FY2020 NASA Funding Bill Moves Forward to Full Committee Markup Next Week

FY2020 NASA Funding Bill Moves Forward to Full Committee Markup Next Week

NASA’s FY2020 funding bill was approved at subcommittee level today.  It will be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee next week.  The bill boosts NASA’s funding to $22.32 billion from its current level of $21.50 billion, but ignores the Trump Administration’s Artemis Moon 2024 initiative.  Most of the increase is for science programs.

Little was said about NASA during the brief Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee markup this morning.  The CJS bill covers the Departments of Commerce and Justice as well as NASA and the National Science Foundation.  The most controversial issues are in non-NASA portions of the bill, such as 2020 Census that will be conducted by the Commerce Department.

The draft bill provides $73.985 billion for all the activities under its jurisdiction.  The NASA portion is $22.32 billion, an increase of $815 million over NASA’s current funding level.  The committee released a draft of the bill, which shows the top-level figures for NASA’s appropriations accounts.

  • 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

Further details will be provided in an accompanying report that will be released later in the process.

During the markup, subcommittee chairman José Serrano (D-NY) said the bill includes “just over $2 billion” for NASA’s earth science program.  Climate research is one of his top priorities and funding was added to NOAA for that purpose (part of the Commerce Department) as well.

Serrano also said that he was “very strong” with NASA and other agencies that he wants their “education components to grow to involve schools that ordinarily would not be involved in their education programs.”  The Trump Administration wants to eliminate NASA’s education program, now called STEM Engagement, and requested zero funding for FY2020 as it did in the two prior years.  Congress rejected those proposals and funded STEM Engagement at $110 million in FY2019.  This draft House bill provides $123 million.

Serrano said nothing about the Artemis program to accelerate a human return to the Moon by 2024 instead of 2028 and it is not mentioned in the draft bill.

Even the top Republican on the panel did not make the case for it.  Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-AL) simply listed the omission of the requested funding (which he mistakenly said was $1.2 billion rather than $1.6 billion) as one of several concerns he hopes will be addressed as the bill moves forward.  He did not bring up the 2024 date for the Moon, but only said the missing money would put “permanent U.S. presence on and around the Moon within the next decade,” which was NASA’s original plan.

He saved his enthusiasm to highlight the money specified for nuclear thermal propulsion ($125 million).  That is the only time 2024 came up because it is the year a flight demonstration of that technology is planned.  It is not needed for trips to the Moon.

The top Republican on the full committee, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), also did not come to Artemis’s defense.  The only NASA program she raised as an issue was the lack of funding in the bill for the Europa Lander.  The fact that the bill does not fund the Lander is a bit of a surprise because bill language requires that the Lander be launched in 2025.

All in all, it did not appear that Artemis has sparked much enthusiasm on either side of the aisle in this House Appropriations subcommittee.  Full committee markup is on Wednesday.

The proposal may do better in the Senate.  Serrano’s Senate counterpart, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), tweeted his support for Artemis on May 15.


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