Statement before the National Academy
of Sciences Committee on Organization and Management of Research in Astronomy
and Astrophysics


Richard Russell, Chief of Staff, Office of Science and Technology

Good Morning, I am Richard Russell, chief
of staff of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  I appreciate
the opportunity to appear before the National Academy of Sciences Committee
on Organization and Management of Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics
today to discuss the Administrationís thinking in asking for a review of
the Federal astronomy research portfolio.

I would like to provide some of the background
that led to the Administration request that NSF and NASA appoint a blue
ribbon committee to conduct this review.

I want to start by stating that the Administration
is very supportive of astronomy.  We are impressed with the recent
discoveries that often attract the attention of the popular press as well
as the interest of the broader scientific community.

We also appreciate the fact that the community
sets research priorities, since there is always more good science than
money.  The question is one of how to best manage the Federal astronomy
portfolio so the resources provided will yield the greatest scientific

Our investment to date in astronomy research
has yielded substantial success.  From the study of supernovas that
led to the announcement of “Dark Energy” that may account for about 65
percent of the contents of the universe to tracking tiny variations in
the cosmic background radiation temperature, research in astronomy is helping
us understand the amount and origins of matter in our universe.

We all share the goal of seeing more such
awe-inspiring discoveries.  The question is how can we best assure
that such robust accomplishments will continue.


Two recent National Research Council reports
on the status of astronomy in the United States — Federal Funding for
Research in Astronomy; and Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium,
known as the Decadal Survey — suggest that now is the time to assess the
Federal government’s management and organization of astronomical research.


  • First, NSF’s share of funding for individual
    research grants in astronomy has fallen from 60 percent at the beginning
    of the 1980s to 30 percent at the end of the 1990s.

This has been because of growth in
the NASA budget for research grants, but also because the number, size,
and capability of ground-based observing facilities have increased considerably.

This increase has brought with it a commensurate
increase in NSF funds for utilizing the facilities, which has reduced the
funding available for research grants to astronomers.


  • Second, the May 2000 Decadal Survey report
    recommended a series of ground and space based initiatives intended to
    maintain U.S. leadership in astronomy.

The ground-based capital investment,
which the NSF would be directly or indirectly responsible for, has been
proposed at nearly $1 billion over the next decade.  By contrast,
over the past decade NSF spent roughly $230 million in astronomy capital
investments.  Thus, the NSF would be called upon to substantially
increase its investment and be required to define a long-range plan and
a multi-year budget structure that could support these recommendations. 
Such a plan would likely further impact NSF’s balance of activities.


  • Third, the Decadal Survey also makes the case
    that future progress in astronomy will require more integration between
    ground and space based facilities, and cross-wavelength and cross-discipline

It may be that the increased integration
of the NSF and NASA ground and space based research, not to mention the
efforts of the Department of Energy and the Smithsonian Institution, will
mean that the current division of responsibilities between NSF and NASA
may no longer be the optimal model for the Federal government’s support
and management of astronomy.

Before the Administration addresses these
issues, we believe it is important to get an independent expert assessment
of the current disposition of management and operational responsibilities
for Federal support of the astronomical sciences.  The Administration
wants to ensure the program is optimally managed and effectively coordinated
across all agencies.  We are confident your report will help accomplish
these critical goals.

There is one final point I would like to
make.  Weíve heard concerns from the community that the establishment
of the review committee was a way of voicing the Administrationís displeasure
with the performance of the Federal governmentís astronomy programs. 
This is not the case.  The astronomy programs of NSF and NASA are
performing well.  However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. 
The trends I noted earlier indicate now is a good time to review how we
can best ensure a coordinated and effective astronomy program well into
the future.

Thank you for this opportunity to address
this important committee.  We will listen intently to what you have
to say as we consider how best to maintain the U.S. preeminence in astronomy

I would now like to turn to Marcus Peacock
for his comments before we answer any questions the committee may have.