Draft House Approps Bill Gives NASA More Money, But Ignores Artemis

Draft House Approps Bill Gives NASA More Money, But Ignores Artemis

The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) is proposing $22.32 billion for NASA in FY2020, which is more than it has today and more than the original Trump Administration request. But it falls short of the amended request that adds $1.6 billion for the Artemis Moon 2024 program. In fact, the draft bill does not mention that program and the biggest beneficiary of the increased funding is NASA’s science projects.  They get a $255.6 million boost over their current funding levels — a total of $7.16 billion.  The HAC Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) meets this morning to approve the draft bill and send it on to the full committee.

For the current fiscal year, FY2019, Congress provided NASA with $21.500 billion.  The original Trump request for FY2020 was $21.019 billion, a half billion dollar cut.  Following the Administration’s decision to accelerate NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the surface of the Moon to 2024 instead of 2028, it submitted a supplemental request for $1.6 billion, a new total of $22.619 billion.

The House draft CJS FY2020 appropriations bill proposal is $815 million more than FY2019, but $300 million less than the revised request.

The committee released the draft text of the bill, but not the accompanying report that goes into more detail about the committee’s actions.  That usually is released at the time of full committee rather than subcommittee markup.  The draft bill itself does not mention the Artemis program or add substantial sums for NASA’s human exploration program.  In fact the bill reads pretty much like it did for FY2019, with a strong focus on science programs, including both a Europa orbiter and lander, launched by the Space Launch System (SLS) in 2023 and 2025 respectively.

That was a priority of the former CJS chairman John Culberson.  He lost his reelection race, and Republicans lost control of the House, so the committee and its subcommittees now have Democratic leadership.  The CJS subcommittee chair is José Serrano (D-NY), who was the Ranking Member when Culberson was chairman, so they have a close working relationship.  Culberson is now a lobbyist.

The draft bill allocates $7.161 billion for science, a $255.6 million increase over its FY2019 funding level of $6.906 billion.  The Europa orbiter is funded at $592.6 million.  The amount for the lander is not specified in the bill, but using SLS instead of a commercial rocket as NASA prefers, and launching the orbiter in 2023 and the lander in 2025, is required.  The language is very similar to previous bills when Culberson chaired the subcommittee.

It also includes the so-called “Wolf amendment” that restricts NASA’s cooperation with China.  Originally inserted into the bill by Culberson’s predecessor, Frank Wolf, in 2011 (FY2012), it has been included in every CJS bill since then.

In short, the bill provides:

  • Science: $7.161 billion, specifying $592.6 million for Europa orbiter.
  • Aeronautics:  $700 million.
  • Space Technology: $1.292 billion, specifying $180 million for RESTORE-L, and $125 million for nuclear thermal propulsion technologies and requiring NASA to submit a plan for the design of a flight demonstration.
  • Exploration: $5.130 billion, specifying $1.425 billion for Orion, $2.150 billion for SLS (of which $200 million is for the Exploration Upper Stage), $592.8 million for Exploration Ground Systems (of which $50 million is for a 2nd mobile launcher), and $962.1 million for Exploration Research and Development.
  • Space Operations: $4.286 billion.
  • STEM Engagement: $123 million, specifying $25 million for EPSCoR and $48 million for Space Grant.
  • Safety, Security, and Mission Services: $3.085 billion.
  • Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration: $497.2 million
  • Inspector General: $41.7 million

The subcommittee will meet at 9:30 am ET this morning to approve the draft bill.  It then goes to the full committee for consideration.

This is just the first step in a lengthy appropriations process.  Considering that the Administration only submitted its supplemental request for the Artemis program on Monday evening, it is not entirely surprising that the draft bill does not take it into account.  It may be discussed at the markup this morning, which will be webcast.2

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