President Tells Congress He Would Shift $100 Million from NASA to Commerce and Labor for Workforce Transition

President Tells Congress He Would Shift $100 Million from NASA to Commerce and Labor for Workforce Transition

The $40 million President Obama promised on April 15 to help displaced Florida aerospace workers has grown to $100 million and broadened to other communities, and NASA’s Exploration program would have to foot the bill if the President gets his way.

In a letter to Congress on Friday, the President requested a number of changes to the FY2011 budget requests for NASA and other agencies. The NASA change does not alter how much is being requested for NASA”s Exploration program, $4.3 billion, but tells Congress that of that amount, $100 million would be transferred to the Departments of Commerce and Labor. The Department of Commerce would get $75 million for economic development assistance in the affected communities, while the Department of Labor would get the remainder for training programs in those areas. The President’s message does not say what programs within NASA’s Exploration account will be cut to obtain the money. NASA also has to come up with funds for the crew rescue vehicle (“Orion-lite”) the President announced in his April 15 speech.

The President’s letter and revised NASA request do not address all the questions being asked by the House Science and Technology Committee, only the workforce issues caused by the President’s proposed cancellation of Constellation. The President’s letter says the money will be used for economic growth and job training activities around Kennedy Space Center and “other areas affected by job losses associated with programmatic changes in this account.” The President promised $40 million for Florida workers, sparking complaints from representatives of other NASA centers that also would be negatively impacted by cancelling Constellation. The additional $60 million presumably responds to those complaints.

The House Science and Technology Committee and others in Congress already were asking how the President’s plan for NASA is any more affordable than the Constellation program he wants to cancel. Imposing additional budgetary requirements on NASA without increasing the amount available to the agency is the same fate that befell Constellation, leading to the Augustine Committee’s assessment that Constellation is not executable and the President’s proposal to cancel it.

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