Leaders of academic research institutions across the nation urged Congress on Tuesday to take action to head off automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect next month.
Members of ScienceWorksForU.S., an awareness project formed by several national university organizations, said in a written statement that the across-the-board cuts, a process known as sequestration, would have a devastating effect on federal support for university research.
The group estimated that if sequestration goes forward, federal research spending would be trimmed by more than $12-billion in 2013 and by nearly $95-billion over the next nine years—a cut they said the nation's economy cannot afford.
In its statement to Congress, the group—composed of members of the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and the Science Coalition—said that universities conduct a majority of basic scientific and medical research in the United States and, "as such, are ground zero for the discovery and innovation that fuels the economy."
"If we pull back now from investing in our future, we will lose ground that will be difficult—if not impossible—to regain," Stephen R. Forrest, vice president for research at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said in the statement.
The group plans to release video editorials from leaders in academic research over the next month in an attempt to impress upon lawmakers the importance of finding solutions to the nation's deficit.
The automatic cuts, required under a 2011 law Congress passed to force down the size of the federal budget deficit, would slash some $1.2-trillion over a decade from domestic programs and defense. The first installment was scheduled to kick in last month, but Congress acted on New Year's Day to avert immediate cuts.
That deal only postponed the deadline, however, to March 1.
President Obama also called on lawmakers on Tuesday to delay the sequester for a few more months. Passing a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms now would give lawmakers more time to negotiate a more permanent budget solution, he said during a news briefing.
"There is no reason that the jobs of thousands of Americans who work in national security or education or clean energy, not to mention the growth of the entire economy, should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Washington couldn't come together to eliminate a few special-interest tax loopholes," Mr. Obama said.