Budget delays hit UAF projects

Arctic research vessel faces uncertain future

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2007

FAIRBANKS - Congressional budget delays have put several major research projects at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in limbo.

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Projects facing uncertain futures include a new $98 million arctic research vessel and efforts related to the upcoming International Polar Year.

"We're on the verge of missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of International Polar Year," said Buck Sharpton, UAF vice chancellor of research.

The outgoing Republican-led Congress failed to approve a budget for the current fiscal year for anything but defense and homeland security. A stopgap measure is keeping budgets for most federal agencies at last year's levels.

That means no additional funding until the new Democrat-led Congress reaches an agreement on the $463.5 billion spending bill.

The National Science Foundation is among the agencies hit hardest, working with roughly $400 million less than requested for this year. The agency is the funding source for about 20 percent of all federally supported research conducted by U.S. universities and the largest single source of research funding at UAF.

"The outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year remains highly uncertain," NSF Director Arden L. Bement Jr. said in a statement. "NSF may be unable to fund a number of activities planned for this fiscal year."

In the last fiscal year, the agency funded $23.6 million of research at UAF, nearly twice as much as any other federal or state agency. NSF funds account for more than 25 percent of all the federal research money UAF gets annually.

The science foundation was chosen to implement U.S. involvement in the International Polar Year, a two-year scientific initiative aimed at focusing attention on polar science. The agency has requested $61.5 million for 2007 to fund IPY research and programs across the nation. That request has yet to be approved by Congress.

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