Efforts of AAG and Others Defeat Coburn Amendment

The omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014 that was signed into law by President Obama on January 17 was widely hailed as a rare departure from the recent cycle of federal budget battles. The legislation received significant bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and headed off any chance of a government shutdown until at least October.

Significantly for geographers and the wider social science community, the bill does not contain the so-called “Coburn Amendment,” which passed in March 2013 and prevented the National Science Foundation (NSF) from funding political science studies other than research “certified as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.” Enactment of the Coburn Amendment prompted the AAG to work with our friends at the American Political Science Association (APSA) and many others in the science and higher education communities to promote the importance of political and social science research, and urge Congress to undo the restrictions.

Over the last several months, we at the AAG have worked closely with the APSA (see letter: https://www.aag.org/galleries/govt-relations/Thank_you_letter_to_AAG.pdf), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA), the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), and many other key organizations in an effort to undo the damage caused by the Coburn Amendment and to prevent the possibility of wider-reaching restrictions blocking funding for the social sciences broadly. As part of these efforts, the AAG has:

  • Adopted an AAG Council resolution opposing the Coburn Amendment
  • Educated members and others through an interactive page on the AAG website (https://www.aag.org/cs/social_science_funding) about threats to federal research funding
  • Sent multiple calls to action to all AAG members detailing concerns related to sequestration and issues such as the Coburn Amendment
  • Coordinated closely with the APSA agenda, per their request, in our response to the Coburn Amendment
  • Signed onto numerous letters, including a AAAS-organized letter urging the House Science Committee to protect the integrity of the merit-review process for all disciplines, including the social and behavioral sciences; and a CNSF-organized letter urging the House Science Committee to fully fund programs that support social science research

While we are delighted that the recently-passed omnibus spending bill does not contain the Coburn Amendment or any related restrictions on the social and behavioral sciences, we recognize that we must remain vigilant to protect this funding in the coming months. As part of these efforts, we urge AAG members to contact your Senators and Representative to express your views about federal funding for the social sciences.

The omnibus bill also marked a win for National Science Foundation (NSF) funding overall. The Foundation will receive $7.17 billion for FY 2014, which represents a 4.2 percent increase when accounting for the sequestration cuts that were applied last year.

The links below provide information about contacting members of Congress through the phone or internet. AAG members may also wish to use social media, such as Twitter or Facebook, to share their perspectives with elected officials, friends, colleagues, and the wider community.

Contact information for all U.S. Senators can be found at: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

You can locate your member of the House of Representatives by going to: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact John Wertman, the AAG’s Senior Program Manager for Government Relations, at jwertman [at] aag [dot] org, or Doug Richardson, AAG Executive Director, at drichardson [at] aag [dot] org.