FIGURE 5.1 Total NSF, MPS, and AST funding, FY 1990-1999, in 1997 dollars. Top curve is the total NSF R&RA budget (R. Konkel, from NSF Congressional Budget Summary) and does not include construction. Lower curves are for the MPS Directorate and the AST, also excluding construction (MRE) funding; these lines represent the essential “operating” budgets of the Mathematics and Physical Sciences Directorate and the Division of Astronomical Sciences.

Comparing the last three years of the reporting period to the first three years, NSF R&RA increased approximately 15 percent relative to inflation, the MPS line (without MRE) increased 9 percent, and AST decreased 5 percent. Part of this relative change is due to small increments to the AST budget early in the decade for infrastructure, and a large part is due to the creation of new R&RA programs and new priorities at NSF including the MRE construction line, which is separate from MPS or AST. Note that some funding for astrophysics, particularly for theory, atomic and molecular physics, submillimeter and IR astronomy at the South Pole, and solar physics, comes from outside the AST budget (primarily from the NSF MPS, OPP (Office of Polar Programs), and ATM (Division of Atmospheric Sciences). Table 5.2 shows the detailed funding of these other areas. Astronomy as a whole at the NSF has benefited significantly from the MRE program as detailed below, but the base NSF “operating” budget for astronomy has declined, relative to other components of the NSF.

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