Mikulski: President's NASA Budget Request Just "Advisory," Will Work to Get More

Mikulski: President's NASA Budget Request Just "Advisory," Will Work to Get More

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) vowed today that she will “work her earrings off” for NASA.  As for President Obama’s “spartan” FY2015 NASA budget request, she said “it was well intentioned, but I consider it advisory” and will try to get the agency at least as much as it got for FY2014.

Speaking to the Maryland Space Business Roundtable, Mikulski exuded enthusiasm for NASA, as well as NOAA, the civilian space program overall, and innovation and discovery generally.   Maryland is home to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, NOAA headquarters, other government science agencies like the National Institutes of Health, and many aerospace businesses, large and small.

She made clear that her interests in science and technology are broad and she wants to promote “an innovation budget, a discovery budget, in space science, in life science, in energy science and in green science, I want America to lead the way.”

As for NASA, she noted that the President’s request for FY2015 is less than the FY2014 appropriations and advised the audience: “don’t panic, help and hope is on the way.”    “My goal for NASA is to make sure we’re at least at the 2014 level and if we can find more money I will take you above that.”   The President is requesting $17.461 billion for FY2015, $186 million less than the FY2014 appropriation of $17.647 billion.

She singled out a few programs for special mention – including the James Webb Space Telescope, satellite servicing, extension of International Space Station operations to 2024, and launches of cargo missions to ISS from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia just over the border with Maryland – but her passion was boundless.

She had two strong messages – one for the space community and one for Congress.

The space community needs to “tell the story about what great work you do” so the public will be the ones saying these are the agencies that need to be funded.   From advances in mammography to creating an astronomy book in Braille so blind children can learn about the universe, she extolled the virtues of investing in NASA for down-to-Earth benefits.

Regarding Congress, she repeated that the key is to “change the tone to change the tide.”  She wants civility restored to the process, with negotiations taking place “between each other and not in the press.”  She cited the work she and her Republican ranking member, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), did with their House counterparts in December and January in reaching agreement on the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations bill as an example of success.

That bill was signed into law on January 17, 2014, three and a half months into the fiscal year.    She has an “ambitious” goal to do better for FY2015 – to complete all 12 regular appropriations bills before FY2015 begins on October 1.  She added that 1996 is the last time the appropriations process was completed on schedule.  For this year: “No lame duck session,” she exclaimed.

She ended by telling the audience of government, industry, academic, and non-profit aerospace professionals that “I am so proud of you.”

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