FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

Senate FY 2009 NASA Funding Bill

Richard M. Jones
Number 70 - June 26, 2008  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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As noted in FYI #69, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its draft of the FY 2009 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. This bill is now pending on the Senate floor. This $57.9 billion bill includes funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and NASA.

In discussing this bill, S.3182, subcommittee chairwomen Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) explained "There is simply too much pressure on NASA's budget – now and in the future. The only way to reduce the pressure on the budget, and maintain a balanced space program, is to increase our federal commitment to NASA and our national space program." NASA's current budget is $17,329.4 million; the Administration requested $17,614.2 million for FY 2009. The bill provides $17,814.2 million, which is $200 million more than the Administration requested. Under this bill, NASA's budget would increase 2.8 percent or $484.8 million.

Below are excerpts from Senate Report 110-397 pertaining to NASA. The entire report is available at this Library of Congress site.

INTRODUCTION:

"NASA’s vision for space exploration maps out an aggressive role for the United States in manned space exploration. However, the potential costs are substantial and will likely be very difficult to maintain at the current estimated funding levels. In addition, the Committee feels strongly that NASA must show its commitment to those human spaceflight activities already underway. The Shuttle program and the construction of the International Space Station [ISS] continue to be the primary focus of the Nation’s manned space flight activities. Nevertheless, the replacements for the Space Shuttle’s manned and heavy lift capabilities must also be considered as part of any plan for continued human access to space but not to the detriment of existing obligations.

"The Committee is concerned that NASA will neglect areas that only tangentially benefit, or do not fit within, the exploration vision. The Committee believes that NASA must work diligently to balance existing programs and priorities with its plans for the future. Counterbalancing future priorities against current programs places existing research and expertise in jeopardy and risks squandering significant Federal investments that may be essential to the exploration vision.

"In addition, the Committee is concerned that the strong, balanced science program that has served the Nation so successfully for many years is being left behind rather than being nurtured and sustained. That science program has been based on a set of carefully crafted scientific strategies that are founded on scientific and technical merit, relevance to overall national needs, and broad consultation with the scientific community."

SCIENCE:

The current budget is $4,706.2 million.
The Administration requested $4,441.5 million
The Senate bill recommended $4,522.9 million, a reduction of 3.9 percent or $183.3 million

Senate Report 110-397 here has an extensive two-page table (see pages 89-90 of the PDF format) with line item funding levels for Earth Science, Planetary Science, Astrophysics, and Heliophysics. This "Science" table includes a $156.0 million "reallocation of prior year unobligated balances [see below]." The FY 2009 NASA budget request can be accessed here.

The committee report included the following language for "Science":

"Earth Science. – Earth science is a critical part of the balanced space program long advocated by this Committee. NASA Earth science missions are central to our ability to monitor and provide warnings about climate, weather, and other hazards. To that end, the Committee provides a programmatic increase of $47,000,000 above the budget request, for a total of $150,000,000, to accelerate the Earth science decadal missions in development. The agency is directed to ensure that these missions include the full complement of data collection capabilities as recommended by the National Academies’ Earth science decadal report. The Committee strongly supports the acceleration of the ICE-Sat II mission to ensure launch no later than 2013 as recommended by the National Academies. The Committee notes that ICE-Sat II will be critical to our continued monitoring of the Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets.

"The Committee continues to expect NASA’s Earth science portfolio to have a continuous mixture of small-, medium-, and observatory-class Earth science missions that guarantee regular and recurring flight opportunities for the Earth science community.

"Landsat Data Continuity Mission [LDCM]. – The Committee supports the development and flight of a thermal infra-red sensor [TIRS] to maintain continuity of the critical measurements made by this Landsat sensor for scientific research and water management applications. The Committee urges NASA to initiate development of TIRS within available funds, and to identify the earliest and least expensive development approach and flight opportunity for the TIRS. NASA should report back to the Committee on this development approach no later than October 31, 2008.

"Stennis Space Center [SSC]. – The recommendation includes an increase of $15,000,000 above the budget request for the NASA Earth Science Applications Program for the Earth Applications program managed through Stennis Space Center. This funding increase shall only be used to support new competitively selected applications projects to be selected during fiscal year 2009. These projects will integrate the results of NASA’s Earth observing systems and Earth system models (using observations and predictions) into decision support tools to serve applications of national priority including, but not limited to: homeland security; coastal management; agriculture efficiency; and water and disaster management.

