring and providing early warning to residents of Hurricane Harvey in advance of its landfall on the Gulf Coast in late August. During a government shutdown, the dedicated scientists working at these agencies will be unable to make such potentially life-saving information available to the public.
A shutdown also puts at risk the technologies, research, and services that government agencies help to support, and that enable millions of jobs across the nation, not to mention idling the tens of thousands of scientists serving as public servants. We urge our policy leaders to work together to reopen the government and put science and the public servants – who ensure that critical information and data are available – back to work.
Even once the government re-opens, however, science funding and science are still at risk, as budget pressures have forced science agencies overall to operate under funding constraints. To that end, we urge congressional and administration budget negotiators to:
* Reach a bipartisan budget agreement that raises the spending caps and maintains parity between defense and non-defense discretionary spending, so that our national scientific enterprise is not in competition with our national defense
* Prioritize our nation’s scientific enterprise by robustly investing in our federal science agencies
* Complete the FY2018 appropriations process rather than allowing uncertainty and delay to hinder our nation’s scientific enterprise
Strong and predictable investment in America’s scientific enterprise remains one of the surest ways to encourage economic growth, increase the safety and security of our nation, and advance our understanding of the world around us. Conversely, without the contributions of scientific research, America would lose its role as global innovation leader, and our economy, national security, and the health and safety of our citizens would suffer.
Reports indicate the shutdown was precipitated by mixed messages made by the President and Congress as legislators attempted to find common ground on immigration policy and linked this to the continuing resolution that just expired. AGU – as a scientific association representing 60,000 Earth and space scientists from 137 countries across the globe – is dedicated to the open exchange of ideas and information; to welcoming scientists and others with a diversity of backgrounds, ideas and approaches, and is committed to equality and inclusiveness. Efforts and rhetoric that set us backwards in these ideals run counter to creating a culture that allows science to thrive and damages the global scientific enterprise.