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McMurdo Station, May 2009
Photo Credit: James Walker/Antarctic Photo Library
McMurdo Station in the middle of winter, May 2009. The U.S. Antarctic Program research station may see investments in energy initiatives if Congress approves the National Science Foundation's 2010 fiscal year budget request.

NSF budget 2010

Agency seeks 8.5 percent increase, with big boost for climate research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) External U.S. government site is seeking an 8.5 percent increase in funding for the 2010 fiscal year (FY) over the 2009 plan, bumping its total budget to $7 billion. That’s separate from the $3 billion the federal science agency received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 External U.S. government site, which raised its FY 2009 appropriation to $9.49 billion for one year.

The additional $555 million in FY 2010 would increase funding for major investments in “scientific infrastructure, research endeavors and human capital,” according to the NSF’s budget request to Congress.

Funding for research would jump a proposed 11 percent across all NSF directorates and offices, with $92 million for “high-risk, transformative research, reaching beyond today’s frontier into unexplored territory,” NSF Director Arden Bement External U.S. government site said in prepared remarks to Congress.

“The extraordinary outcomes that transformative research promises — new paradigms, entirely new fields, even a revolution in the way we conduct science and engineering — will fuel American innovation in today’s fast-paced, technology-intensive world,” he said.

Breaking News
The NSF just this week announced its first major investment External U.S. government site  under the ARRA — construction of the Alaska Region Research Vessel, a 242-foot research ship specifically designed to operate in seasonal Arctic sea ice and open waters surrounding Alaska. The eco-friendly ship design includes reduced underwater radiated noise levels for improved fisheries and acoustics research, as well as lower stack emissions for atmospheric research. It will carry more than 500 researchers and students annually, with an intended life of at least 30 years. 

For the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) External U.S. government site, which manages research programs in the Arctic and Antarctic, the NSF is seeking $516 million, nearly 10 percent over FY 2009. That includes $72.5 million for Antarctic science External U.S. government site and nearly a quarter of a billion dollars for Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics External U.S. government site. OPP is also slated to get $174 million from the ARRA.

OPP is proposing $22 million for investments in “energy security,” reporting to Congress in its budget request that “sustained operation of U.S. research facilities in Antarctica hinges on reducing the amount of fossil fuel that must be imported to the stations with the aid of icebreakers.

“The OPP will intensify its efforts during FY 2010 and beyond to improve the energy and operational efficiency of its remote polar research stations and camps in both polar regions through conservation and increased deployment of renewable energy sources,” the report said. “The efforts will range from installing more energy efficient windows and siding to buildings to installing new solar and wind power energy sources and buildings in Greenland and at the South Pole and McMurdo External U.S. government site stations.”

The NSF has also proposed another $5 million for re-supply improvements at McMurdo Station, including the construction of two two-million gallon fuel tanks that will double the fuel storage capacity at McMurdo in order to “mitigate against a failed ship-borne resupply.”

Under this $5 million for re-supply improvements, OPP would assess the “feasibility and benefits of shifting the McMurdo Station resupply effort from January to March, when sea ice conditions are normally less of an obstacle.” If the study offers a favorable conclusion, the new plan could take effect as early as FY 2011, assuming the funds are available, the report said.

Climate research under OPP looks to get a big boost with more than $65 million,expanding on approximately $57 million already supporting programs in this area. Antarctic science will get about $29 million of that research money. Funds for remote instrumentationin Antarctica would increase $3 million to a total of $7 million, and would include such equipment as gliders, oceanographic drifters, and sensors and systems for airborne research.

In Antarctic logistics, the NSF has requested funds to begin work on consolidating the three airfields External U.S. government site at McMurdo Station into one at Pegasus White Ice Runway. The other two airfields are the Sea Ice Runway, which is already being phased out, and Williams Air Field, which is also used for NASA’s Long Duration Balloon program External U.S. government site.

The proverbial “phone” bill at South Pole is expected to increase substantially as the station makes use of the “next-generation” of NASA satellites for communications, with much higher associated costs. [See related story: Keeping connected.] South Pole communicationscosts will increase by $5 million to a total of $7 million.

See the NSF FY2010 Budget Request Web page External U.S. government site for more information about the NSF and NSF/OPP budgets and plans.

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Curator: Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Winifred Reuning, Division of Polar Programs