VA/HUD FY 2001 Conference Report: NASA "The Congress knows that it is performance that counts, and this budget is a tribute to NASA's performance." - NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin
The House and Senate have reached agreement on final FY 2001 funding for NASA, as part of the combined Energy and Water Development and VA/HUD appropriations conference report. Under the conference report, which President Clinton is expected to sign, NASA would receive a very healthy $14,285.3 million. This is more than Clinton, the House, or the Senate had previously proposed for the fiscal year that began on October 1. This funding level is 5.0% ($685.0 million) greater than NASA's FY 2000 appropriation, and 1.8% ($250.0 million) higher than the President's request.
Space Science, Earth Science, and Life and Microgravity Sciences would see increases over both their FY 2000 funding and their requests, while Human Space Flight would remain essentially flat. NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin's pleasure with the final conference numbers was evident in a press release issued on October 20. "This measure provides an excellent budget for NASA," Goldin said in the release. "The bill fully funds the President's program for NASA, including all high-priority initiatives - the Space Launch Initiative, Shuttle Upgrades, the International Space Station, and Living With a Star. The bill includes funding, as proposed by NASA, for two Mars rover missions in 2003."
NASA's plan for two Mars landers within its space science program is a recent proposal by the agency, developed after several reviews of the loss last year of the Mars Orbiter and Polar Lander missions. The agency submitted a revised FY 2001 budget proposal that would shift funds from other NASA programs to the Mars effort, demonstrating the importance NASA and the Administration place on a reinvigorated Mars program. The conferees support this proposal, which would provide $75.0 million for the Mars program as follows: $2.0 million from elsewhere within the space science account; $7.0 million from life and microgravity sciences; $20.0 million from aeronautics and space technology; $6.0 million from mission support; and $40.0 million from human space flight.
The conference report contains numerous earmarks and detailed language on specific reports and requirements that Congress expects, some in agreement with House or Senate report language, some that supersedes the previous language. (Recent language in the Senate report takes precedence over the earlier House language, and language in the conference report takes precedence over both. Theoretically, if a later report makes no mention of a certain requirement or earmark, the earlier text remains in effect.) The complete text of the VA/HUD-Energy and Water Development conference report can be found on THOMAS, the Library of Congress web site, at http://thomas.loc.gov . Go to "Committee Reports" for the 106th Congress and choose report number 106-988; the NASA portion begins on page 151. Highlights of selected portions of the report follow:
GENERAL PROVISIONS, R&A, EXPORT CONTROLS: NASA is directed to report to the appropriations committees on "the status of any program or activity that has exceeded its budget plan by 15 percent." The conference report eliminates a House requirement for a National Research Council study on NASA's research and analysis budget. Instead, the conferees "urge NASA to take actions to ensure that research and analysis funding is sufficient to support the goals of the various programs." While the House called for clarification of "overly restrictive and inconsistent" satellite technology export controls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the conferees concur instead with Senate language specifying only "that NASA should report annually on the issue of safeguarding sensitive technology."
HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT: This account would remain essentially level at $5,462.9 million, a decrease of 0.1% ($4.8 million) from the FY 2000 level, and 0.7% ($37.0 million) less than originally requested. This reflects NASA's proposal to shift $40.0 million from Human Space Flight to the Mars 2003 Lander program. The conferees "agree that NASA should develop a 10-year plan for all research efforts related to the International Space Station," but "do not agree with the Senate requirement for a blueprint plan that identifies lead and complementary universities that will coordinate with NASA for science disciplines that will be the focus of research after assembly" of the station. The conferees also, as did the House, direct NASA to submit a plan for dedicated life and microgravity research missions on the shuttle "until the space station reaches its full research capability."
GENERAL REDUCTION TO SAT: The conference report calls for a general reduction of less than one percent (0.8%, or $49.1 million) to be applied in an unspecified way to the total Science, Aeronautics and Technology (SAT) account. All the programs cited below (Space Science, Earth Science, Life and Microgravity Sciences, and Academic Programs) fall within the SAT account, as do aerospace technology and space operations. The conference report does not specify how much is to be taken from each of these programs, so it is unknown how they might be affected.
SPACE SCIENCE: Space Science would receive $2,508.3 million, an increase of 14.4% ($315.5 million) from FY 2000 funding, and 4.6% ($109.5 million) above the request. The conferees concur with NASA's proposal, as explained above, to provide $75.0 million from other NASA program to the Mars 2003 Lander program. The conferees also agree with the Senate that "applying the recommendations of the Mars Program Independent Assessment Team to all space science programs may lead to cost increases for those programs," and that NASA should therefore "provide a five- year profile of the costs associated with implementing these recommendations" along with its FY 2002 budget submission.
The conference report provides the full request of $20.0 million for the Living with a Star program to study the Sun, which was deleted by the House. Also in this section, the conferees ask NASA for a report addressing how it plans to maintain core competencies at its centers while increasing competitive selection of advanced technologies, and identifying strategic alliances with universities and industries. The conferees do not agree with the Senate "that cost increases associated with the Hubble Servicing Mission should be allocated to the Human Space Flight account."
EARTH SCIENCE: This account would receive $1,498.1 million, an increase of 3.8% ($54.7 million) from the FY 2000 budget and 6.6% ($92.3 million) over the request. The conference report directs NASA to provide appropriators "with a ten-year strategy and funding profile to extend the benefits of Earth science, technology and data results beyond the traditional scientific community and address practical, near-term problems," and to work with universities and other players to develop "mechanisms through which current public and private remote sensing and related technologies will be made readily available to state and local governments, public agencies and private organizations for applications in agriculture, flood mapping, forestry, environmental protection, urban planning and other land-use issues."
The conferees would provide an increase of $20.0 million above the request for continued commercial data purchases. They would provide $35.0 million above the request for the core system of the Earth Observing System Data Information System (EOSDIS), which would bring the total EOSDIS funding to $277.0 million for FY 2001. They would also make available "the full amount requested for the EOS follow-on."
LIFE AND MICROGRAVITY SCIENCES: This account would receive $316.9 million, an increase of 15.4% ($42.2 million) over FY 2000 and 4.8% ($14.5 million) above the request. The amount recommended by the conferees incorporates a $7.0 million reduction "from the biomedical research and countermeasures program which has been transferred to the space sciences account for the Mars 2003 Lander program." Within the Human Space Flight section of the report, the conferees express "dismay at the lack of dedicated life and microgravity research missions being flown on shuttle during station assembly. This problem is made worse by continuing delay in station assembly, leading to a significant backlog of critical research waiting to be flown. The conferees believe it is prudent to plan regular life and microgravity shuttle research missions during station assembly to protect the shuttle flight rate and to prepare experiments for the space station." Thus, as reported in the Human Space Flight section, the conference report calls for NASA to submit a plan for dedicated life and microgravity research missions on the shuttle during space station assembly. This language appears to supersede the Senate provision directing NASA to "schedule an additional annual shuttle flight for microgravity research."
ACADEMIC PROGRAMS: The conference report would provide a total of $134.0 million for academic programs, 34.0% greater than the request but less than last year's funding. The conferees recommend $10.0 million for EPSCoR, $55.0 million for the Minority University Research and Education program, and $19.1 million for space grant colleges.
Audrey T. Leath