Aviation Week: NASA To Request $17.7 Billion for FY2013

Aviation Week: NASA To Request $17.7 Billion for FY2013

Officially, details about a President’s budget request are not supposed to be released by agencies prior to the White House giving the OK.  Except for the Department of Defense and perhaps some high level messages the White House wants to preview, that usually means waiting until the complete budget request for the entire federal government is released.  That event is scheduled for Monday, but information about what the request proposes for NASA has been leaking out.   Aviation Week reveals today that the total NASA request will be $17.711 billion.

Frank Morring writes today that the request is “only an $89 million cut,” but ends NASA’s plans to participate in a robotic Mars mission with the European Space Agency (ESA).  The impact of the FY2013 budget request on NASA-ESA Mars cooperation was publicized by the Washington Post yesterday, but that article did not include the total request for NASA.

While $17.711 billion is a small cut from what the agency received from Congress in FY2012, it is a substantial cut from the funding level that the Obama Administration projected for NASA last year.   NASA’s FY2012 appropriated level is $17.800 billion, so by comparison the cut is indeed modest.   In last year’s budget request, however, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) projected that NASA would get $18.030 billion in FY2013.  The White House allowed NASA to use higher projected spending levels in its own budget materials, keeping the agency level at $18.7 billion through FY2016.  So a $17.711 billion request can be interpreted as a small cut of $89 million from its current level, or a huge cut of $1 billion from NASA’s own projections a year ago at this time.

Agencies like NASA that conduct multi-year research and development projects benefit from having an idea of what to expect in the future so they can effectively plan their programs.  While any future year projection is just that, a projection not a promise, when it varies significantly from reality, the planning process becomes inefficient.

Aviation Week published additional details about the FY2013 budget request, which it says includes $830 million for commercial crew, $1.8 billion for the Space Launch System, $1 billion for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, $3 billion for the International Space Station, $699 million for space technology development, and $500 million for aeronautics.  The total amount for science is not mentioned, only the $300 million cut to the planetary science program (from $1.5 billion to $1.2 billion according to yesterday’s story in the Post).

The administration’s budget request is the first step in a lengthy process to determine how much the government can spend in FY2013.  The new fiscal year starts on October 1, but few expect Congress to complete action on budgets before then.  Meeting that October 1 deadline is a difficult task every year and especially challenging in an election year. 

Editor’s Note:  It is interesting to observe that some members of the media are getting access to the NASA budget material on a non-embargoed basis prior to Monday’s release.  NASA had scheduled a meeting this afternoon where media representatives could learn about the budget if they agreed to an embargo where nothing could be published before Monday.   That embargoed briefing was canceled about two hours before it was scheduled to occur.  One cannot help but wonder who is leaking the information to favored publications without restrictions.  The obvious intent of the Washington Post story yesterday was to rally support for the Mars exploration program.  Today’s story in Aviation Week does not seem to have a bias, but does portray the cuts to NASA overall as being far less dramatic and may assuage some concerns.

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.