"Heliophysics. – Within funds provided to advance scientific knowledge of the Sun’s impact on the Earth, the Committee provides the full budget requirements of $165,000,000 for the Radiation Belt Storm Probe mission and $108,100,000 for the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, as well as $18,000,000 for the Solar Probe Mission. The Committee notes that the Solar Probe mission is the highest priority recommendation of the National Academies’ heliophysics decadal report, and therefore strongly urges the Agency to work to achieve a launch no later than 2015.

"Planetary Science. – Within funds provided to advance scientific knowledge of our solar system, the Committee provides the full budget requirement $463,194,000 for the Mars rovers and related science. The Committee is deeply troubled by the cost overruns on the Mars Science Lab, and directs NASA to report no later than October 31, 2008 on the management and accountability actions taken to ensure that costs do not continue to grow.

"Lunar Landers. – The Committee is pleased that NASA has chosen to continue its previously planned robotic lunar lander mission. This mission was selected by NASA in 2005 and is now a pathfinder for an anticipated network of small lunar science landers and orbiters based on requirements of the Science Mission Directorate’s expanded Lunar Science Program. The first two mini-landers are planned to be launched together in the 2013-2014 timeframe to initiate a geophysical sensor network across the Moon. NASA anticipates that the missions selected and managed by the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program Office will transition this small lunar lander effort to the Lunar Science Program, managed by Marshall Space Flight Center, in the Science Mission Directorate no later than fiscal year 2010. In anticipation of this action, the Committee provides $10,000,000 for the selected lunar lander mission, as requested by NASA.

"Astrophysics. – Within funds provided to advance scientific knowledge of the origins of the Universe, the Committee provides the full budget requirements of $165,000,000 for the Hubble Space Telescope and $395,000,000 for the James Webb Space Telescope. The Committee also provides the full budget request of $8,500,000 for the Joint Dark Energy Mission [JDEM] and continues to support development of the JDEM through full and open competition with project management residing at the appropriate NASA center.

"Wallops Flight Facility [WFF]. – The Committee has long advocated that the WFF is an important national asset that can be better utilized by focusing on emerging technologies that meet national needs and NASA priorities. The Committee therefore provides programmatic increases of: $11,000,000 for advanced technology development of small satellites and unmanned aerial systems [UAS] that have the potential of lowering the costs of space and Earth science missions consistent with the goals of venture class missions recommended by the National Academies’ Earth science decadal report; and $14,000,000 to improve launch pad infrastructure.

"Reallocation of Funds. – The Committee has included a reallocation of fiscal year 2008 funds in the amount of $145,000,000 to ensure the full 2009 budget requirements for programs and activities adjusted as a result of NASA’s May 30, 2008 reprogramming request. NASA shall report on this reallocation no later than 30 days after enactment of this act."

AERONAUTICS:

The current budget is $511.7 million
The Administration requested $446.5 million
The Senate bill recommended $500.0 million, a reduction of 2.3 percent or $11.7 million

See pages 92 - 93 of the PDF format for further information.

EXPLORATION:

The current budget is $3,143.1 million
The Administration requested $3,500.5
The Senate bill recommended $3,530.5 million, an increase of 12.3 percent or $387.4 million

This account funds the new Crew Launch Vehicle, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the heavy lift component, and the Lunar Precursor Robotic Program. See pages 93 - 94 of the PDF.

SPACE OPERATIONS:

The current budget is $5,526.2 million
The Administration requested $5,774.7 million
The Senate bill recommended $5,774.7 million, the Administration request, an increase of 4.5 percent or $248.5 million

This account funds the Space Shuttle, space station, and supporting operations. There was no language regarding the date of the shuttle's retirement, the number of pending shuttle flights, or shuttle payloads. See pages 94-95 of the PDF.

EDUCATION:

The current budget is $146.8 million
The Administration requested $115.6 million
The Senate bill recommended $130.0 million, a decrease of 11.4 percent or $16.8 million

See pages 95 - 96 of the PDF

OTHER:

"Censorship of Scientific Information. – The Committee continues to be concerned that there is openness in communication of federally supported science results. Government scientists must be able to research and report their findings to the public without fear of censorship or intimidation, and American taxpayers have the right to know the facts. A recent Inspector General report found that NASA officials acted 'in a manner that reduced, marginalized, and mischaracterized the scientific information' about climate change. The Committee directs NASA to immediately implement all of the recommendations contained in the IG report to ensure that NASA’s policies and practices protect openness in reporting of scientific information. The Agency shall report to the Committee on this issue no later than October 31, 2008."

A press release issued by Senator Mikulski states that she will re-introduce an amendment on the Senate floor to provide $1 billion for expenses related to returning the shuttle fleet to flight. This money would reimburse science, aeronautics, and exploration budgets that were reduced to pay for shuttle repairs.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095