House VA/HUD Action on NASA FY 2001 Budget On June 7, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up H.R. 4635, the FY 2001 VA/HUD appropriations bill. Under the bill, NASA would receive $13,713.6 million, an increase of 0.8 percent over the agency's FY 2000 budget, but 2.3 percent less than the Administration's FY 2001 request. Below are the Committee's recommendations for selected accounts within NASA, and related quotes from its report (H. Rpt. 106-674). Space science and life and microgravity science would see substantial increases over current funding. The human space flight account would increase by 0.2 percent as requested, while Earth science funding would drop by 2.6 percent, also as requested.
HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT: This account would receive $5,499.9 million, equal to the budget request and $12.0 million (0.2%) more than FY 2000 funding. The report states, "This appropriation provides for human space flight activities, including development of the international space station and operation of the space shuttle. This account also includes support of planned cooperative activities with Russia, upgrades to the performance and safety of the space shuttle, and required construction projects in direct support of the space station and space shuttle programs."
SPACE SCIENCE: This account would receive $2,378.8 million. This is $20.0 million (0.8%) less than the request, but $186.0 million (8.5%) over current funding. According to the report, "The Committee notes that the 'Living with a Star' program is a new start in fiscal year 2001, and while the cost is initially quite low, the costs escalate rapidly to $64,000,000 in 2002 and balloon to $177,000,000 by 2005. The Committee is concerned with the manner in which NASA is administering the program and believes the NASA Inspector General should review the program at this time to ensure that contract awards are made only after full and open competition. Pending completion of this review, the Committee recommends no funding for the program in fiscal year 2001."
LIFE AND MICROGRAVITY SCIENCES AND APPLICATIONS: The committee would provide $329.0 million for this account. This is $25.0 million (8.2%) greater than requested, and $54.3 million (19.8%) greater than current funding. According to the report, "The increase is for NASA to fund ground-based investigators to prepare for space flight opportunities, particularly in the area of life sciences. The Committee has previously expressed concern for a lack of dedicated life and microgravity research missions being flown on shuttle during assembly of the International Space Station. The lack of manifested flight opportunities, along with schedule delays in station assembly, is making research flight opportunities both unpredictable and unreliable. The lack of flight opportunities is not only leading to a backlog of critical research, but is also having harmful effects on the long-term health of the academic and commercial communities who are intended to be the primary users of the space station." The Committee calls for a report by January 2001 describing microgravity and life science research opportunities on the shuttle until the space station reaches full capability.
EARTH SCIENCES: The Committee recommendation for this account is $1,405.8 million, equal to the request. This amount is $37.6 million (2.6%) less than FY 2000 funding. "The Committee is aware of the need for NASA to obtain global wind profile data to improve the understanding of the climate. The Committee encourages NASA to obtain this data through purchase from commercial sources."
ACADEMIC PROGRAMS: This account would receive $105.4 million, an increase of $5.4 million (5.4%) over the request. The additional $5.4 million is designated for the EPSCoR program, returning it to the FY 2000 funding level of $10.0 million.
GENERAL PROVISIONS: The report includes a provision prohibiting "the expenditure of funds for joint NASA and Air Force research programs. The Committee directs NASA to terminate all joint aeronautics and space related research programs with the United States Air Force. In addition, the Committee directs NASA to terminate participation with the AF-NASA Council on Aeronautics and the AFSPC-NRO-NASA Partnership Council."
RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS: The report contains several paragraphs addressing "continuing concerns within the research community about NASA support for Research and Analysis (R&A) activities." It states, "The Research and Analysis program contributes directly to NASA's mandate to engage in effective science and provides the clear scientific goals and questions which define our nation's space exploration missions. The Committee is concerned that shortfalls in R&A degrade the public return from more visible and expensive flight programs, while diminishing science capability, flexibility and overall competitiveness within space science and technology fields. Program support costs and internal 'taxes' are also eroding the very marginal increases in these accounts." The report chides NASA for not "enthusiastically" embracing 1998 NRC recommendations for strengthening research and data analysis, "despite their clear potential for improving the effectiveness of NASA's flight programs..." Thus the Committee "directs NASA to conduct a joint study with the National Research Council and the National Academy of Public Administration on the health and resilience of R&A and DA," to include "specific guidance on optimal funding levels," due by March 2001.
INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC IN ARMS REGULATION: Also in the report, under the section providing funding for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the committee included language addressing concerns over restrictive satellite technology export regulations, which affect some NASA and university-based research: "Public Law 105-261 transferred responsibility for satellite technology export licensing from the Department of Commerce to the Department of State as part of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). An unfortunate and unintended consequence of that move has been that university- based fundamental science and engineering research, widely disseminated and unclassified, has become subject to overly restrictive and inconsistent ITAR direction. The result has been critical delays in NASA-funded research projects and has forced some universities to forego participation in such projects. Such research traditionally has been excluded from export controls under the fundamental research exception. The Committee finds the current situation to be unacceptable and directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy Director, in consultation with the NASA Administrator and the Secretary of State, to expeditiously issue clarification of ITAR that ensures that university collaborations and exchanges vital to the continued success of federally-funded research are allowed to continue in a manner consistent with the long-standing fundamental research exception."
Audrey T. Leath