Significant advances have been made in fusion science, and a point has been reached when we need to decide if the United States is ready to begin a burning plasma experiment. A burning plasmaaEURO"in which at least 50 percent of the energy to drive the fusion reaction is generated internallyaEURO"is an essential step to reach the goal of fusion power generation. The Burning Plasma Assessment Committee was formed to provide advice on this decision. The committee concluded that there is high confidence in the readiness to proceed with the burning plasma step. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), with the United States as a significant partner, was the best choice. Once a commitment to ITER is made, fulfilling it should become the highest priority of the U.S. fusion research program. A funding trajectory is required that both captures the benefits of joining ITER and retains a strong scientific focus on the long-range goals of the program. Addition of the ITER project will require that the content, scope, and level of U.S. fusion activity be defined by program balancing through a priority-setting process initiated by the Office of Fusion Energy Science.