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FYI Number 42: March 31, 2003

Final FY 2003 NASA Appropriation

As indicated in previous FYIs, the long struggle to enact the final FY 2003 appropriations bill has been followed by a long struggle to interpret the over-3,000 page conference report. Budget numbers given for various programs in the report must then be reduced by amounts described elsewhere in the report. Even with such rescissions, it appears that NASA's Space Science, Earth Science, and Biological and Physical Research all received increases over FY 2002 funding. Funding for the International Space Station account was decreased, as was funding for Academic Programs. It is unknown at this point whether findings from the space shuttle Columbia accident investigation, or the impact on the space station of grounding the shuttle fleet, will result in supplemental FY 2003 funding being requested for NASA.

Below are the final FY 2003 appropriations numbers for selected NASA programs, as calculated by the House Science Committee. They are shown in comparison with the numbers in NASA's FY 2002 initial operating plan. Portions of the explanatory language from the conference report, H. Report 108-10, are also provided.

The SPACE SCIENCE budget increases $634.3 million, or 22.1 percent, from $2867.1 million in FY 2002 to $3501.4 million in FY 2003. The report provides $95.0 million for the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission, which was not funded under the request. It reduces the funding for the Nuclear Electric Propulsion and Nuclear Power programs by $10.0 million and $9.0 million, respectively. It increases funding for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter program, and contains numerous earmarks for other projects. The report language commends NASA "for the continued success of the Hubble Space Telescope [HST]," expresses concern that grounding of the shuttle fleet may delay HST servicing, and directs NASA not to reduce funding for development of the next generation space telescope "to cover HST shortfalls."

The EARTH SCIENCE budget increases $82.1 million, or 5.1 percent, from $1625.7 million in FY 2002 to $1707.8 million in FY 2003. The report language provides a listing of earmarks.

The BIOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL RESEARCH budget increases $43.2 million, or 5.3 percent, from $820.0 million in FY 2002 to $863.2 million in FY 2003. In addition to a list of earmarks, the report language provides an $8.0 million increase "for procurement of animal and plant habitats" for the space station, and an $11.2 million reduction from the Generations program.

The HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT budget decreases $686.3 million, or 10.1 percent, from $6830.1 million in FY 2002 to $6143.8 million in FY 2003. The report language states: "The conferees have included an additional $50,000,000 for expenses related to the investigation into the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003. This funding may also be used to correct identified deficiencies and to defray any other expenses which are a consequence of the accident. The conferees recognize that the cost of the investigation and any other implications of the accident may well exceed the amount provided and will entertain operating plan changes to accommodate necessary adjustments in the funding of the various components of this account."

Within Human Space Flight, the budget for the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION decreases $239.3 million, or 13.9 percent, from $1721.7 million in FY 2002 to $1482.4 million in FY 2003. There is substantial report language discussing the results of the Research Maximization and Prioritization (ReMAP) task force, "which focused on prioritizing scientific research to be conducted on the ISS through NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research. The conferees agree on the need for a strategy of prioritized research objectives across multiple disciplines, and commend NASA for establishing the ReMAP activity."

"However," the report language continues, "the conferees have several areas of concern related to the ReMAP process. The conferees are aware that a number of the ReMAP task force members dissented with the conclusions in the final report. Several task force members stated that the ReMAP process did not allow sufficient time or resources to do a proper job of prioritizing research programs. Concern was also expressed by some task force members about a lack of time to review the information reported as ReMAP conclusions. Finally, the conferees also note NASA's acknowledgement that the task force did not address ISS commercialization issues, nor did it consider the research needs of the Office of Earth Science or the Office of Space Science in its prioritization activity.

"Therefore, the conferees direct NASA to report to Congress on its plans to establish a process by which prioritization of research conducted on the ISS occurs on a regular basis, rather than as a one-time effort. Furthermore, the conferees encourage that future ISS research prioritization activities address ISS commercialization programs, as well as the needs of the Offices of Space and Earth Science."

Report language on the space station also states addresses the recommendation of a NASA study that a non-governmental organization (NGO) "be adopted as the preferred management approach. Furthermore, the plan outlines a phased approach that would initially focus on leadership and advocacy functions and would defer a decision on the possible inclusion of engineering and integration functions.... The conferees endorse Phase 1 (inclusion of leadership and advocacy functions), which is similar to what has been so successfully demonstrated in the Hubble Space Telescope Institute (HSTI) model. The conferees wish to point out, however, that management of research for the ISS is much more complex than that of the HSTI, and acknowledge NASA's recognition of this intricacy, demonstrated through its proposal of a phased approach.... [T]he conferees have included an administrative provision that limits any proposed contractual action to that of leadership and advocacy [and] direct NASA to report on the status of NGO implementation as well as means of determining research priorities. The first report is due March 15, 2003."

The ACADEMIC PROGRAMS budget decreases $25.1 million, or 11.0 percent, from $227.3 million in FY 2002 to $202.2 million in FY 2003. In addition to a series of earmarks, the report language provides an increase of $5.0 million for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship program, and an increase of $5.4 million for the EPSCoR program.

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

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