FY 2013 Appropriations Committee Reports: NASA

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Publication date: 
11 May 2012
Number: 
64

The  House and Senate Appropriations Committees have completed their versions of the  FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  The full House passed this bill yesterday,  the first of twelve appropriations measures to come to the floor.

Not  surprisingly, considering the size of NASA’s budget and its wide range of  programs, the appropriators included extensive language in the House  and Senate reports accompanying the funding bills regarding  NASA.  This FYI provides report language  regarding the agency’s science program.  Language  within each report on all programs stands, unless there is a conflict that will  be resolved in the final conference report.   This final conference report, likely to be written in late fall, will  also resolve differences in recommended funding levels.

Readers  interested in language regarding other programs should consult each  report.  The Senate report language  starts on page 86; the House report language starts on page 63.  Both reports have tables with specific  funding levels that all readers will find of interest.

Percentage  changes shown below are calculated compared to the current year. 

NASA:

FY  2012 appropriation is $17,800.0 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $17,111.4 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $19,399.7 million, an increase of $1,599.7  million or 9.0 percent*     FY  2013 House recommendation is $17,573.8 million, a decrease of $226.2 million or  1.3 percent

*A  statement from the Senate Appropriations Committee explains: “The National Aeronautics and Space  Administration (NASA) is funded at $19.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion  over the fiscal year 2012 enacted level. The large increase results from a  reorganization of operational weather satellite procurement from NOAA into  NASA. Without the funds for weather satellite procurement, this level  represents a $41.5 million cut from the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.”

Science:

FY  2012 appropriation is $5,090.0 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $4,911.2 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $5,021.1 million, a decrease of $68.9 million or 1.4  percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $5,095.0 million, an increase of $5.0 million or 0.1  percent

See report  language below.

Aeronautics:

FY  2012 appropriation is $569.9 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $551.5 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $551.5 million, a decrease of $18.4 million or 3.2  percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $569.9 million; no change

Space  Technology:

FY  2012 appropriation is $575.0 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $699.0 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $651.0 million, an increase of $76.0 million or 13.2  percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $632.5 million, an increase of $57.5 million or  10.0 percent

Exploration:

FY  2012 appropriation is $3,770.8 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $3,932.8 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $3,908.9 million, an increase of $138.1 million  or 3.7 percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $3,711.9 million, a decrease of $58.9 million or 1.6  percent

Space  Operations:

FY  2012 appropriation is $4,233.6 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $4,013.2 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $3,961.7 million, a decrease of $271.9 million or  6.4 percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $3,985.0 million, a decrease of $248.6 million or 5.9  percent

Education:

FY  2012 appropriation is $138.4 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $100.0 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $125.0 million, a decrease of $13.4 million or  9.7 percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $100.0 million, a decrease of $38.4 million or 27.7  percent

Cross-Agency  Support:

FY  2012 appropriation is $2,995.0 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $2,847.5 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $2,822.5 million, a decrease of $172.5 million or  5.8 percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $2,843.5 million, a decrease of $151.5 million or 5.1  percent

Other  budget categories are Construction and  Environmental Compliance and Restoration, and Office of Inspector General.

Selected  Report Language: Science

Senate report  language:

See pages 88-90  for detailed funding recommendations.

Earth Science Decadal Survey Missions.  -- The Committee supports the ongoing development of the Tier I Earth Science missions,  and provides the full budget requests for the Soil Moisture Active and Passive  [SMAP] and the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (IceSat-2) missions. The  Committee is disappointed in plans to delay the Climate Absolute Radiance and  Refractivity Observatory [CLARREO] and the Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and  Dynamics of the Ice [DESDynI] missions. The National Academies recommended  flying a suite of these four missions concurrently to gather critical  information about the Earth and its climate.   The Committee supports the pre-Aerosol, Clouds, Ecosystem [PACE]  mission, originally introduced as a climate continuity mission in the fiscal  year 2011 request. PACE will address ocean ecology, ocean color, and Climate  Data Record [CDR] continuity as the primary objectives and aerosol interaction  and measurement as a secondary objective.

IceBridge. -- The Committee provides the  full budget request for IceBridge to continue making high-resolution  measurements of polar sea ice and glaciers during the gap between IceSat-1 and IceSat-2.  The Committee encourages NASA to use unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] for this  mission and to seek competitive proposals to improve IceBridge instruments for  use on UAVs.

