Trump Budget Request Kills ARM, Supports SLS/Orion and Public Private Partnerships

Trump Budget Request Kills ARM, Supports SLS/Orion and Public Private Partnerships

The Trump Administration’s FY2018 budget blueprint proposes $19.1 billion for NASA, less than a one percent cut according to a copy of the document posted by the Washington Post.   It is good news considering the draconian cuts proposed for many other agencies.  President Obama’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) would be cancelled and NASA’s Office of Education would be eliminated under the proposal, but other NASA programs survived relatively unscathed.  The earth science program is cut, but not as deeply as many feared.

The blueprint is due to be officially released in a few hours, but the Washington Post was able to upload a copy early.  [UPDATE, March 16, 7:20 am ET:  The document is now posted on the Office of Management and Budget website.]

The key elements of the NASA portion are as follows:

  • “Supports and expands public-private partnerships as the foundation of future U.S. civilian space efforts.”
  • “Paves the way for eventual over-land commercial supersonic flights and safer, more efficient air travel” providing $624 million for aeronautics.
  • Provides $1.9 billion for robotic planetary exploration, including Europa Clipper and Mars 2020.  No funding for Europa lander
  • Provides $3.7 billion for the Space Launch System/Orion/exploration ground systems program.
  • Cancels the Asteroid Redirect Mission.
  • Provides $1.8 billion for earth science, $102 million less than the annualized level in the FY2017 Continuing Resolution, terminating four missions:  PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder.  Reduces funds for Earth science research grants.
  • Eliminates NASA’s Office of Education.
  • Restructures the RESTORE-L satellite servicing mission to reduce cost and “better position it to support a nascent commercial satellite servicing industry.”
  • Strengthens NASA’s cybersecurity capabilities.

The budget blueprint is an outline of the President’s budgetary plans.  The detailed budget request is not expected to be submitted to Congress for several weeks.

The President proposes a budget, but under the Constitution, only Congress decides how much money the country will spend and on what.  The request is the opening of a lengthy debate, and although NASA fared quite well compared to many other non-defense agencies, the lack of support for a Europa lander — a favorite of Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA — and elimination of the congressionally popular Office of Education are surely to encounter resistance.  While the cuts to Earth science are not insignificant, the level of support is so much better than many expected, it may engender less outcry than anticipated.

The full blueprint as uploaded by the Washington Post describes the President’s proposal for other government agencies as well, including NOAA’s satellite programs. It “maintains” development of JPSS-1 and JPSS-2 and GOES “to remain on schedule,” but “achieves annual savings” from the Polar Follow-on Program (JPSS-3 and -4).

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