Bridenstine Urges Appropriators to Increase Budget for FAA Space Office

Bridenstine Urges Appropriators to Increase Budget for FAA Space Office

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and 17 other members of Congress sent a letter to House appropriators today urging them to support President Obama’s requested increase in funding for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).   The President is seeking a $2 million increase in FY2017, from $17.8 million to $19.8 million.

Bridenstine is a strong advocate for AST both in its current role facilitating and regulating the commercial space launch and reentry business and, over time, for expanding its role to space traffic management and issuing “mission licenses” for private sector activities in space such as asteroid mining.

For now, Bridenstine argues that AST needs more resources to cope with growing demand for launch and reentry licenses and other activities in licensing commercial launch sites and spaceports.   The Obama Administration requested a $1.5 million increase for AST in FY2016 and ultimately it received $1.2 billion of that increase, for a total FY2016 budget of $17.8 million.  It was a hard fought battle, however, especially in the House.  FAA is funded as part of the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill.   Last year, T-HUD appropriators did not approve any of the $1.5 million increase.  Bridenstine tells the story of how he tried to add money for AST during House floor debate on that bill by offering an amendment to add just $250,000, joking that it is difficult to imagine anyone asking for such a small amount, but any increase must be offset by a reduction elsewhere.

He clearly is hoping to avoid a similar situation this year by convincing the T-HUD subcommittee to include adequate funding in the bill it sends to the House so an amendment will not be necessary.  In the letter to the subcommittee’s chairman and ranking member, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Rep. David Price (D-NC), Bridenstine and 17 other Republicans and Democrats said “FAA/AST does not have the resources to efficiently or effectively carry out its duties currently, and will only be further tried as commercial space activity expands.”  They urge the subcommittee to fully fund AST at the $19.8 million requested level.

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