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FY2006 NASA Appropriations (11-11-05)

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 to conduct space and aeronautical research, development, and flight activities for peaceful purposes designed to maintain United States preeminence in aeronautics and space. NASA's unique mission of exploration, discovery, and innovation is intended to preserve the United States' role as both a leader in world aviation and as the pre-eminent space-faring nation. It is NASA's mission to: advance human exploration, use and development of space; advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth, the Solar System and the Universe; and research, develop, verify and transfer advanced aeronautics and space technologies. The geoscience community is most interested in the Earth science observations conducted within the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration Division at NASA.

For analysis of hearings held by Congress on NASA appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 NASA Appropriations Process

Account

FY05 Enacted
($million)

House Action
($million)

Senate Action
($million)
NASA (total)
16,070
16,456
16,471
16,396
16,411
Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration
9,335
9,661
9,726
9,761
9,734
-- Science
5,527
5,476
5,516
5,650
5,546
---- Solar System Exploration
1,858
1,901
1,901
1,901
1,861
---- The Universe
1,513
1,512
1,522
1,762
1,572
---- The Earth-Sun System
2,156
2,063
2,093
2,166
2,113

President's Request

For fiscal year (FY) 2005, NASA has reorganized their science programs and shifted FY 2005 enacted funding to accomodate this reorganization.
NASA's total budget is divided into three accounts: Science, Aeronautics and Exploration; Exploration Capabilities; and Inspector General. Within the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account, NASA has created four "mission directorates": Exploration Systems, Space Operations, Science, and Aeronautics Research. In August, 2004, NASA consolidated Space Science, Earth Science and Biological & Physical Research programs into the new Science Mission Directorate. Programs that fell within this program were then futher subdivided into Solar System Exploration, The Universe, and The Earth-Sun System, which houses NASA's Earth science programs. Consolidating NASA's research and development programs under the four major mission directorates, NASA's Exploration Capabilities became devoted solely to International Space Station and Space Shuttle operations. The Aeronautics and Education Programs were not affected by the reorganization.

The Administration requested a total of $16.5 billion for FY2006, an increase of 1.6% over the $16.2 billion provided in FY2005. In accordance with President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration," NASA plans to return the space shuttle to flight by July 2005, and is planning 28 shuttle missions to complete construction of the International Space Station. Comprising 39% of NASA's budget, the Space Station and the Space Shuttle will receive $6.4 billion, up $169 million from FY2005 and $945 million from FY04. Major spending for the development of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is expected to start in FY2006 with a "placeholder" request of $753 million to design a prototype, an increase of $140 million over the FY2005 enacted level.

The total Science budget request is $5.5 billion, decreasing $51 million from the FY2005 enacted level. Among Earth science programs, the Earth Systematic Missions program is slated for a $118 million (40%) cut, stalling the Glory mission, which would observe weather patterns at a global scale and address climate change questions. Earth System Science Pathfinder Projects would increase by $27 million (25%), resulting in a total $92 million reduction within the Earth-Sun System division.

The President's proposal would cancel funding for a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, but requests $371 million for developing its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA budget documents are available online.

House Action

On June 16, 2005, the House passed the "Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006", which includes funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). If the House version of the bill is enacted, NASA would receive a total of $16.471 billion, which is an increase of $275 million, or 1.7%, over FY2005 enacted levels and an increase of $15 million, or 0.01%, over the President's request.

Overall Science funding would be set at $5.516 billion, which is a decrease of $11 million below FY2005 enacted levels but an increase of $40 million over the President's request. Within the Science division, Solar System Exploration funding would increase $43 million above FY2005, equal to the President's request. Universe science funding would increase $9 million from FY2005 levels, $10 million above the President's request. Earth-Sun System science funding would decrease $63 million from FY05 levels, which represents a partial restoration of the $92 million cut to Earth Science proposed by the Administration. To offset these and other increases relative to the request, the committee struck $25 million from the proposal for exploration systems research and technology, $25 million from human systems research and technology, and another $31 million in corporate administrative costs.

In the report accompanying the Appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee expressed its support for Earth Science funding within NASA. Several members voiced their support of the Administration's Vision for Space Exploration but expressed an unwillingness to pursue exploration priorities at the expense of Earth science programs, reasoning that the proposed shift in funds might jeopardize U.S. leadership in science and technology. The report states:

"The Committee is very concerned about the reductions to NASA's science programs especially the drastic reductions to earth science programs designed to provide a better understanding of our planet. To begin to address this shortcoming the Committee is providing $40,000,000 above the budget request. To paraphrase the National Academy of Sciences concerning these science programs, decades of research have improved health, enhanced national security, and helped generate economic growth by providing critical environmental information. While the National Academy is currently undertaking a decadal review of NASA's earth science programs, at the behest of the Congress the National Academy has provided an interim report detailing what it believes are short-term urgent science requirements."

