House Appropriators Want Deep Cut to FAA Commercial Space Launch Office – update

House Appropriators Want Deep Cut to FAA Commercial Space Launch Office – update

UPDATE, June 23, 2013:  Full committee markup is on June 26 (not June 27) according to the committee’s website.

UPDATE, June 20, 2013:  The subcommittee took only 20 minutes to approve the bill on June 19, though Democrats made clear they oppose it overall because of its funding levels.  No mention was made of AST.   No amendments were offered; they will be considered during full committee markup, scheduled for June 27.

ORIGINAL STORY,  June 18, 2013:  The House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) will meet tomorrow to markup the draft FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill.  As drafted, the bill would reduce AST from its requested level of $16.01 million to $14.16 million.

The T-HUD subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is scheduled to meet at 10:00 am ET tomorrow in 2358-A Rayburn House Office Building.  In total, the bill provides $44.1 billion in discretionary spending, $13.9 billion below the request. House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said the bill exemplifies the difficult choices that need to be made.  The bill focuses on funding “transportation infrastructure critical to our economy and maintaining housing options for our most vulnerable citizens,” he said, while “reducing or eliminating funding for lower-priority programs.”

One of those lower priority programs apparently is AST.  AST facilitates and regulates the commercial space transportation industry.  AST was funded at $16.27 million for FY2012, $15.4 million in FY2013 (after adjusting for the sequester), and the FY2014 request is $16.01 million.

The draft bill would cut AST to $14.16 million, $1.85 million (about 12 percent) less than the request or $1.24 million (about 8 percent) less than its current level.  An AST spokesman said the office does not comment on pending legislation, so he could not characterize the impact of such a cut if it survives the appropriations process.

Mike Gold, Director of D.C. Operations & Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace, said “These cuts are ill-advised to say the least.  At a time when we’re depending so heavily on commercial space transportation to do this to the FAA-AST will have serious consequences, causing delays throughout the industry and even potentially putting lives in danger.  It’s certainly my hope that all of the AST’s funding can be restored.”


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