FY2008 NASA Appropriations (12-29-07)

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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 recently re-organized Science Mission Directorate Starting in fiscal year 2008, the three divisions (Solar System Exploration, Sun-Earth and The Universe) have been replaced with four themes (Earth Science, Heliophysics, Planetary Science and Astrophysics).

Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 NASA Appropriations Process

Account

FY07 Enacted
($million)

House Action
($million)

Senate Action
($million)
NASA (total)
16,247
17,300
 
 
 
Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration
10,075
10,483.1
 
 
 
-- Science Mission Directorate*
5,251 
5,516.1
 
 
 
---- Earth Science
1,443*
1,497.3
 
 
 
---- Heliophysics
1,013*
1,057.2
     
---- Planetary Science
1391*
1,395.8
 
 
 
---- Astrophysics
1,540*
1,565.8
 
 
 

* NASA has reorganized the Science Mission Directorate into 4 themes to replace Solar System Exploration, Sun-Earth and The Universe. Enacted FY07 numbers for the 4 new themes are approximate.

President's Request

On February 5, 2007, NASA Director Michael Griffin unveiled the President's fiscal 2008 budget request for the space agency with a total funding request of $17.3 billion. Griffin issued a sober warning on that day about the total funding level being considered in the continuing resolution (CR) for fiscal year 2007. The CR would leave NASA more than $545 million below the President's fiscal 2007 request. Unfortunately for NASA, the CR was passed a few weeks later and NASA total budget for fiscal 2007 is only $16.2 billion, well below the request. This also means that the fiscal 2008 request looks like a larger increase for NASA, being a nearly 6% increase over enacted fiscal 2007. The extra $1 billion will primarily be distributed to Space Operations and Exploration Systems to maintain and accelerate current shuttle operations, to complete the space station and to continue accelerated development of a new shuttle system. Indeed the budget plans over the next 5 years for NASA would significantly increase spending for space operations and exploration systems in order to complete the space station and narrow the gap between the old and new shuttle system. These increases would be completed at the expense of science missions, which would have flat funding for at least 2 years followed by small increases over the next 3 years. The Science Mission Directorate would receive about $90 million more in fiscal 2008 compared with the enacted fiscal 2007, however, these comparisons may not reflect the true differences because NASA has changed the method by which they calculate overhead and admininstrative costs and has re-organized their mission directorates. Regardless of the actual size of this small increase, it will not help to offset increasing fixed costs or cost overruns on some projects, which means that NASA will have to make some tough decisions on which projects to defer, delay or reduce in scale and objectives.

In addition to tight funding for projects, NASA's 5-year budget outlook suggests a 1,100 decrease in workforce from the current civil service workforce of about 18,100 full time equivalent (FTE) employees to 17,000 FTEs by 2012, which does not bode well for NASA's ability to accomplish its missions.. It is also worth noting that the current request, like the fiscal 2006 (-$1.02 billion) and the fiscal 2007 (-$546 million) requests would underfund President Bush's 2004 "Vision for U.S. Space Exploration" budget plan by $690 million for fiscal 2008.

NASA has re-organized the Science Mission Directorate and replaced the three divisions (Solar System Exploration, Sun-Earth and The Universe) with four themes (Earth Science, Heliophysics, Planetary Science and Astrophysics). The Earth Science theme would get $1,497.3 million in the President's fiscal 2008 request. The new Earth Science Division (ESD) consists of seven programs: Earth Systematic Missions, Earth Science Pathfinder, Research, Applied Sciences, Multi-Mission Operations, Technology and Education and Outreach. ESD has 14 operational missions on orbit, 5 missions in implementation, and 2 missions in formulation.

The Earth Systematic Missions Program would receive $608 million in fiscal 2008, an increase of nearly 18% compared to its fiscal 2007 budget of $516 million. The program according to NASA's budget summary "...provides Earth-observing satellites--including LDCM, Glory, GPM, NPP, OSTM, Terra, Aqua, Aura, EP/TOMS, TRMM, ACRIMSat, QuikSCAT, EO-1, Jason, ICESat, and SORCE--that contribute to the provision of long-term environmental data sets that can be used to study the evolution of the Earth system on a range of temporal scales. This information is used to analyze, model, and improve understanding of the Earth system. Data gathered by these spacecraft will enable improved predictions of climate, weather, and natural hazards."

