When the so-called sequester -- billions upon billions of dollars of cuts to domestic programs, military funding, social services and pretty much any other government program you care to name -- was agreed on in 2011 after a spectacularly unproductive round of budget talks, it was meant to be a gun to the head of the American economy. The idea of making blind, thoughtless cuts to popular programs was thought to be so detrimental to the nation's economy and welfare that the thought of going through it would force Democrats and and Republicans to come together and finally pound out a budget deal that everyone can live with. With the deadline looming and no agreement in sight, though, it seems that we've proven no idea is too stupid for the U.S. government. In all likelihood, the sequester will kick in at the end of this week, making cuts in the budgets of agencies like NASA, the NIH, and plenty more American science and technology agencies. How bad is it going to be? Well, here are just a few ways the sequester will kick the teeth right out of science funding.
In what feels like a completely endless debate about how the government should support its science agencies during economic hardship, it seems as though NASA is set to be the sacrificial lamb of budget balancing with almost $2 billion in cuts. Congress has just released its Appropriations bill that gives their views on how much federal money NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should be given. Massive cuts are called for across the board, but no agency is set to lose as much as NASA.To determine the federal budget, the President comes up with a budget request that the House of Representatives and the Senate then consider and come up with their own independent counter offers. The House and Senate must agree on budget appropriations before the budget becomes final. In his request, President Obama was relatively kind to NASA but the House apparently doesn't see the same value in the agency. The House's budget includes a total cut of $1.64 billion from last year which is almost $2 billion short of the President's request.