Senate FY 2001 Appropriations Bill for NASA As reported in FYI #110, Senate appropriators finally passed their FY 2001 VA/HUD funding bill on September 13. FYI #110 lays out the context and provides details on the NSF portion of the bill. Below are details of the NASA portion.
Under the Senate Committee's bill, NASA would receive a total of $13,844.0 million. This represents a decrease of 1.4 percent from the Administration's FY 2001 request, but a 1.7 percent increase over FY 2000 funding. The House recommended $13,713.6 million. The Committee report has some stern words for the cost and schedule overruns for the space station, and reduces funding for Human Space Flight below both current-year funding and the request. Although expressing some concern over lessons learned from the recent Mars mission failures, the Committee is generally supportive of NASA's space science programs and would increase funding for the Science, Aeronautics and Technology (SAT) account over the current-year level, although not as much as requested.
Neither the bill text nor the report language spell out specific funding amounts for Space Science, Earth Science, Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications, or the International Space Station. However, the report has extensive language on all these areas. Selected portions of the report (Sen. Report 106- 410) are highlighted below.
The report calls the International Space Station (ISS) "the current centerpiece of NASA's mission...that when complete in 2005-2006 will represent the most sophisticated long-duration habitable microgravity research laboratory in space." However, it adds that "the Committee remains very concerned by cost overruns and unrealistic budgeting by NASA, especially those associated with the development and construction of the International Space Station." It cites a 1998 independent cost assessment and validation report which estimated the final ISS cost at $24.7 billion instead of NASA's estimate of $17.4 billion and states, "many of these higher costs were unfairly borne through budget reductions in other NASA programs and activities, most particularly programs and activities designed to increase our understanding of the space and earth sciences."
HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT: The Committee would provide $5,400.0 million for Human Space Flight, 1.8 percent less than the request and 1.6 percent less than FY 2000 funding. The House would provide $5,499.9 million. This account includes funding for the space station and space shuttle.
International Space Station: Although the committee reiterates its strong support for the space station, "nevertheless," the report says, "a reduction of funding is appropriate because of the program's history of delays and overruns that mean many activities and associated costs will be pushed into subsequent fiscal years." The Committee continues to have concerns over Russia's fulfilment of its commitments, but "is sensitive to the difficult issues that face Russia as it attempts to make the transition from communism to a more democratic and commercial society." The Committee "is also troubled over NASA's failure to provide adequate information" on the station's operational costs, and directs NASA to develop, for public comment, a ten-year plan for "all research efforts, activities, and missions related to the ISS, including operational needs." Additionally, it calls for a plan identifying universities "that will coordinate with NASA for the individual science disciplines that will be the focus of research" when the station is completed.
SCIENCE, AERONAUTICS AND TECHNOLOGY: The Committee would provide $5,837.0 million, a decrease of 1.6 percent from the request, but 4.6 percent over FY 2000 funding. The House would provide $5,606.7 million. This account includes funding for Space Science, Earth Science, and Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications, as well as NASA's Academic Programs.
Space Science: The report is supportive of the space science program. It concurs with the report of an independent assessment team that, in the wake of the two Mars mission failures, "acknowledged the value of the Mars program as well as the viability of the 'faster, better, cheaper' philosophy." Cognizant of the inherent risk of failures, the Committee adds that "any failure must be smart failure, not stupid failure." It recognizes that the recommendations of the Mars program assessment team "may be applied throughout the Space Science enterprise in order to minimize the possibility of future mission failures," and asks for a five-year profile of the resulting additional costs.
The Committee provides the full $20.0 million request for NASA's "Living with a Star" initiative to study the sun. It "fully supports NASA's goal to develop new long-term partnerships, particularly with university laboratories throughout the country." It urges competitive selection of 75 percent of space science advanced technology funding, but requires a National Academy of Sciences review of whether this would cause a loss of "'core competencies' at the NASA field centers." NASA "is directed to fully fund all upgrades" to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The Committee adds $2.5 million to the HST project for a Composites Technology Institute in Bridgeport, WV, and argues that additional HST servicing expenses due to shuttle delays should be allocated to the Human Space Flight account.
Earth Science: The report says, "The Committee remains troubled by the lack of a follow-on strategy for the next generation of earth science satellites," and recommends an increase of $2.5 million for follow-on studies by the National Academy of Sciences. In addition, it orders the Office of Earth Science to devise a flight program "similar to the space science effort in explorer, discovery and parallel class missions." It provides $1.5 million for studies on Landsat-7 data purchase; $2.0 million for technology development work on a global precipitation mission; $2.0 million for technology development work on a global earthquake satellite; $50.0 million for technology development work on an NPP mission; and $5.0 million for studies on a next generation data system, while urging some re-use of the existing system. The report provides $40.0 million "above the request to ensure delivery of a full scale EOSDIS Core System."
The Committee provides an additional $20.0 million "to continue commercial data purchases to meet NASA's Earth Science and Application data needs," and expresses support for programs "aimed at fostering the development of a robust U.S. commercial remote sensing industry." It directs NASA to develop university centers of excellence "throughout the nation to develop this industry and increase commercial applications," and includes a number of earmarks to specific universities for commercial remote sensing academic partnerships.
Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications: The report provides the full budget request ($302.4 million) for this account, "since much of the research associated with these activities are targeted to the International Space Station." Additionally, within the Human Space Flight section, the report directs NASA to "schedule an additional annual shuttle flight for microgravity research as important in order to maintain the continuity and quality of microgravity research."
Academic Programs: The report includes the requested $19.1 million (equal to current funding) for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program; $12.0 million (more than FY 2000 funding or the request) for EPSCoR; $55.0 million (also greater than FY 2000 or the request) for minority university research and education activities, and more than $60 million in assorted earmarks.
EXPORT CONTROL REGULATIONS: The science community has raised concerns that overly restrictive satellite technology export regulations under the International Traffic in Arms Control Regulations (ITAR) are adversely affecting NASA research, and House report language called for review and clarification of the issue. The Senate report, however, seems to indicate support for the regulations: "The Committee remains sensitive to continuing risks regarding the illegal transfer and theft of sensitive technologies that can be used in the development of weapons.... The Committee commends both NASA [and its Inspector General] for their efforts to protect sensitive NASA-related technologies" and directs NASA to report annually on this issue.
Audrey T. Leath