The US community faces a daunting task. Each generation of facilities is getting more expensive and harder to build. Operational costs are mounting. Meanwhile, the research budgets of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA have remained more or less flat since the 1990s (see ‘Astronomical costs’). Hard decisions have been made to close old but still-productive telescopes, which has proved insufficient to pay for new ones. And these pressures will only get worse as more big projects come online.