Yesterday, Congressman José E. Serrano sent the following letter to the National Science Foundation expressing his deep concerns about the potential closure of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
September 18, 2007
Dr. Arden Bement
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230
Dear Dr. Bement:
I am writing to express my concern over the National Science Foundation’s current and future intentions for the Arecibo Observatory located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. I strongly believe that Arecibo still has a vital role to play in the U.S. and worldwide scientific community.
As you know, Arecibo Observatory has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of radio astronomy research and atmospheric sciences. Scientists from around the globe use Arecibo’s facilities to further research in everything from astrophysics to the atmospheric sciences. There have been several new discoveries in the past year alone, which continue to justify the importance and necessity of the Arecibo Observatory. The potential loss of this device would not just be a blow to Puerto Rico, but to the scientific community at-large.
Additionally, Arecibo plays an important role in the local Puerto Rican economy, providing jobs to members of the surrounding community. It also has an important public relations mission as well, with more than 120,000 visitors, including 25,000 schoolchildren, coming to the facility on an annual basis. At a time when the United States is trying to promote science-related career opportunities to people of color, it is seems unwise to move to close a facility that serves as such an important resource to more than 4 million Latinos in the United States.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have helped increase NSF’s major facilities and construction budget by $50 million dollars since 2004. Moreover, Congress has stated its intention to continue this trend. Because of this, I do not understand why the proposal to build new observatories must come at the expense of those that continue to provide important and relevant information to the scientific community. Given Congress’ interest in renewing our nation’s scientific research capabilities, we should be expanding our facilities, rather than closing them.
It is my hope that you will reconsider this decision. However, please be assured that I will do everything in my power to ensure that federal funding does not fall below the critical level that would force the Arecibo Observatory to close. I look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.
José E. Serrano
Member of Congress