NASA Releases More FY2013 Operating Plan Data

NASA Releases More FY2013 Operating Plan Data

It’s still not the complete FY2013 NASA operating plan, but the agency has now posted on its budget website a slightly more detailed table showing the outcome of FY2013 budget deliberations.

The table provides either one or two additional levels of detail below the major line items in NASA’s budget beyond what was provided to in response to our earlier request as well as to the data that Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green briefed to the National Research Council (NRC’s) two weeks ago. 

One question, for example, was whether the $75 million Congress directed be spent on studies of a mission to Jupiter’s Moon Europa was subjected to the cuts required by the sequester and two rescissions.   Together those cuts are about 7 percent.   According to this new table, Europa’s $75 million was cut to $69.7 million, a reduction of $5.3 million, which is indeed very close to 7 percent. 

Perhaps a bigger surprise is the cut to the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission scheduled for launch on November 18.   Congress approved $146.4 million for continued development.  The new data released by NASA shows that MAVEN received only $86.5 million, a cut of $59.9 million or 41 percent.

The law that provided NASA’s FY2013 appropriations, P.L. 113-6, stated that the cuts were to be applied “proportionately” to every “program, project and activity,” but those definitions apparently are subject to interpretation since at least two NASA programs — commercial crew and the James Webb Space Telescope — were spared cuts and other programs were cut much more than 7 percent.   That is why it is not possible to even guess at how individual NASA programs fared without seeing the operating plan.  

This new release of data is a step in the right direction, but hopefully the complete operating plan will be made public in due course although NASA and Congress hold operating plans close to the vest.    They are produced every year (and often modified several times), but to the best of our knowledge only one has been made available publicly in its entirety — the FY2005 operating plan, which is posted on NASA’s budget website and shows what a complete operating plan looks like.


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