This $40 million increase over the President's request for science programs includes $10 million within the Universe account for the Space Interferometry Mission, and $30 million within the Earth-Sun System account for the Glory mission, which measures aerosol properties and quantifies their effect on climate. In the budget request, the Administration had proposed to cut Glory to $5 million. According to the committee, this shortfall "would clearly have resulted in the unraveling of Glory as an integrated mission and resulted in a certain delay in the launch of key instruments several years beyond the planned launch date. NASA's Glory program is a key Global Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI) mission and critical to the achievement of CCRI's science goals." Other Earth observation missions singled out by the National Academies as threatened, such as the Global Precipitation Measurements (GPM) mission be launched without delay and that the Atmospheric Sounding from Geostationary Orbit (GIFTS), were not specifically mentioned in the report.

Of the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), which leads the nation's search for other Earth-like planets in the Universe, the Committee wrote: "NASA's search for planets and life beyond our solar system is having increasing and dramatic success with over 150 planets now discovered. SIM is expected to examine 2,000 to 3,000 stars for planetary systems to fulfill a critical step in the search for Earth-like planets. The Committee is providing these additional funds to help ensure that SIM's important mission is maintained."

NASA's Project Prometheus, which will develop advanced nuclear technologies for powering spacecraft, survived an amendment on the floor by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) that would have cut funding from the project in order to support state and local law enforcement programs within the State Department. The committee also expressed support for a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa that would use conventional technologies rather than nuclear technology from Project Prometheus: "The Committee urges NASA to consider incorporating a non-nuclear Europa mission as part of its fiscal year 2007 budget request."

Other increases to the budget request for NASA under the House bill include $53 million to fully restore the proposed cuts to NASA's aeronautics program, $2 million for education programs, and $50 million worth of Congressional earmarks.

The texts of the House appropriations bill, H.R.2862, and the House Committee report, H.Rept.109-118, are available here.

The House Appropriations subcommitte for Science, State, Justice and Commerce is chaired by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA); other members include Reps. Taylor (R-NC), Kirk (R-IL), Weldon (R-FL), Goode (R-VA), LaHood (R-IL), Culberson (R-TX), Alexander (R-LA), Mollohan (D-WV), Serrano (D-NY), Cramer (D-AL), Kennedy (D-RI) and Fattah (D-PA).

Senate Action

On September 15, 2005, the full Senate passed spending measures for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies by a vote of 91 - 4. The bill included a total of $16.4 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is a 2% increase from the fiscal year (FY) 2005 funding levels excluding emergency supplemental appropriations. The Senate appropriation is $60 million below the budget request, including a $160 million cut from NASA's Exploration Capabilities, and a $100 million increase for Science and Aeronautics Programs.

During a week-long debate, Senators tacked on $4.3 billion worth of hurricane Katrina-related emergency spending measures, which may compound already uncertain conference negotiations. Although the House bill includes funding for the Justice Department whereas the Senate bill does not, the greatest discrepancy between the Senate and House bills lies in science funding. The Senate bill provides $1 billion more in funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration than the House, however, the Senate bill provides $100 million less than the House for NASA and the NSF.

According to reports in Congressional Quarterly, until Congress can reach agreements on this and other spending bills, a continuing resolution to fund government agencies into the next fiscal year will temporarily appropriate the lowest amount recommended by the House or Senate.

The Senate bill includes cuts to the President's request for exploration programs while adding some funds to the Science Directorate, namely $100 million to the Earth-Sun System program. In the report accompanying the bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee gives a lengthy overview of its reservations and disappointments regarding the Administration's Vision for Space Exploration and NASA's FY 2006 budget justifications. Specifically, the committee calls on NASA to provide greater detail about how the agency arrived at budgeting decisions, and directs the agency to provide "out-year budget impacts of all reprogramming requests" in future years. In general, the committee expressed skepticism about the success of NASA's ambitious programmatic reorganization in the absence of comprehensive authorization legislation. Authorization legislation has been making its way through the House and Senate concurrent with the appropriation bills. Cuts and delays in science and aeronautics programs are among the committee's main concerns, as the report states:

"The new National space policy to proceed with human and robotic exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond has profound implications for all of the science conducted by NASA. While the Committee applauds those goals, it is concerned that the strong, balanced science program that has served the Nation so successfully for many years could be left behind instead of 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. NASA is encouraged to look for ways to maintain a balance with the productive science NASA is known for and currently has underway, while taking the steps to fulfill the exploration vision.

