Congress avoids default, reopens government
Two-week shutdown delayed A&M research
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 00:10
The U.S. Congress marked the short-term end to a stalemate over differing positions on the 2013-2014 fiscal year during 11th-hour talks Wednesday, ending the shutdown that deadlocked Washington for more than two weeks.
The Senate and House agreed to a deal that would lift both the partial shutdown and raise the U.S. debt ceiling for the next several months, averting possible wide-spread economic implications from a U.S. loan default.
However, damage has already been done for many research institutions across the United States, including those at Texas A&M.
Nicholas Suntzeff, professor of physics and astronomy, said it will be a difficult process for the University staff to bring the system back to normal.
“There is a lot of work that will have to be done here at the University to re-establish the funding flows and the submission of new grants,” Suntzeff said. “This will add a new burden to the University staff who is already overworked.”
Doug Woods, department head of psychology, said some federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation were unable to process his department’s grants and award money during the government shutdown, which caused a startup delay.
“Many of the grants that were supposed to be viewed at this time of year didn’t get viewed,” Woods said.
Thomas McKnight, professor and interim department head of biology, said several professors and scientists from other countries were unable to travel to the U.S. to aid in research during the shutdown, because they were having trouble
Woods said he and his colleagues had become increasingly frustrated with the inability to move forward in research.
McKnight said the University instructed professors and research officials to continue submitting grant proposals until the government
shutdown ended, but newer projects were halted.
“In situations like that, research starts to lose people and expertise,” McKnight said.
Suntzeff said science at Texas A&M and around the country still faces the sequestration of discretionary funding, which hits science hard.
“Congress, both the GOP and the Democrats, see the need for government support of basic research because private industry, except in a few cases, is not able to fund such research given the short term economic goals demanded by the way our financial system works,” Suntzeff said. “There is bipartisan support for continued strong funding of science, but understanding that given the economic crisis in the U.S., science funding too must share some of the budget slowdowns.”
The congressional deal agreed upon late last night provides funding for the U.S. government until Jan. 15.