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Senate Passes Budget With Full Funding for James Webb Space Telescope

November 1, 2011

Artist's conception of James Webb.

The Senate today passed its Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) 2012 Appropriations Bill, which includes full funding for the embattled James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble successor that will be run largely out of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STscI) in Baltimore. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a longtime science advocate, chairs the CJS Subcommittee and has been pushing for the Webb since Congress proposed cutting its funding in July.

“We are creating the building blocks that we need for a smarter America,” Mikulski said in a press release. “Our nation is in an amazing race—the race for discovery and new knowledge, the race to remain competitive. This bill includes full funding of the James Webb Telescope to achieve a 2018 launch. The Webb Telescope supports 1,200 jobs and 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 new products and new jobs.”

The bill includes $5.1 billion for science at NASA—$530 million of it for the James Webb—which is almost $2 million more than in 2011. It also includes $6.7 billion for the National Science Foundation, $7.9 billion for the FBI, and $2.2 billion for the Drug Enforcement Agency, among many other things.

“We faced two very pressing funding challenges that are critical to lives and safety—funding for the next generation of weather satellites and funding to safely guard the nation’s growing prison population,” Mikulski said. “We chose to meet those obligations, as well as fund other programs directly related to creating jobs, saving lives and protecting our citizens, but in doing so other programs we have always supported in CJS had to be reduced or cut altogether.” In total, the bill cut 30 programs that were supported in 2011′s CJS bill.

At a press conference at the Maryland Science Center last week, Mikulski stressed the CJS’ three-pronged approach to their budget this year: prioritizing according to “what we can do, what we should do, and what we would like to do.” This year, she said, things that fit into the last category were put on hold.

Now that the bill has passed, the Senate and House versions of the budget must be reconciled. Mikulski last week said she hopes to have the bill signed into law by Thanksgiving.

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