"The Committee is concerned that NASA will neglect areas that will only tangentially benefit from, or that do not fit within, the proposed vision. Within the fiscal year 2006 budget request, programs and infrastructure are proposed to be deferred or cancelled in such areas. These programs appear to be the sacrifices for the near-term budgetary resources needed to facilitate the implementation of the Moon/Mars vision."

The Senate committee set total funding for Science, Aeronautics and Exploration at $9.8 billion, exactly $100 million above the President's budget request. Within this account, the Science Mission Directorate would receive $5.7 billion under the bill, a $134 million increase over the request. Whereas the House specified that an additional $40 million would fund only the Space Interferometry mission and the Glory mission, the report that accompanies the Senate bill reveals few specific directives for distributing the added funds. However, the committee states at length that it endorses maintaining a strong Earth science program at NASA:

"Earth science has been a critical part of the 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 that reflect a serious commitment to Earth science as a vital part of the Nation's space program. The Committee further recommends $102,837,000 within this account to supplement activities within the areas of earth science and exploration.

Much of the committee's endorsement is based on the National Academy of Sciences' recently released interim report on Earth Science and Applications from Space, a decadal study to be completed by the end of 2006. The committee directs NASA to have an implementation plan for FY 2007 that would address and revive the highest priority Earth science missions in FY 2007. "In addition, the Committee fully expects this implementation profile 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."

Among the committee's recomendations, an additional $15 million would be provided for a NASA Earth Science Applications Program, which will competitively select project proposals that use NASA's Earth observing data and models to serve "national priorities" such as homeland security, coastal management, agriculture, water management and disaster management. The committee also directs NASA to ensure that the Earth observating data information system (EOSDIS) remains the "operational foundation of the...ground system to implement all of the new missions funded as a result of the Earth science decadal survey."

Another specific endorsement offered by the committee is in support of continuing the Hubble Space Telescope. The Senate bill includes an additional $250 million to provide an SM-4 servicing mission to be completed by the end of 2008, "pending a final decision by the NASA Administrator."

Finally, the committee recommends $12 million total for the NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR], $29 million for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (Space Grant), and $54 million for other education-related activities.

The full text of the bill (HR2862) and the House Report (109-88 ) is available on the Library of Congress website: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app06.html

The United States Senate will be considering funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), other members include Senators Gregg (R-NH), Stevens (R-AK), Domenici (R-NM), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Brownback (R-KS), Bond (R-MO), Mikulski (D-MD) (Ranking Member), Inouye (D-HI), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Murray (D-WA), Harkin (D-IA), and Dorgan (D-ND).

Conference Committee Action

House and Senate conferees reached an agreement on the Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations Bill (HR 2862) on November 4, 2005. The overall bill contains $51.8 billion in budget authority and appropriates $48.4 billion in discretionary funds. According to a Senate Appropriations Committee press release, the $48.4 billion is equivalent to a $600 million increase above FY 2005 appropriations and $1.5 billion above the budget request, excluding the Strengthening America’s Communities Initiative.

The conference agreement provides $16.4 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Barring additional rescissions imposed by Congress, NASA's total budget would increase roughly 2% from FY 2005. Comparisons in the report between the conference agreement and FY 2005 levels do not include emergency supplemental funding or rescissions to last year's appropriations. Additionally, comparisons to the administration's request do not take into account the FY 2006 budget amendment that was submitted when NASA unveiled its plan for developing a new Crew Exploration Vehicle this September.

Under the agreement, NASA's FY 2006 total budget is nearly identical to that proposed in the original presidential request, but the final bill would shuffle large portions of this funding. The bill would strip $440 million in Bush administration priorities, including over $200 million from NASA's Exploration Program, and put back $540 million in increases to the budget request, including $280 million worth of Congressional earmarks, $60 million to partially restore cuts to the Aeronautics Program, and $50 million for select Earth Science programs that had been scheduled for a cut. The amount of money restored to NASA's Earth Science division in the final bill would fall below the Senate's recommended addition of $100 million but comes in $20 million above what the House had recommended. Another notable reduction included in the final conference report is an $80 million cut to the International Space Station (ISS) budget. Within this account, conferees removed $60 million from crew and cargo services and encouraged NASA to employ commercially developed capabilities.

