Federal budget sequestration may affect University, affiliates

By Jasper Ryckman ’15

With the possibility of a federal budget sequestration taking effect March 1, the University is preparing for what may be large, across-the-board cuts to its federal funding.

“Princeton has been participating in efforts with other research universities to argue strongly against the cuts to research and education that would occur under a sequester, and to present the case for robust investment in these areas and encourage a long-term, balanced solution to the nation’s deficit,” University spokesperson Martin Mbugua said in a recent statement.

Though the University recognizes that sequestration poses a threat to certain types of funding, it is not clear what precise impact the sequestration would have on current research initiatives at Princeton. Much will depend on how agencies implement cuts and how long the sequester remains in effect.

“The University has advised its researchers that there are plausible scenarios under which grants could be scaled back, and that uncertainty and tight budgets may be the reality for the foreseeable future,” Mbugua said.

The sequestration would cut more than $1 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years. According to CNN, over half of the cuts would target military spending, while the remainder would cut funding to other domestic agencies and services, such as the FBI, federal courts, and scientific research.

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), which receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, said in a recent statement that it has been advised that its “budget will be reduced due to cuts imposed as a result of the combined effects of a Congressional sequestration and adherence to the President’s recommendation for the 2013 budget.”

PPPL Director of Communications Kitta MacPherson said that the laboratory hopes to avoid forced layoffs and furloughs. “Based on discussion with the Department of Energy, we have decided not to take any actions until we receive further guidance,” she said.

An official at the Department of Commerce expects that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — which provides funding to Princeton’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) —  will have to furlough up to 2,600 NOAA employees, leave about 2,700 positions unfilled, and reduce the number of contractors by about 1,400. How these changes would impact the GFDL is not yet known.

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