In fact, Glory's science objectives are to (1) determine the global distribution, microphysical properties, and chemical composition of natural and anthropogenic aerosols and clouds with accuracy and coverage sufficient for a reliable quantification of the aerosol direct and indirect effects on climate; and, (2) continue measurement of the total solar irradiance to determine the Sun's direct and indirect effect on the Earth's climate. Such data is critical for addressing global climate change and makes Glory a relatively high priority mission for the U.S.

For four of the five Earth observing missions within this program that are in the implementation stage, there will be delays because of tight budgets, cost overruns, and other problems. The NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) will be delayed to a September 2009 launch date. Glory will not be launched until 2009, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) will not be launched until February 2011, leaving a small data gap in Landsat observations and Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) will be delayed to a summer 2013 launch date. The fifth mission, the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM) will launch in 2008.

The President's request, in very tight fiscal times for all agencies, follows the recommendations of the interim report of the first ever Earth science decadal survey conducted by the National Academies. The proposed budget provides funding to implement NPOESS, LDCM, Glory and GPM, however, the funding would not support the high-priority instruments that were descoped earlier and recommended to be put back on by the survey. In addition, some missions would be delayed beyond the priority launch windows suggested in the survey. Unfortunately the request and the 5-year budget outlook would also not be able to support any of the 15 new high priority missions, chosen from about 100 suggested projects, described in the survey. Overall the survey concluded that "the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft, most of which are well past their nominal lifetimes, will decrease by some 40 percent" over the next decade and thus it is imperative that NASA return Earth science funding, which has been cut by 30% over the past 6 years when inflation is accounted for, to at least its fiscal 2000 levels.

The Earth System Science Pathfinder Program (ESSP) would receive $135.7 million in fiscal 2008, a cut of nearly 17% compared to a budget of $163 million in fiscal 2007. The program according to NASA's budget summary "...addresses unique, specific, highly focused mission requirements in Earth science research. ESSP includes a series of relatively low-tomoderate cost, small-to-medium sized, competitively selected, Principal Investigator-led missions that are built, tested and launched in a short time interval. These missions, which complement the larger Earth Systematic Missions (ESM), are capable of supporting a variety of scientific objectives related to Earth science, including studies of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, polar ice regions, and solid Earth. Investigations include development and operation of remote-sensing instruments and the conduct of investigations utilizing data from these instruments. ESSP currently has two missions in development (Orbiting Carbon Observatory [OCO] and Aquarius) and three operating missions (the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment [GRACE], CloudSat, and the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations [CALIPSO] mission). Future ESSP missions will be selected from proposals submitted in response to Announcements of Opportunity (AOs). These AOs will be released approximately once every two years, subject to funding availability."

The Earth Science Research Program would receive $428 million in fiscal 2008. The program according to NASA's budget summary "...improves the capability to document the global distribution of a range of important environmental parameters related to the Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, and land surface; to understand the processes that drive and connect them; and to improve our capability to predict the future evolution of the Earth system, including climate, weather, and natural hazards. Earth Science Research funds basic research and modeling efforts, the Suborbital Science Project (which conducts research using airplanes and Uninhabited Air Systems), and supercomputing efforts that support a variety of agencies. Earth Science operating spacecraft previously included in Earth Science Research have been moved under the Earth Systematic Missions Program in the FY08 budget."

The research program fiscal 2008 request would replicate the fiscal 2007 request for a 20% cut for basic research grants and this would make it difficult for NASA to support its primary objectives and those of related agencies.