Carbon Monitoring. -- Of the funds  provided within the earth science research and analysis activity, the Committee  recommends $10,000,000 to continue efforts for the development of a carbon monitoring  system initially funded in fiscal year 2010. The majority of the funds should  be directed toward acquisition, field sampling, quantification and development  of a prototype Monitoring Reporting and Verification [MRV] system which can  provide transparent data products achieving levels of precision and accuracy  required by current carbon trading protocols. The Committee recognizes that the  current orbital and suborbital platforms are insufficient to meet these  objectives. Therefore, the use of commercial off-the-shelf technologies is  recommended as these products could provide robust calibration validation datasets  for future NASA missions. Up to 20 percent of these funds should be made  available to international Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest  Degradation [REDD] projects. Furthermore, the Committee is deeply disappointed with  the lack of progress that NASA has made on this initiative thus far within the  agency. Therefore, it directs that the above funds shall be competitively  awarded within 120 days of enactment of this act.

Cooperation Between NASA and NOAA. -- The  Committee remains discouraged by NASA’s lack of cooperation with NOAA’s Ocean  and Atmospheric Research office in the area of non-space based Earth science.  NASA shall better coordinate with NOAA on all aspects of relevant NASA-funded  projects, including project planning, project execution, and post-project data  sharing.

SERVIR. -- The SERVIR initiative within  the Applied Sciences Program integrates satellite observations, ground-based  data, and forecast models to monitor and forecast environmental changes and to  improve response to natural disasters. The program allows people in developing  regions to use Earth observations for addressing challenges in agriculture,  biodiversity conservation, climate change, disaster response, weather  forecasting, and energy and health issues. 

“As  part of this program, SERVIR intends to initiate up to three new hubs that were  selected during fiscal year 2012 to expand the SERVIR program and advance the  use of Earth observations to serve U.S. international development interests.  The Committee is pleased to see continued support by NASA, in conjunction with  the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies, for advancing  this program.

Planetary Science. -- The bill allows  for the transfer of up to $14,500,000 to the Department of Energy to  re-establish facilities capable of producing fuel needed to enable future  missions. The Committee notes that the most recent decadal survey in planetary science  urges NASA to reformulate planetary science flagship missions to fit within the  projected budget, as recommended, rather than abandoning flagships altogether.

Mars Exploration. -- The budget request  proposes to cut and radically restructure the program of robotic rovers and  in-space observatories expected to culminate in a Mars sample return, which was  identified as the top priority for planetary science by the National Research  Council’s Decadal Survey. The Committee provides $460,900,000 which is  $100,100,000 above the request level for Mars Exploration. This amount includes  the full budget request of $146,400,000 for MAVEN and also supports any  re-planned Mars program that can take advantage of upcoming opportunities to launch  robotic science platforms to Mars as early as 2016. NASA is expected to use  these funds to retain core U.S. competencies in areas such as entry, descent,  and landing.

Competitive Planetary Programs. -- The  Committee recommends the budget request of $189,600,000 for Discovery and  $175,000,000 for New Frontiers. The Committee fully expects NASA to continue both  programs as distinct opportunities awarded on a merit-based, competitive basis,  in order maximize the delivery of more high quality science within a  constrained fiscal environment. The Committee is also insistent that NASA  select proposals for both programs based upon the ability to deliver the  highest quality science that is evaluated by peer review.

Decadal Surveys and Mid-session Reviews.  -- The Committee supports NASA’s flagship missions but notes that future large  projects will need to have a scope that is aligned with a sound and executable budget.  On the other hand, once NASA has committed to a mission with an executable  funding profile, the Committee does not believe mid-session reviews and other  management tools that serve to undermine established missions with broad  consensus within their scientific discipline do anything more than unnerve the  scientific community. The Committee encourages NASA to focus its management  efforts on rigorous requirements definition, program management, and cost  discipline so that it can meet the commitments it makes within projected  budgets.

Astrophysics. -- Within funds provided  to advance scientific knowledge of the origins of the universe, the Committee  provides the full budget requirement of $98,300,000 for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dark Energy. -- The 2011 Nobel Prize in  Physics was awarded to Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess for  discovering that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. The  acceleration implies that the universe is being pushed apart by a force known  as dark energy. While scientists have proven that dark energy exists, little is  known about it even though it makes up nearly three-quarters of the universe.  To understand dark energy, scientists identified the Wide Field Infrared Survey  Telescope [WFIRST] as the highest priority in the recent astronomy and  astrophysics decadal survey. Within funds provided for Cosmic Origins, Other  Missions and Data Analysis, the Committee provides $10,000,000 in fiscal year  2013 to begin planning and technology development for a cost-effective WFIRST  project that builds on the work of the Joint Dark Energy Mission project.

