2011/02/12

House appropriators cut deeper at NASA - Science to remain at FY2010 level

by Jeff Foust

Late Friday the House Appropriations Committee released its proposed continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through the rest of FY 2011. As the committee indicated Thursday, it would make deeper cuts than what it released earlier in the week, when it announced $379 million in cuts to NASA relative to the administration FY11 request. Appropriators have tacked on an additional $200 million in cuts to the agency for FY11.

The bill, designated HR 1, makes extensive references to FY 2010 appropriations bills, including specific amounts by exception to 2010 levels. The table below compares the House’s CR for 2011 with the actual FY10 appropriations and the president’s budget request (PBR) for 2011 (all amounts are in millions of dollars):

Account 2010 Actual 2011 PBR 2011 CR
Space Operations $6,146.8 $4,887.8 $5,946.8
Exploration $3,746.3 $4,263.4 $3,746.3
Science $4,469.0 $5,005.6 $4,469.0
Aeronautics $501.0 $1,151.8 $501.0
Education $182.5 $145.8 $182.5
Construction $448.3 $397.3 $408.3
Cross-Agency Support $3,194.0 $3,111.4 $3,131.0
Inspector General $36.4 $37.0 $36.4
TOTAL $18,724.3 $19,000.1 $18,421.3

The table above is also available in Excel format with additional columns showing the differences between the CR and both the FY10 appropriations and FY11 request.

Note that while Space Operations, which includes ISS and shuttle, gets the biggest cut compared to 2010 levels ($200 million), the CR represents an increase of over $1 billion from the budget request, reflecting continued shuttle operations for most of the fiscal year (and, presumably, the shuttle flight added in the authorization act last fall.) That increase comes at the expense of exploration (-$517 million compared to the budget request), science (-$536.6 million) and aeronautics and space technology (-$650.8 million). The last is a special case, since the aeronautics line item in 2011 was expanded in the budget request to include space technology programs, but the CR includes funding only at the 2010 level, when that account was exclusively aeronautics.

The CR does not get more specific about how the funds should be allocated within these accounts, including a proviso that the NASA administrator submit to Congress a spending plan 60 days after the CR’s enactment. The CR does include a section striking the language in the FY2010 appropriations bill that prevents NASA from terminating Constellation projects, no doubt much to the relief of the agency. There is also one specific provision restricting NASA spending: neither NASA or the Office of Science and Technology Policy use any funding in the CR to “develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company” without authorization in a future law. It also prevents NASA from spending any money “to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by” NASA. That language is most likely the work of Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA and also a major critic of cooperation with China.

Update: in a statement, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was sharply critical of the proposed CR. “The priorities identified in this proposal for some of the largest cuts – environmental protection, healthcare, energy, science and law enforcement – are essential to the current and future well-being of our economy and communities across the country,” he said. That suggests this CR is the latest, but not final, round in the debate about FY11 spending.

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