The Applied Sciences Program would receive $40 million in fiscal 2008, a 12.6% cut compared to fiscal 2007. The program according to NASA's budget summary "...is focused on working with Federal agencies and national organizations to extend the use of technology and data associated with NASA's constellation of Earth system observing spacecraft. These spacecraft, which routinely make measurements using dozens of research instruments, are used by a community of Earth system scientists in laboratories, universities, and research institutions throughout the country, and around the world, to model the Earth system and improve predictions, projections, and forecasts. Through its partnerships with operational agencies such as NOAA, Department of Agriculture, and other agencies and organizations, the Applied Sciences Program extends the benefits of NASA Earth system science to improve decision making and policy formulation. Outcomes from these partnerships have demonstrated the value of NASA's observations from research spacecraft and predictive capability from scientific models in areas such as improving public health tracking systems for deadly diseases, providing advanced weather predictive capability for aviation turbulence and icing, and improving severe storm predictions for disaster warnings. As we move forward, the NASA Applied Sciences Program will continue the incorporation of NASA research results into policy and management decision-support tools that are vital for the Nation's safety, security, and economic enterprises."

The Earth Science Multi-Mission Operations Program would receive $204.4 million, a 7.5% increase compared to fiscal 2007. The program according to NASA's budget summary "...acquires, preserves, and distributes observational data to support Earth Science focus areas in conformance with national science objectives. Facilities involved in this undertaking include data-handling, data processing, and archiving systems. NASA's principal Earth Science information system is the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS), which has been operational since August 1994. EOSDIS acquires, processes, archives, and distributes Earth Science data and information products created from satellite data, which arrive at the rate of more than four trillion bytes (4 Terabytes) per day. NASA Earth Science information is archived at eight Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) located across the United States. The DAACs specialize by topic area, and make their data available to researchers around the world. Research opportunities related to EOSDIS are available through the Advanced Collaborative Connections for Earth System Science (ACCESS) and Research, Education and Applications, Solutions Network (REASoN) programs."

House Action

 

The House of Representatives considers funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Mollohan (D-WV), other members include Representatives Kennedy (D-RI), Fattah (D-PA), Ruppersberger (D-MD), Schiff (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), DeLauro (D-CT), Price (D-NC), Obey (D-WI), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Culberson (R-TX), Rogers (R-KY), Latham (R-IA), Aderholt (R-AL), and Lewis (R-CA).

Senate Action

 

The Senate considers funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Mikulski (D-MD), other members include Senators Inouye (D-HI), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Harkin (D-IA), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Shelby (R-AL), Gregg (R-NH), Stevens (R-AK), Domenici (R-NM), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Brownback (R-KS), and Alexander (R-TN).

Emergency Supplemental Includes Science Funding

With a vote of 96-2 by the Senate on June 26th the emergency supplemental bill (H.R. 2642) was passed by Congress and now heads to the White House for the President’s signature.  Although the majority of the $165 billion bill is geared toward funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, four science agencies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Science within the Department of Energy, (DOE Science) would receive much needed boosts to their FY 2008 funding levels. 

NASA, NSF and DOE Science would receive an additional $62.5 million for FY 2008, while NIH would receive an additional $150 million in funding.  The supplemental funding for NSF was targeted to specific accounts while the other agencies received overall budget increases.  Within NSF, $22.5 million would be allocated to the Research and Related Activities account with $5 million of that funding available solely for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and $40 million would be allocated to the Education and Human Resources Directorate, with $20 million of those funds going to the Robert Noyce scholarship program.

FY 08 Omnibus

The omnibus for fiscal year 2008 included significant cuts to science and engineering compared to the House and Senate approved bills. The competitiveness initiatives of legislators and the Administration were unable to compete with other fiscal priorities and perhaps some partisanship at the end. Although President Bush has allowed past Republican-led congresses to send him budgets that were significantly over the Administration's total spending limit requests, this year he demanded that legislators meet his spending limits and would not compromise on any details. Congress attempted and failed to override the President's veto of a mini-omnibus and then spent a few days rapidly cutting the extra spending of about $22 billion across 11 appropriation bills.

