According to Michael S. Lubell’s July 12 blog post, the House was poised to eliminate funding for the James Webb Space Telescope. Well, during a 4 ½-hour markup of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee rejected an attempt to restore that funding – the Administration request is $373.7 million. The CJS subcommittee that marked up the bill on July 7 eliminated funding for the project, charging NASA with mismanagement.
According to its report:
“The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Independent Comprehensive Review Panel revealed chronic and deeply rooted management problems in the JWST project. These issues led to the project cost being underestimated by as much as $1,400,000,000 relative to the most recent baseline, and the budget could continue to rise depending on the final launch date determination. Although JWST is a particularly serious example, significant cost overruns are commonplace at NASA, and the Committee believes that the underlying causes will never be fully addressed if the Congress does not establish clear consequences for failing to meet budget and schedule expectations. The Committee recommendation provides no funding for JWST in fiscal year 2012.”
During the full Committee markup, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) offered an amendment to restore $200 million in funding for the project by taking it from NASA’s Cross Agency Support budget, for which the bill allocated approximately $3 billion.
Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated.
CJS Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) alleged that NASA had “been hiding costs” associated with the telescope and cited a new finding by the Government Accountability Office, which estimated the telescope’s cost at $7.8 billion. Later, Wolf said NASA had rushed its planning for the telescope and cited a series of cost escalations.
Despite the appearance of doom and gloom, there is still hope for JWST.
After learning of the House Subcommittee’s actions on the July 7, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement:
“Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies passed a bill that would terminate the James Webb Space Telescope, kill 2,000 jobs nationwide and stall scientific progress and discovery. It was a shortsighted and misguided move.”
“The Webb Telescope will lead to the kind of innovation and discovery that have made America great. It will inspire America’s next generation of scientists and innovators that will have the new ideas that lead to the new jobs in our new economy.”
“The Administration must step in and fight for the James Webb Telescope.”
We understand that Chairman Wolf is prepared to work behind the scene to help restore funding for the telescope, and that he took a hard line publically on the project for political reasons. We can only hope.
P.S. Ira Flatow (ScienceFriday.com) did a piece on the JWST funding cut last Friday. He hosted APS member Dr. Michael Turner, Director and Rauner Distinguished Service Professor, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics , University of Chicago. You can find the archive of the podcast here.