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Casey DreierSeptember 21, 2012

The OMB Didn't See This Coming

We ran a successful campaign to influence those who create NASA's budget

A few weeks ago, we asked our members and other supporters to join us in writing staff members in the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to request them to restore funding to NASA’s planetary science program. We honestly weren’t sure what type of response we’d get. Most reasonable people are not familiar with the OMB or OSTP and don’t need to be. We weren’t writing representatives or the president. The recipients are people without recognizable names or faces.

In ten days we sent over seventeen-thousand emails.

I don’t have a long history of directing email campaigns to administrative offices, but this seems pretty good to me.

The Planetary Society and I want to extend a huge thanks to everyone who took the time to write their thoughts and send them along to the people who control NASA’s funding priorities. It’s a great sign that people are engaged and excited about NASA’s planetary exploration program and are willing to engage with their public servants on this issue.

Shameless plug alert: At this point, I should mention that we are currently raising money here at the Planetary Society to help fund our advocacy efforts in Washington this year. It’s expensive to send our Bill Nye and other staff for that crucial face-to-face time. Could you help us out and chip in a few bucks?

We’ve heard from sources in Washington to “keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s working.”

In addition to sending the emails, we printed out all the names from our signatories and faxed and (snail) mailed them along with a cover letter from Bill Nye to Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of the OMB, and John Holdren, the President’s Science Adviser. This will help ensure that every person who sent a message is recognized.

This also was a great success in that we successfully coordinated with other influential organizations: the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences and the American Geophysical Union. They reached out to their members at the same time as us and helped to generated thousands of additional messages. It was another great example of the power of working together for a common goal.

So, do we have a sense of if this work is achieving anything?

Yes! We’ve heard from sources in Washington to “keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s working.”

This is undeniably great news, but nothing is set in stone yet. With the lack of a 2013 budget from Congress and the very real threat of sequestration in January, destructive cuts to NASA’s planetary science program are still very real.

We’re continuing the fight this fall. In October, Bill Nye and other staff members from the Planetary Society will make further visits to Washington, D.C., to meet with key people in the government. We are also working on another letter-writing campaign that we’ll need your help with (details soon). More actions are coming down the pipeline. We’ll let you know the latest of this rapidly changing situation as we figure it out.

Thanks again to everyone who has written, donated, told their friends, or contacted their representatives about this. We’re truly seeing the power of our organization in action. Even as a member (and now staff) I find it amazing, there’s really nothing else quite like the Planetary Society.

Read more: Space Policy, Planetary Society Political Advocacy

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Casey Dreier

Director of Space Policy for The Planetary Society
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