The outcome is a squeeze on funding of geosciences research across the federal agencies. The National Science Foundation, one of the largest sources of basic geosciences research, will receive a disappointing 2.5 percent increase in total funding after being slated for a 10 percent increase in House and Senate proposals. The Geosciences Directorate will have to cut research support because less funding will be available overall, the Directorate faces significant rising costs for operation, maintenance and infrastructure and any small increases distributed to the Directorate will not keep pace with the cost of inflation, meaning a decrease in funding in real dollars.

The Department of Energy's Office of Science, where additional basic geosciences research is funded also received a last minute reduction of about $500 million compared to funding levels in the House and Senate proposals. Again the geosciences will see real cuts to basic research support, continuing a trend in the Office of Science of decreasing funding for geosciences.

On a more positive note, NASA's Earth science division, Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey will receive small, sustaining increases for geosciences research to keep a wide variety of programs and projects afloat. Over the longer term, these programs and projects will need real increases above the costs of inflation and basic operations and maintenance to ensure that these agencies meet their objectives. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provides a useful summary of federal investments in research and development (R&D) on an annual basis. According to AAAS, total R&D would increase about 1.2 percent to $142.7 billion for fiscal year 2008 and would be the fourth straight year of decline in real terms in federal R&D. The omnibus bill contains $927 million in non-defense R&D earmarks in 2008, down from $1.5 billion in non-defense R&D earmarks in 2006. The Defense Department budget includes $77.8 billion for R&D and $3.5 billion is specified for earmarks.

Among the major agencies of interest to the geosciences, NASA would receive $12.5 billion for R&D (a 5.7 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2007), the Energy Department would receive $9.376 billion for R&D (a 7.4 percent increase), the National Science Foundation would receive $4.53 billion for R&D (a 1.1 percent increase), USGS would receive $583 million for R&D (a 3.4 percent increase), NOAA would receive $573 million for R&D (a 7.6 percent increase), NIST would receive $514 million (a 4.7 percent increase) and the Smithsonian would receive $175 million for R&D ( the same as their budget for 2007). These numbers from AAAS are focused solely on R&D funding within these agencies and do not consider expenditures that might indirectly affect R&D.

NASA
NASA would receive a total budget of $17.3 billion, a few hundred million dollars below House and Senate proposals and excluding a $1 billion emergency funding proposal set forth in the Senate bill. The Science, Aeronautics and Exploration Division would receive $10.543 billion with $5.577 billion for science, $625 million for aeronautics and $3.842 billion for exploration systems. The joint report noted that $57.9 million would be reduced from the Division and that none of the funds could be used for the human exploration of Mars.

Congress also expressed disappointment with the small increases for science at NASA projected by the Administration and stated in their consolidated report: "The Appropriations Committees are disappointed by the Administration's request of a less than one percent increase for fiscal year 2008 and projected minimal increases of approximately one percent over the next several years. "

Congress also expressed support for Earth science research at NASA and stated in their report: "The Appropriations Committees recognize the importance of NASA Earth science research missions to the Nation to advance our ability to monitor climate, weather, and hazards and therefore recommends $40,000,000 for NASA to initiate missions identified in the National Research Council (NRC) report, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond. To the extent possible, the initial seven missions should begin in fiscal year 2008."

NASA would receive at least $90.2 million for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission and $626.4 million for the Mars Exploration Program. The Mars Exploration Program would include the following: "Full funding is provided to: continue operating all present missions (Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Spirit and Opportunity); prepare Phoenix for launch in 2007, Mars Science Lab for a launch in 2009, and Scout in 2011; and to start the definition and development of Mars Science orbiter for launch in 2013, and the Astrobiology Field Lab or Mid size rovers for launch in 2016. NASA is expected to continue with the development and launch of the Mars Science Lab."

Congress also provided an increase of $15 million for the Earth Science Application Program. The increase would be "… to support new competitively selected applications projects to be selected during fiscal year 2008. 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 management and disaster management."

