Update: Resumption of U.S. Antarctic Program Operating Season
With the partial government shutdown now ended, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will restore the planned 2013-14 austral summer U. S. Antarctic Program (USAP) activities to the maximum extent possible. NSF is responsible for managing and coordinating the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) on behalf of the nation. This includes providing support personnel and facilities and coordinating transportation and other logistics for scientific research.
Due to the lack of availability of funds, NSF directed all support elements of the USAP to implement an orderly transition toward “caretaker status” for research stations, ships and other assets. The agency was required to take this step in accordance with the Antideficiency Act.
In caretaker status, the USAP is staffed at a minimal level to ensure safety of life and preserve property at each of the three primary research stations, ships and associated research facilities. All field and research activities not essential to life safety and preservation of property are suspended.
Initial actions toward caretaker status were implemented in recent days. Planned deployments of scientific and support staff were either disrupted or cancelled, and in some cases personnel were removed from Antarctica. With funding in place under a continuing resolution, NSF is directing all efforts towards an orderly resumption of seasonal activities.
Over the coming days, NSF will work with the USAP support organizations and researchers to recover planned research and operations activities to the extent possible. It must be understood that due to seasonally dependent windows and logistic limitations, certain research and operations activities may be deferred.
All critical logistics and support systems have and will remain operational during the recovery phase of operations. NSF intends to continue to operate the USAP air link between Christchurch, New Zealand and McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and will continue plans for ship resupply of bulk cargo, fuel and icebreaking.
NSF remains committed to protecting the safety and health of its deployed personnel and to its stewardship of the USAP as Antarctic operations are restored. Additional guidance and instructions for USAP researchers and personnel will be provided through the U.S. Antarctic Program web portal in the near future.
To our U.S. Antarctic Program community:
As of midnight, Sept. 30, 2013 several U.S. government operations have entered a period of shutdown due to lack of funding. Although the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be closed for routine operations until further notice, we remain committed to protecting the safety and health of our deployed personnel in Antarctica and the Arctic. NSF has a small number of “excepted” employees who will remain on the job expressly to ensure the safety of personnel and property in the Polar Regions.
Activities will be continued this week to resume flight operations to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and at no time will we compromise our ability to access our personnel for safety and continue operations as appropriate. We will continue to house, feed, and provide care for our personnel currently in Antarctica without exception.
We are hopeful that this situation is resolved with limited disruption to the critical research our nation is performing in the Antarctic and to our cooperative commitments to the international community of Antarctic programs, upon which the Antarctic Treaty was founded.
Dr. Kelly K. Falkner