James Webb Space Telescope. -- The  Committee strongly supports completion of the James Webb Space Telescope  [JWST]. JWST will be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope  and is poised to rewrite the science books. In 2011, the Committee asked for an  independent assessment of JWST. That assessment, led by Dr. John Casani, found  that while JWST is technically sound, NASA had never requested adequate  resources to fund its development. As with many other projects, budget optimism  led to massive ongoing cost overruns because the project did not have adequate  reserves or contingency to address the kinds of technical problems that are  expected to arise in a complex, cutting edge project. Without funds, the only  other way to deal with problems is to allow the schedule to slip. That slip, in  turn, makes the project cost even more, when accounting for the technical costs  as well as the cost of maintaining a pool of highly skilled technical labor  through the completion of the project. 

“In  response to the Casani report, NASA has submitted a new baseline for JWST with  an overall life-cycle cost of $8,700,000,000.   NASA has assured the Committee that this new baseline includes adequate  reserves to achieve a 2018 launch without further cost overruns. The Committee  intends to hold NASA and its contractors to that commitment, and the bill caps  the overall development cost for JWST at $8,000,000,000. The Committee expects  to be kept fully informed on issues relating to program and risk management, achievement  of cost and schedule goals, and program technical status.

Explorer Program. -- The Committee  recommends an additional $16,000,000 for the Explorer program in fiscal year  2013, split between astrophysics and heliophysics. The Committee expects NASA to  select one stand-alone mission for heliophysics and one standalone mission for  astrophysics from proposals submitted as part of the most recent Explorer  Announcement of Opportunity. These selections should be made regardless of any  missions of opportunity in which NASA elects to participate. The Committee  directs NASA to ensure that future Announcements of Opportunity allow for two standalone  missions to be chosen, one in the field of astrophysics and the other in  heliophysics and encourages NASA to request sufficient     funds  to accommodate this two mission profile.

Heliophysics. -- Within funds provided  to advance scientific knowledge of the Sun’s impact on the Earth, the Committee  provides the full budget request of $168,300,000 for the Magnetospheric  Multiscale [MMS] mission. The Committee encourages NASA to provide necessary  budget resources in fiscal year 2014 for MMS to achieve a launch in early 2015  with the full complement of instruments and both orbit phases.

“The  funds provided also include $112,100,000 for the Solar Probe Plus mission, the  same as the budget request. The Committee strongly supports this mission and  affirms its multi-year commitment to a 2018 launch. According to NASA’s  analysis, the advanced technology development funds provided by this Committee  have retired substantial technical risk and contributed to a manageable funding  profile for this project, which was the highest-priority recommendation of the  most recent National Academies’ Heliophysics decadal report.

“The  Committee notes that suborbital science missions provide important hands-on  experience for science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM]  undergraduate and graduate students, and directs NASA to increase its  participation in these missions.”

House Report  Language:

Earth Science and Heliophysics -- The  Committee's recommendation includes $1,775,000,000 for Earth Science and  $642,000,000 for Heliophysics. In both instances, the modest increases provided  are attributable to increased prices in the launch vehicle market and the  development phasing of high priority decadal missions already underway.

Planetary Science -- The Committee  understands that budget pressures within and outside of the Science Mission  Directorate have required reductions in NASA's science portfolio. The Committee  is concerned, however, by the Administration's proposal to make those  reductions disproportionately within the planetary science program. Planetary  science has long been one of NASA's most successful programs, and the cuts  proposed in the budget request will endanger this strong record and deviate  significantly from the program plan envisioned by the most recent planetary  science decadal survey. The Committee's recommendation of $1,400,000,000 seeks  to address programmatic areas where the Administration's proposal is most  deficient in meeting the decadal survey's goals while also ensuring that the  program, as a whole, maintains balance among program elements.

“The  first area of deficiency in the request is Planetary Science Research. The  decadal survey recommended increasing research funding by a specified rate  above inflation, but the request only achieves this standard by including in  the total a new Joint Robotics Program for Exploration (JRPE), which is not a  traditional research program as envisioned by the NRC. The Committee has addressed  this problem by providing $192,000,000 for Planetary Science Research. This  level is sufficient to support both the requested level for JRPE and an  additional $3,500,000 above the request for traditional research and analysis  activities in order to achieve better consistency with the decadal  recommendation.