Out of the $9.7 billion provided for Science, Aeronautics and Exploration, $5.5 billion would go towards the Science Mission Directorate, a mere $24 million over the previous year's budget and $70 million more than the president's request. In the report, the conferees make clear that science should remain a core commitment at NASA; however, they also concede that budget constraints have inhibited Congress from fully restoring the administration's proposed cuts to these programs.

"The conferees are supportive of NASA's new vision and mission for space exploration and the conference agreement includes funds for the Administration's priorities for these activities. However, the conferees remain concerned about the need to maintain the nation's leadership in science and technology. To this end, the conferees have not agreed to the Administration's proposed reductions to the aeronautics research program or science programs, and have partially restored funding to these core programs. However, given the serious nature of the budget deficit facing the nation, the conferees were forced to make a number of difficult choices in allocating the scarce resources available to NASA. The conference agreement includes a budget that supports both the new vision and NASA's other core functions."

Within the Science Mission Directorate, the Earth-Sun System account will receive $2.1 billion, the Solar System account will receive $1.8 billion, and the Universe account will receive $1.6 billion. The report includes, by reference, language included in the Senate bill that states the importance of the National Academy of Science's decadal study on the current status and future of Earth Science satellite missions (see Senate update). The report also adopts Senate language directing NASA to ensure that the Earth observing data information system (EOSDIS) remains the "operational foundation of the...ground system to implement all of the new missions funded as a result of the Earth science decadal survey."

Changes to the budget request in the Earth-Sun System account include the House bill's recommended $30 billion increase to continue the Glory mission, which is an important component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI). It also adds $5 million for the "Living with a Star" program and $15 million for an Earth Science Applications program as proposed in the Senate bill. Earth Science Applications is a competitive grant program for research and development projects that integrate the results of NASA's Earth observing systems and Earth system models (using observations and predictions). These integrated tools would be used to improve homeland security, coastal management, agricultural efficiency and disaster management decisions.

Conferees rejected the administration's plan to fly a Landsat-type instrument on a NOAA spacecraft, a key component to the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, which is a project involving NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey. "The conferees now understand that such a mission is no longer feasible for both funding and technical reasons," the report states, directing the three agencies and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to come up with a new plan within 4 months of the bill's enactment.

Solar System Exploration programs will remain at approximately FY 2005 levels after sustaining a $40 million cut from the president's request, most of this reduction coming out of the budget for the shuttle Discovery. Meanwhile, conferees agreed to increase the Exploration Systems budget to fund components of NASA's "Exploration Systems Architecture" that was released in September. These increases include $20 million in additional funds for risk reduction activities relating to the development of the new Crew Launch Vehicle, and $5 million to begin planning for a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle, which the conferees called "critical" to NASA's exploration plans.

Within Universe programs, the conference agreement adds $10 million to the budget request for the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), which is designed to search for Earth-like planets in neighboring solar systems. The conference agreement adds another $50 million to prepare for an SM-4 servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, as proposed in the Senate. Maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope has received increased support throughout congressional deliberations this year. In the report, conferees "reiterate their position that the Hubble Space Telescope has been one of NASA's most successful programs and remains one of the top priorities for the nation's space program." For development of the James Webb Telescope, a successor to the Hubble, the conference agreement provides $372 million, the same as the budget request.

The conferees made special reference to the Mars program in the conference report, calling it "a key element of the nation's vision for space exploration." The final agreement provides $680 million for the program in FY 2006, consistent with the president's request.

Within NASA's education programs, the conference agreement provides a total of $12.5 million for NASA's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Additionally, the conferees recommend a total of $30 million for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, enough to fund 40 grantees at $611,250 each and 12 grantees at $425,000.

The full text of the bill (HR 2862) and conference report (109-272) are available at http://thomas.loc.gov

Appropriations Hearings

  • April 28, 2005: House Science Committee, Hearing on Whether Severe Budget Cuts May Threaten the Vitality of NASA Earth Science Programs
  • February 17, 2005: House Science Committee Full Committee Hearing on the NASA FY 2006 Budget Proposal

House Science Committee
Hearing on Whether Severe Budget Cuts May Threaten the Vitality of NASA Earth Science Programs
April 28, 2005

Witnesses
Alphonso Diaz, Associate Administrator at NASA for the Science Mission Directorate.
Dr. Berrien Moore, Co-Chairman, the National Academy of Sciences Decadal Survey, "Earth Observations from Space: A Community Assessment and Strategy for the Future," and Director for the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire
Dr. Tim Killeen, Director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
Dr. Marcia McNutt, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California.
Dr. Sean Solomon, Director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Dr. Ray Williamson, Research Professor in the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University.

