House Appropriators Detail FY2014 Funding Plans for NASA While FY2013 Remains a Mystery

House Appropriators Detail FY2014 Funding Plans for NASA While FY2013 Remains a Mystery

The House Appropriations Committee released its draft report on the FY2014 funding bill that includes NASA today even while disagreement remains on what the agency can spend in the current fiscal year (FY2013).

The full committee will markup the FY2014 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill tomorrow at 10:00 am ET.  The draft report states that NASA would receive $16,598,300,000 for FY2014 “which is $928,430,000 million below fiscal year 2013 and $1,117,095,000 below the request.”

The comparison to FY2013 is misleading, however. The report states that the FY2013 level is defined as the amount appropriated in P.L. 113-6 (the final FY2013 appropriations bill) “excluding emergency funding, the sequester … and any other adjustments imposed” by another provision of that law.   The House and Senate appropriations committees agreed on $17.862 billion for NASA in P.L. 113-6.  When adjusted for the sequester and other across-the-board cuts required by that law (and leaving aside a small amount of money provided to NASA as emergency funding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy), NASA’s total is reduced by about 7 percent.  That leaves about $16.6 billion.   In fact, exactly how much NASA can spend in FY2013 — which ends on September 30 — remains a mystery.  NASA submitted an operating plan to the House and Senate appropriations committees in May, but they have not approved it.  NASA officials speaking at meetings of two NASA Advisory Council (NAC) subgroups yesterday and today said that no agreement has been reached between Congress and the Obama Administration on NASA’s final FY2013 funding.  Until agreement is reached, NASA is not allowed to spend 5-10 percent of its expected FY2013 budget and some projects are running out of money, according to one of those officials.

As for FY2014, the House Appropriations Committee’s total for NASA is indeed $1.1 billion less than the Obama Administration’s request.   Among the most significant changes are the following:

  • no funds for the proposed Asteroid Retrieval Mission
  • no funds for Earth science programs that the Administration is proposing be transferred to NASA from NOAA and USGS (Landsat follow-on, climate sensors or DSCOVR)
  • increase to planetary science ($1.315 billion instead of $1.218 billion requested), of which $80 million is specified for work on a Europa mission, but none for NASA to support the production of Pu-238 in partnership with the Department of Energy
  • significant cut to technology development (from $742 million requested to $576 million)
  • increase to Space Launch System (SLS) development (from $1.385 billion requested to $1.476 billion), but slight decrease to the associated exploration ground systems (from $318 million requested to $299 million)
  • slight increase for the Orion spacecraft  (from $1.027 billion requested to 1.053 billion)
  • significant cut to commercial crew (from $820 million requested to $500 million)
  • cut to Exploration R&D (from $364 million requested to $287 million)
  • cut to ISS operations (from $3.05 billion requested to $2.86 billion)
  • cut to Cross Agency Support (from $2.85 billion to $2.71 billion)

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