Kilmer, Bridenstine Get Full Funding for FAA Space Office

Kilmer, Bridenstine Get Full Funding for FAA Space Office

During markup of the FY2017 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill today, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to fully fund the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the requested level of $19.8 million.  That is $1 million more than the T-HUD subcommittee recommended.

The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who is a member of the Appropriations Committee.  The effort builds on efforts led by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to increase funding for FAA/AST in recognition of its growing responsibilities and consequent need for additional staff.  Bridenstine and 17 other members sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the T-HUD subcommittee in March arguing for full funding. 

Bridenstine serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, but not Appropriations, so could not sponsor or co-sponsor the amendment himself.   He and Kilmer have worked closely together on commercial space legislation in the past, notably last year’s Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.  Kilmer represents a district near Seattle that is teeming with entrepreneurial space companies, including Blue Origin and Planetary Resources Inc.  Bridenstine’s Oklahoma district has little or no involvement in the space industry, but he has a strong personal interest and has taken a leadership role in the House on these issues.

The T-HUD subcommittee approved $18.826 million for FAA/AST, $1.026 million more than current FY2016 funding, but $1 million less than the request of $19.826 million.

Appropriations is a zero-sum game — more money for one activity means less money for another.  In this case, the $1 million was moved from the FAA’s Office of Finance and Management to FAA/AST.   The Kilmer amendment was combined with other changes and packaged into the so-called “manager’s amendment,” which was adopted by voice vote.

In a joint press release, Kilmer said full funding “will allow entrepreneurs and companies to innovate and grow their businesses and in the process strengthen our tech economy and the quality jobs it creates.”  Bridenstine noted that FAA/AST oversees the commercial space industry, which is “critically important to modern life in America.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved $19.8 million for FAA/AST is its markup of the T-HUD bill.

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