On April 28, 2005, the House Science Committee initiated what may be a series of hearings that question NASA's plans to cancel or delay a number of Earth science satellite missions. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, NASA has proposed to spend $1.37 billion for Earth science research, an 8% cut from FY 2005 levels, and a 24% cut in real dollars from FY 2004, according to Science Committee ranking member Bart Gordon. A day before the hearing, the National Research Council (NRC) released an interim report on the status of federal Earth science programs, which found that tight budgets at NASA and other agencies are threatening the value and preeminence of U.S. Earth observing systems. Concerned with these findings, committee members called on senior U.S. scientists to offer testimony regarding NASA's role in meeting future scientific priorities. This testimony, along with a press release and charter released by the committee can be found on the committee's website.

Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, Representative Gordon, and other members of Congress have been concerned that cuts to Earth observing missions are due to NASA's strategic reorientation around the President's "Vision for Space Exploration." In his opening remarks, Chairman Boehlert challenged the apparent shift in priorities. "The planet that has to matter most to us is the one we live on," he said. "You'd think that would go without saying." Gordon added that under the proposal, Earth science and aeronautic programs would absorb 75% of the overall cuts that NASA must sustain to meet tight budget constraints. In comparison, exploration programs would only account for 10% of the overall cuts.

Al Diaz, NASA's Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, was first to testify at the hearing. He urged the public to interpret the changes within NASA as part of a federal agenda to expand Earth science into a national program. Earth sciences within a national program will benefit from the President's space exploration initiative and contribute to stronger U.S. leadership in Earth-systems research by involving more stakeholders. "We are in the midst of a transition in Earth science from a NASA-centric approach to a national strategy that maximizes all of our national capabilities," Diaz testified. "These changes have created some anxiety, and I recognize that it can cause some to question our commitment to Earth science."

Offering testimony on the NRC report was Berrien Moore, who co-chairs the 18-member panel "Earth observations and applications from space." The report released April 27th is an initial summary of a larger, comprehensive decadal survey projecting federal Earth observing capabilities and priorities through 2020. The NRC panel recommended either immediate continuation or "urgent" reconsideration of several threatened satellite missions, which are summarized with their current status in the table below. The delay or cancellation of these missions, according to Moore, would jeopardize NASA's ability to meet it's obligation to non-exploration Presidential initiatives, such as the climate change research initiative and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

Mission
Measurement
Societal Benfit
Status

Global Precipitation
Measurement

Precipiation

Reduce vulnerability to floods and droughts; improve forecasts of hurricanes

delayed

Atmospheric Soundings
from Geostationary Orbit

Temperature and water vapor

Improved weather forecasts and severe storm warnings

canceled

Ocean Vector Winds

Wind speed and direction
near the ocean surface

Improved warnings to ships at sea; better predictions of El Nino

canceled

Landsat Data Continuity

Land cover

Monitor land-use changes; find mineral resources

canceled

Glory Instrument

Optical properties of aerosols; solar irradiance

improved understanding of climate change

canceled

Wide Swath Ocean Altimeter

Ocean Surface Topography

Monitor changes that affect fisheries, navigation, and ocean climate

descoped

Table 3.1 from National Research Council interim report "Earth Science and Applications from Space"

Among NASA's strategies are plans to shift some of the agency's climate data systems to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a plan that Committee leaders argued was a poor rationale for cutting NASA programs. "Having NASA claim that NOAA will take over activities when there is no indication of that in NOAA's plans or budget strains credulity," said Chairman Boehlert. "It's the sound of one hand clapping, and it won't get any applause from us."

While the NRC panel would strongly support agency partnerships, Moore testified that in the near-term, the transfer of operations from NASA to NOAA involves "technological and scientific issues we don't understand." According to the American Geophysical Union's weekly publication EOS, Moore had not even been aware of NASA's plans to accelerate a "national program" as described by Diaz. All the scientists testifying before the committee agreed that federal budget strategies must realize the fundamentally different roles that NASA, NOAA, and USGS play in basic research, technological development, deployment, and assessment. NASA, Moore explained, is research and development-oriented, while NOAA is purely operational. Therefore the long-term viability of NOAA to sustain a robust Earth science program depends on NASA.

