Officials at the National Science Foundation (NSF)--working cooperatively with the agency's private-sector, military and interagency partners--are restoring field science supported by the U.S. Antarctic Program, the nation's research program on the southernmost continent, to the maximum extent possible, following the October federal government shutdown.
NSF, which has a Presidential mandate to manage the U.S. Antarctic Program, was required to suspend most of its activities in Antarctica during the recent 16-day partial shutdown and move towards a reduced operations, or "caretaker" status at each of the three U.S. Antarctic stations, until federal funding could be restored.
In mid-October, after a Continuing Resolution was approved to keep the government running until mid-January, NSF and its U.S. Antarctic Program partners began examining the planned research schedule to see how much could still be accomplished by the end of the field season, in February of 2014, while simultaneously ramping back up the complex logistical framework needed to support the science.
The 16-day interruption caused some early-season research in the vicinity of McMurdo Station to be deferred--either because of the complexity of the logistics needed to support the science or because the research itself was planned for a short and specific duration--and also delayed preparations for research scheduled to take place later in the season. Research that was deferred this season, but that will be supported next year, will displace new starts from the proposals currently in review.
Despite the setbacks, a cooperative effort among NSF; the agency's operations and research support contractor, Lockheed Martin; the Department of Defense, which provides critical airlift and other support to the program; and other U.S. agencies has allowed NSF to develop a schedule for deploying researchers to recover the tempo of research to the extent possible.
|Contact: Peter West|
National Science Foundation