Gardner to Solar Observatory: Relocate to Colorado Even Though I Want to Cut Your Budget
In apparent response to the environmental groups protesting his Greeley and Fort Collins offices, Cory Gardner put out a press release touting his support of solar research and announcing he would go look at big windmills on the plains.
His release links to a letter signed by the entire Colorado Congressional delegation to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, asking that they relocate the National Solar Observatory (NSO) headquarters to Boulder, one of two finalists in AURA's search.
Colorado's congressional delegation has united in an effort to convince the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy to locate their solar headquarters in Boulder.Colorado's four Republican and three Democratic U.S. House members and two Democratic senators and Gov. John Hickenlooper sent the association a letter Thursday encouraging them to pick Colorado for their National Solar Observatory headquarters.
What Gardner's press release failed to mention is that the NSO is funded primarily by the National Science Foundation and also receives many large grants from NASA. Gardner has repeatedly supported GOP efforts to gut both programs' budgets to fund larger tax cuts for the oil industry and the nations' wealthiest citizens.
According to NSO's annual report, of its $11 million FY2011 budget, it expected to receive approximately $9.7 million from the NSF (Lines 1, 4, and 7 in chart to the left), in addition to more than $17 million for construction of it's Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST). In grant funding for research projects through the NSO, NSF was expected to provide an additional $150,000 and NASA would provide more than $2.7 million over several multi-year grants. (Not to mention the other funding through the Air Force's research programs)
The NSO is an important national asset for fantastic scientific discoveries. The research is vital to defense programs, weather prediction, space discovery, and the future of solar energy. It would truly be an honor for the program to be headquartered in Colorado.
It's just a little disingenuous for Gardner to claim he supports it because he has asked it to relocate, when he and the GOP voted to provide the NSO's primary funder with significantly fewer resources. Admittedly, the exact effect of NSF cuts on the NSO are unknown, but when you cut the primary funder of a program, the budget constraints are likely to trickle down.
The first continuing resolution for FY11 that Gardner supported (H.R.1) would have funded the NSF at levels $825 million lower than requested for the year, and a full $362 million lower than in FY2010. That same bill cut NASA's budget by $578m from the request and $303m compared to FY2010. Fortunately those cuts did not become law.
The final continuing resolution cut $473 million from the NSF's request and $53 million compared to FY2010. NASA's budget was cut by $175 million compared to last year. These budget levels were lower than would be preferable, but certainly better than the earlier plan that Gardner supported. And of course, he said he didn't vote for this bill because it "didn't cut enough."
How much would he have liked to cut NSF's budget before he requested a major facility be relocated to Colorado? Let be a little clearer here for Rep. Gardner: When you claim to support a research program by making demands of it when you also seek to slash its funding, that's called hypocrisy.