Congress also provided funding for the solar probe, a magnetospheric mission and the lunar lander mission. Education would be funded at $180 million, a compromise between higher House levels and lower Senate levels.

For more details on federal R&D funding from AAAS, please visit their R&D Policy Web page.

For the full text of the omnibus and the related reports please visit Thomas and link to their extensive appropriations section.

Appropriations Hearings

Senate Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics, and Related Sciences
Hearing on the Administration's FY 2008 Budget Proposal for NASA
February 28, 2007

Witness:
Dr. Michael D. Griffin, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The Senate Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics, and Related Sciences convened Wednesday, February 28 to discuss the President's 2008 budget request for NASA. One of Congress's primary concerns is the impending "gap," a period of four of more years starting in late 2010 during which no manned space missions will be launched. Concerned that budget shortfalls will leave the United States with a backseat role in space exploration and technological development, the committee questioned Dr. Griffin about how NASA would prioritize its programs and whether money could be pulled from other sources in order to fund essential programs.

Chairman Bill Nelson (D-FL), acknowledging NASA's budget constraints, thanked Dr. Griffin for "putting ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack." Although NASA is slated to receive a "very strong" 3.1 percent budget increase in 2008, it fails to compensate for a very lean 2007 budget, as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) pointed out. Furthermore, the President's 2008 budget falls $3 billion short of the amount planned for under the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, which was enacted to ensure that NASA has the funding to remain a world leader in exploration, science and aeronautics. "If we continue on the President's path," Chairman Nelson warned, "we face an extended period when the United States will have no human access to space. This is unacceptable."

The majority of the hearing focused on those "gap years." The aging space shuttles are slated for retirement by 2010 following the completion of the International Space Station (ISS). The Orion and Ares I crew exploration vehicles will replace the space shuttle and are scheduled to fly their first missions in 2014 or later. Thanks to budget setbacks, Dr. Griffin told the committee that these missions are now four to six months behind schedule, making late December 2014 the earliest they could possibly be launched. That, unfortunately, leaves the United States essentially sitting on its hands while the rest of the world continues to forge new territory in space.

The committee was concerned that not only would the hiatus send NASA's most experienced and skilled employees elsewhere, it would also pose a national security risk. In mid-January, China launched an anti-satellite device and intentionally destroyed their Fengyun-1C weather satellite, creating a debris cloud that encompassed all of low Earth orbit. The test frightened politicians and scientists, both because of the potential hostility of the maneuver and because of the danger posed by the hundreds upon hundreds of debris fragments to other space craft, notably the ISS. The test, Chairman Nelson said, "reminds us that we cannot afford to remain Earth-bound while others pursue space capabilities with questionable intent."

Senator Ted Stevens (R-AL) made a novel suggestion for keeping NASA "in business:" space bonds. Like the war bonds popular during World War II, space bonds would represent a public investment in America's vision as a space-faring civilization. Although his suggestion was met with tentative chuckles, Stevens noted that it was an alternative to the near-impossibility of squeezing more money out of the budget.

In contrast to the aeronautics industry, which has made phenomenal technological strides over the past century, the space industry has progressed relatively slowly. Noting that space exploration is almost entirely a public venture, Dr. Griffin suggested that the lack of private development is the cause of such slow progress. He recommended that the federal government provide the seed capital to help jumpstart the private sector, noting that private contractors could provide less expensive space services and allow NASA to focus on key missions.

Although NASA's primary concern for the 2008 budget is ensuring the safe retirement and successful replacement of the Space Shuttle, other budget highlights include priorities outlined by the National Academy of Science in the Decadal Survey for Earth Science. The requested budget includes funding for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission and the Glory mission. "It is imperative to have the full 2008 budget if we are not to do great and lasting damage to the space program," said Dr. Griffin. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) echoed this sentiment, commenting that "when a society stops exploring, it stops progressing."

-EG

Sources: NASA Budget Information website, American Institute of Physics, and hearing testimony.

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

Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Staff, and Erin Gleeson, AGI/AAPG Spring 2007 Intern.

Last Update March 21, 2007.