UPDATE: House Subcommittee Takes No Position On Obama Exploration Plan, Restricts Availability of Funds

UPDATE: House Subcommittee Takes No Position On Obama Exploration Plan, Restricts Availability of Funds

UPDATE: Subcommittee staff explained after the markup that funding for the various mission directorates was not cut, but that funds for labor costs were shifted into the Cross-Agency Support line. Also, the restrictions on spending for exploration do not apply to the COTS commercial cargo activity since that it already authorized.

UPDATED STORY: The House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee marked up the FY2011 CJS bill today. It includes funding for NASA and NOAA. The subcommittee recommended $19 billion for NASA, the same as the request, but there were changes in allocations within that top level number including a cut to the request for the exploration program. Most importantly, none of the funding for exploration (other than for COTS) could be spent until Congress passes and the President signs into law an authorization bill detailing what that program should be.

Subcommittee chairman Alan Mollohan (D-WV) made it clear that he considers the Constellation “program of record” unexecutable from a fiscal standpoint, but said that the subcommittee takes no position on the President’s proposal. Instead, he feels that this should be determined through the authorization process and therefore no funds could be spent until Congress deliberates on an authorization bill, passes it, and the President signs it into law.

This is just the first step in the appropriations process. The subcommittee recommendations go to the full appropriations committee and then, technically, to the floor of the House for debate. A Senate bill would go through the same process and the two chambers would then reach a compromise under normal procedures. However, little about the congressional appropriations process follows the typical steps these days.

The explanatory language was not available at the markup, but the dollar numbers are as follows:

  • Science, cut $301.1 million
  • Aeronautics and Space Research and Technology. Split into its two components, with $375 million for aeronautics and $512.1 million for space technology. That’s a total of $887 million, compared to the $1.152 billion requested
  • Exploration, cut $699.9 million
  • Space Operations, cut $427.2 million
  • Education, increased $59.4 million
  • Cross-agency support, increased $1.522 billion
  • Construction and Environmental Compliance and Remediation, increased $111.4 million
  • Inspector General, no change

Subcommittee staff explained after the markup that funds were not cut from the various mission directorates, but money in those accounts for labor costs were transferred into Cross-Agency Support.

The top level number for NOAA, $5.54 billion, was cut $29 million, but it is not clear whether the cut is related to NOAA’s satellite programs.

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