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FYI Number 129: September 24, 2004

Senate Appropriations Bill for NASA


In passing its FY 2005 VA/HUD spending bill (S. 2825) on September 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a total of $15,579.5 million for NASA. Although $201.3 million greater than NASA's FY 2004 budget, this is $664.5 million less than President Bush requested. The Committee would increase funding for Exploration Capabilities above FY 2004 funding, but reduce the Exploration, Science and Aeronautics account. Neither account is funded at the level asked for by the President. In the accompanying report (S. Rept. 108-353), the Committee notes that it is "supportive" of the President's space exploration vision, but warns that the "current Federal fiscal environment is not favorable to supporting completely the budget NASA has presented for fiscal year 2005." To fund two of its important priorities - restoring the space shuttle to flight and servicing the Hubble Space Telescope - the Committee designated for those efforts $800.0 million in emergency funding that is not subject to budget caps. However, there are indications that the Administration, and budget hawks in Congress, are displeased with efforts to designate these and other items as emergency spending, adding to the difficulties of finishing up the appropriations process in a timely manner.

The Committee devotes a lengthy portion of report language to its opinions and concerns regarding the President's exploration vision, the need to develop new heavy lift capability, and the importance of maintaining a strong, balanced science program. Stating that NASA's science program "should be nurtured and sustained as the new policy is implemented," the report calls for "the National Academies' Space Studies Board to conduct a thorough review of the science that NASA is proposing to undertake under the new policy and to develop a strategy by which all of NASA's science disciplines...can make adequate progress towards their established goals, as well as providing scientific research in support of the new policy." Selections from this portion of the report will be provided in greater length in FYI #130. Readers who wish to view the text in full can find it at http://thomas.loc.gov/.

EXPLORATION, SCIENCE AND AERONAUTICS:

The Committee recommends $7,736.5 million for this account. According to the report, this is $146.7 million, or 1.9 percent, less than FY 2004 funding of $7,883.2 million, and $23.5 million, or 0.3 percent, less than the request of $7,760.0 million. The House bill would provide $7,621.2 million.

Selected quotations from this section of the report text are provided below:

Space Science: In its report, the Committee states that it has included "an additional $300,000,000 in emergency funding for a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.... The Committee anticipates that there will be a Hubble servicing mission which, at this time, is not a part of the fiscal year 2005 budget submission. Once the study being conducted by the National Academy of Sciences is completed, the Committee will consider any appropriate funding options presented by NASA. NASA should consider a servicing mission a priority." Among other items in this section of the report, the Committee expresses concern over "proposed reductions to the Living With a Star" program and "the growth of the Solar Dynamics Observatory." Additionally, it "expects NASA to provide the necessary funding for the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission in 2005 to ensure the mission is launched on schedule. The Committee expects NASA to submit any request for additional funds through the operating plan."

Earth Science: The report states, "The Committee believes that Earth science has been a critical part of a balanced space program long advocated by this Committee. The Committee remains fully committed to a robust Earth science program at NASA notwithstanding the recent headquarters reorganization plan. The Committee expects NASA to remain fully committed to Earth science, with future missions identified with 5 year funding profiles that reflect a serious commitment to Earth science as a vital part of the Nation's space program."

Biological and Physical Research: According to the report, "The Committee has expressed its intent that scientific research remain one of NASA's top priorities. However, delays in the construction of the Station and the current stand down of the Shuttle fleet have significantly reduced the opportunities for life and microgravity research in the near term. In order to maximize what research can still be done on the [space station], the Committee funds Biological Sciences Research within Earth science at $368,000,000, the same as the funding level for fiscal year 2004."

EXPLORATION CAPABILITIES:

The Committee recommends $7,811.1 million for this account. According to the report, this is $343.2 million, or 4.6 percent, above FY 2004 funding of $7,467.9 million, and $715.3 million, or 8.4 percent, less than the requested level of $8,526.4 million. The House VA/HUD appropriations bill would provide $7,496.8 million.

Selected quotations from this section of the report text are provided below:

Space Shuttle: "The Committee has included an additional $500,000,000 in emergency funding for the Space Shuttle to implement the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and other costs associated with return to flight activities.... The Committee continues to believe that there is no higher priority than improving the safety and reliability of the remaining Shuttle orbiters.... The future of the [space station], and other U.S. manned space flight missions for the rest of the decade are contingent upon having a working Shuttle fleet that is safe and reliable throughout the remaining years of the shuttle program. The Committee is concerned that as the Shuttle and the Shuttle infrastructure continue to age, further challenges in operating the fleet may arise.... Finally, the Committee expects regular consultations by NASA on all proposed changes to investments in the Shuttle program."

Space Station: The Committee notes that the International Space Station [ISS] continues to operate at a reduced level with future construction not expected to begin until 2005. The current crew of two cannot fully utilize the capabilities of the ISS for the research it was intended to facilitate, and the caretaker role of the astronauts does not currently justify the funds requested for operations of the ISS. Despite the ability of the international partners to fill the gap created by the grounding of the shuttle fleet, the capabilities of the ISS have been dramatically diminished. Accordingly, the Committee has reduced funding for the ISS by $120,000,000. As soon as the Shuttle is available to provide access to the ISS, the Committee is adamant that NASA provide the Committee with a plan detailing the steps necessary to complete construction of the ISS. This plan may include completion of the ISS by only using the shuttle, or a combination of shuttle and unmanned flights for delivering components to the ISS.... If there is to be a redirection of the research to be conducted onboard the ISS, any revision shall be done in consultation with the ISS partners. These partners will be affected by such actions, and their participation to this point has been both crucial and beneficial. If NASA intends to have international partners for future space exploration, then NASA should be sure not to exclude its current partners in making decisions involving the research direction and construction schedule of the ISS."

Crew Exploration Vehicle: "The Committee is prepared to commit funds to the Crew Exploration Vehicle [CEV], but is concerned that there has not been enough initial planning to determine what specific capabilities the CEV should have.... While the Committee feels that a plan with sufficient details on cost and accountability for any subsequent budget overruns will eventually emerge, the time to lay the proper groundwork for such an ambitious vision is prior to heading down the path, not on the way.... As NASA begins to consider another manned vehicle program, the Committee does not want to repeat the mistakes of the Space Station, where poor management and lack of independent oversight resulted in major cost overruns, to occur with the CEV.... Therefore, the Committee directs the Administrator to identify an independent oversight committee to examine the design, technology readiness and cost estimates for the CEV.... In order to allow for the initiation of the CEV, the Committee recommends a funding level of $268,000,000. This will allow for a modest start for this ambitious program, and still allow NASA the time needed to refine its plans for the vehicle in time for a full start in the fiscal year 2006 budget request."

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

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