When Boehlert asked the panelists to offer further insight into NASA's unique value, the scientists were quick to respond. Ray Williamson, research professor of space policy at George Washington University, corroborated the NRC report's findings that U.S. leadership in Earth observing systems could simply not survive without NASA. According to Tim Kileen, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NASA has been known for the unique coupling of rapid technological advancement and scientific analysis that has single-handedly positioned the U.S. "on the brink of a new era in Earth science research". Marcia McNutt of the Monterey Bay Aquarium said that NASA is the only civilian agency that has the "capacity, tradition, and track record" to provide the necessary capital and leadership in Earth science. If transferred to NOAA, McNutt warned, the Earth science program would be "severed from the root of technology that feeds it," and "innovation within the program would wither and die."

According to representative Ken Calvert (R-CA), the bottom line in the debate was the need for better strategic interaction among agencies. Although Calvert wished to defend Diaz's statement that NASA does not intend to abandon Earth sciences, he said "strategy should always come before budget constraints in determining programs," implying that the current status of partnerships among NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense is not condusvie to acheiving the national policy NASA is aiming for in the FY 2006 budget proposal.

-KCA

House Science Committee Full Committee
Hearing on the NASA FY 2006 Budget Proposal

February 17, 2005

Witness
Mr. Frederick D. Gregory, NASA Acting Administrator

The House Science Committee initiated the first congressional debate over President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration in the first of a series of hearings, which will consider NASA's FY06 budget proposal and lead to the introduction of a NASA authorization bill. Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) declared "I want to do an authorization bill because I think it's critical that Congress have a full and open debate on the President's Vision for Space Exploration and the future of NASA before NASA barrels ahead with the program," adding, "I don't think NASA should be our top budget priority in either this Committee or the Congress." Boehlert also announced the formation of a new Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, to be chaired by Congressmen Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Chairman Boehlert questioned NASA Acting Administrator Frederick Gregory on when NASA will be able to provide answers to several feasibility issues facing the International Space Station, space shuttle flight plans, and the development of a new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). Members of the Committee also questioned Gregory heavily on changes in NASA's workforce, funding cuts for aeronautics and earth sciences, and the discontinuation of the Hubble Telescope.

NASA plans to return the space shuttle to flight by as early as May of this year, and the agency estimates it will need to run 28 shuttle missions to complete construction of the Space Station. Comprising 40% of NASA's budget, these two programs will receive $6.4 billion, up $169 million from FY05 and $945 million from FY04. In the hearing, Gregory deflected doubts as to whether the agency will be able to complete the 28 missions by 2010, when the shuttle is to be retired. The major obstacle in completing construction however, is the Iran Non-proliferation Act (INA), which prohibits the U.S. from exchanging resources and services unless the President certifies that Russia is not involved in the proliferation of nuclear materials from Iran. Space Station missions are stalled without assistance from Russian crew rescue vehicles. Gregory testified that NASA will submit an amendment to the treaty to be considered by Congress by the end of February, but cited no contingency plan should the INA not be amended.

Major spending for the development of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is expected to start in FY06, single-handedly increasing Exploration Systems funding by $500 million dollars from FY05 to $3.165 billion under the request. NASA is requesting a "placeholder" of $753 million (up from $140 million for FY05), which will go towards designing a prototype. To this end, Gregory reported that the agency is working actively with 11 teams of private entrepreneurs and plans to issue basic parameters for the design by March 1.

Several members of the committee expressed concern over cuts in Aeronautics and Earth Science programs, which show only a slight decrease in the budget request, but fall hundreds of millions below the figure previously projected for FY06. Funding for earth sciences would be further offset in the Science budget due to increases for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, which will gather data in preparation for the human mission.

Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) expressed their disappointment at the decision to discontinue servicing the Hubble Telescope, discounting Gregory's claims that servicing missions would be too risky. "The Hubble in a week will probably be more productive than the entire lifetime of the Space Station," exclaimed Ehlers, "certainly 28 flights to the International Space Station will have a higher risk than one Hubble mission." But Gregory assured the committee that the "world-class" astronomy program would continue through new telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope, for which NASA requested $371 million in FY06.

To learn more, read the Science Committee's hearing charter for an extensive overview of major issues and budget details.

-KCA

Sources: NASA Budget Information website, hearing testimony, House Science Committee Feb. 17 Hearing Charter, H.R.2862, H.Rept.109-118, and American Institute of Physics.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program, Katie Ackerly, AGI/AAPG 2005 Spring Intern, and John Vermylen, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern.

Last Update September 30, 2005


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