My fiscal cliff letter to congress

December 6, 2012
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(This article was originally published at BioStatMatt » statistics, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

The ASA recently sent out an email asking its members to contact their representatives in congress to urge them to avoid the 8.2% cuts to NIH, NSF, and federal statistical agencies. I had been meaning to do this, but felt that the ASA letter template was too long. Here is the edited version that I sent to Rep. Blackburn, Sen. Alexander, and Sen. Corker:

I am writing to urge you to help avoid the pending 8.2% budget cuts to the NIH, NSF, and federal statistical agencies. I feel that these cuts would be very harmful to the U.S. research infrastructure. These cuts are certain to cause talented young scientists to be driven from research by the disruption to their training and lack of jobs. Funding for research is not the cause of the nation's debt, and slashing research budgets will compromise our future. In closing, I respectfully request that you work with your colleagues to stop these pending budget cuts from taking effect in January.

Here is the original message:

I am writing to urge you to work with your fellow members of Congress and the president to ensure the pending across-the-board budget cuts do not take effect. The 8.2% budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the federal statistical agencies would be very harmful to the U.S. research and statistical data infrastructure.

The cuts to NSF and NIH would mean fewer grants at a time when a high proportion of highly rated proposals already go unfunded. This will affect all areas of research and prevent critical projects from being completed. Labs may be forced to close, resulting in layoffs of tens of thousands of researchers. It will take generations to recover the lost talent, as highly trained and dedicated young scientists and engineers will be driven from science by the disruption to their training and lack of jobs. The damage to our nation's health, security, and international competitiveness will be devastating.

The cuts to the statistical agencies could affect our decision making and ultimately cost the taxpayer more money. Data from the federal statistical agencies facilitate i) economic growth and development, ii) smart and efficient government, and iii) the saving of taxpayer money. As an example of the third point, extensive research, testing, and planning are under way now for the 2020 Decennial Census. The GAO has said that, unless major design changes are made, the 2020 Decennial Census could cost the American taxpayer $17 billion more than the 2010 Census. Reducing the U.S. Census Bureau budget could therefore undermine the critical 2020 Decennial Census cost-cutting work now being done.

Funding for research and statistical data is not the cause of the nation's debt, and slashing research budgets will compromise our future. In closing, I respectfully request that you work with your colleagues to stop the pending across-the-board budget cuts from taking effect in January. Federal investment is essential to fund the kind of critical research needed to develop new treatments for debilitating and costly illnesses, foster innovation in engineering, and address the increased demand for better nutrition. We must safeguard and sustain this essential public-private partnership that keeps our nation globally competitive and promotes economic growth and job creation.



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