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FYI Number 15: February 11, 2002

FY 2003 Budget Request for NASA

NASA funding would stay relatively flat under President Bush's FY 2003 budget request, increasing 0.7 percent to $15.0 billion. Space Science would receive a substantial increase of 19.1 percent, although much of that increase is due to the transfer into Space Science of several spacecraft operations items. Biological and Physical Research would receive a 2.7 percent increase, while Earth Science would remain virtually unchanged, with a 0.2 percent increase. Human Space Flight funding would fall by 10.2 percent.

After just four weeks on the job, new NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe gave a low-key but knowledgeable February 4 briefing on the agency's budget, noting that this request would "emphasize...the fundamentals" with a series of targeted priorities. A management and budget expert, O'Keefe is expected to bring improved management and cost controls to the agency, and particularly to the troubled International Space Station. As Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget last year, O'Keefe was influential in urging NASA adopt the recommendations of the Young Task Force (see FYIs #135 and 136, 2001) to undertake management reforms and focus space station funding on finishing the "core complete" configuration. The agency's budget documents state that "the fiscal 2003 budget proposal [for the station] represents a restrained fiscal approach" that will set the program "back on a course of fiscal accountability."

SPACE SCIENCE REQUEST: Up 19.1 percent to $3,414.3 million

While the requested increase for Space Science may look large, much of it is due to a transfer of programs from elsewhere within the NASA budget. In fact, a NASA budget documents states, "a large part (over $200 million) of the apparent not an increase at all, but is due to the transfer of funding and responsibility for two critical components of Space Science spacecraft operations (the Deep Space Network, and Mission Services for Space Science missions) from the Office of Space Flight."

A new item in the FY 2003 request (within Technology Programs) is the Nuclear Systems Initiative, intended to reduce spacecraft travel time and make possible new planetary exploration initiatives. The request includes $46.5 million for nuclear electric propulsion and $79.0 million for nuclear electrical power-generation systems. Another new program, the New Frontiers program, according to NASA, "is a revamping of the Outer Planets missions program" to support frequent, mid-sized planetary missions, at an FY 2003 request of $15.0 million.

Major ongoing programs that would receive increases include the Mars Exploration Program (to $453.6 million), the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) (to $46.9 million), and the Explorer Program (to $135.1 million). Also receiving increases would be Mission Operations (to $385.2 million), Technology Programs (to $703.9 million), and Research Programs (to $709.6 million).

Decreases are planned for the Hubble Space Telescope (down to $138.9 million, with a servicing mission this month), the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF ), (down to $47.4 million, with launch delayed until at least December 2002), and Gravity Probe B (down to $19.7 million, with launch in October). Funding for the Discovery Program would decline to $207.7 million. No FY 2003 funding is requested for the New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission, nor for the Europa Orbiter mission.

EARTH SCIENCE REQUEST: Up 0.2 percent to $1,628.4 million

Funding for the Earth Observing System (EOS) would grow to $410.9 million, while Earth Explorers funding would decline to $71.2 million. Research and Technology, including Earth Science Program Science, would decline to $506.3 million. The EOS Data Information System (EOSDIS) operations requirements have been transferred to Mission Operations for FY 2003, and the total Mission Operations request is $247.8 million. EOSDIS development would receive $74.3 million.

In its budget documents, the agency states, "The Administration is conducting a review of the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) to determine the best government-wide approach to climate change research. It would not be prudent for NASA to pursue development of another major new Earth Science mission until the Administration has completed this review."

BIOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL RESEARCH: Up 2.7 percent to $842.3 million

Programs that would see increases include Bioastronautics Research (to $113.0 million, Fundamental Space Biology (to $56.0 million), and Physical Sciences Research (to $134.1 million). The International Space Station Research Capability Program would drop to $347.2 million. New initiatives in the FY 2003 request include $11.2 million within Fundamental Space Biology for the Generations project to study how life adapts and evolves in space, and $10.1 million for the interdisciplinary Space Radiation initiative (spanning the Bioastronautics, Physical Sciences, and Fundamental Space Biology programs) to investigate health-related space-radiation issues.

HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT: Down 10.2 percent to $6,130.9 million

The International Space Station would see a 13.3 percent decrease, to $1,492.1 million. The budget documents note that "last year, an independent task force of research, management and financial experts, led by Thomas Young, provided NASA with a number of recommendations to restore and maintain fiscal responsibility and ensure the fundamental soundness" of the program. "NASA is acting upon these recommendations.... By this spring the program will have a clearly defined set of cost requirements so that by fall, a true understanding of total program costs can be achieved. An initiative that will clearly redefine research priorities is also underway. The outcomes of these actions will largely determine the end-state requirements" of the station.

ACADEMIC PROGRAMS: Down 36.8 percent to $143.7 million

It appears that the requested decrease is partly due to elimination of congressional earmarks. Education Programs would receive $61.6 million, and Minority University Research and Education would receive $82.1 million.

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094

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