“The  request also proposes insufficient funding for the Discovery and New Frontiers  programs, resulting in significant delays relative to the mission tempos  outlined in the decadal. To improve these tempos, the Committee has provided a  total of $480,000,000 for Discovery and New Frontiers, which is $115,400,000  above the aggregate requests for these programs. NASA is directed to divide  these funds between Discovery and New Frontiers in a manner that optimizes the  potential mission tempos for both programs.

“The  final areas of deficiency in the request are Mars Exploration and Outer  Planets. The decadal survey chose a Mars sample return mission and a Jupiter  Europa orbiter as its top two flagship-class priorities, but the budget request  reduces funds for a future Mars mission (‘Mars Next Decade’) to a fraction of  previous planning estimates and eliminates all funding for substantive work on  a new outer planets mission. As such, the request will inhibit significant  progress from being made on either priority, even in descoped form.

“The  Committee rectifies this situation by increasing the funds available for Mars  Next Decade to $150,000,000, or $88,000,000 above the request, in order to  allow for a more substantial mission concept to be developed. According to the  decision rules of the decadal survey, however, that mission concept must lead  to the accomplishment of sample return in order to remain a top funding  priority. Because the Committee is unable to discern whether this condition is  being met from the scant information provided to date about Mars Next Decade,  NASA is directed to promptly submit its Next Decade mission concept to the NRC  for evaluation. The recommendation includes language prohibiting the obligation  of funds for the mission unless and until the NRC submits to the Committees on  Appropriations a certification confirming that the mission concept will lead to  the accomplishment of sample return as described in the Mars Astrobiology  Explorer-Cacher section of the decadal survey. If the NRC instead determines  that NASA's chosen mission concept will not lead to the accomplishment of  sample return, NASA is directed to immediately: (1) notify the Committees; (2)  reallocate the funds provided for Mars Next Decade to the Outer Planets  Flagship program in order to begin substantive work on the second priority  mission, a descoped Europa orbiter; and (3) submit the Mars Next Decade mission  concept, or any substitute Mars mission concept, for competition in the  Discovery or New Frontiers programs.

Plutonium-238 -- Progress on a Europa  orbiter or any other long-range planetary science mission will require a  sustainable source of Plutonium-238 (Pu-238), a radioisotope that is an  essential source of electricity for spacecraft venturing beyond the range of solar  power. The bill makes available $14,500,000 from this account, as requested, to  restart production of Pu-238. The Committee directs NASA to provide a plan,  including an anticipated schedule and milestones, for the Pu-238 program  through the reestablishment of production. This plan should be coordinated with  NASA's partners at DOE and should be provided to the Committees on  Appropriations no later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act.

“The  Committee also directs the Planetary Science Division, in conjunction with  elements of the Space Technology program, to continue working on Advanced  Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) technology, which will enable NASA to  make more efficient use of available radioisotope fuels in the future.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) --  The recommendation includes $628,000,000 for  JWST in order to keep the program on track for a 2018 launch. NASA is expected  to continue cooperating with the GAO review of JWST that was begun in fiscal  year 2012 and to give GAO access to all relevant and necessary program  information.

“The  bill retains language establishing a cap of $8,000,000,000 for JWST formulation  and development costs and requiring NASA to have the program reauthorized by  Congress in the event of further cost increases. These provisions are necessary  to ensure that NASA is appropriately managing risks and containing costs.

“As  another means of cost control, NASA committed to calculating new cost and  schedule estimates for the program. The Committee expected that this process  would result in estimates that meet the agency's 70 percent joint cost and  schedule confidence level (JCL) standards, but the actual JWST JCL is only 66  percent. NASA has assured the Committee that the lower JCL is not due to any  weakness in its estimates but is an artifact resulting from the late  application of the JCL tool to a fairly mature project. In the absence of a  high confidence JCL, however, the Committee requires additional information in  order to regularly monitor the program's fiscal health. NASA shall submit to  the Committees on Appropriations, on a quarterly basis, a listing of all JWST  performance milestones met and not met for that quarter; a description of the  budget and schedule ramifications associated with those milestones; and an  overall assessment of the current budget and schedule posture of the program.

Astrophysics -- The recommendation  includes $650,000,000 for Astrophysics.

“The Committee  believes that NASA's proposal to spend up to $9,000,000 in fiscal year 2013 on  a hardware contribution to the European Space Agency's Euclid mission is in  conflict with the NRC's recommendation to make such an investment only in the  context of a strong commitment to NASA's Wide Field Infra-Red Survey Telescope,  for which no funding is requested. Prior to obligating any funding for Euclid  hardware, therefore, NASA is directed to report to the Committees on  Appropriations on how its proposed plans are consistent with the results of the  NRC Euclid review.”

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