NASA budget concerns (part 1)

At the AIAA International Policy Seminar on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the House Science Committee, made it clear that he felt NASA would not get the full budget increase the President requested. The full text of the speech is on the House Science Committee site, and I have a condensed but detailed summary in Spaceflight Now (complete with action photo!). For more impatient folks, here are a few key points:

  • Noting the tight budget environment, where most programs are getting little or no increases, Boehlert asked, “In such a budget, should NASA receive almost a 6 percent increase? Is it the highest domestic spending priority? I don’t think so, and I doubt my colleagues will either.”
  • Boehlert approves of the “broad outlines” of the exploration plan, including completing the station and retiring the shuttle. His concerns are with the cost and schedule of the plan; he noted, for example, that he thought it was unrealistic to complete the station by 2010 because it would involve flying the shuttle five times a year, while the CAIB recommended a flight rate of four a year.
  • He is also concerned with cuts in other NASA programs, including earth and space sciences. Quote: “Do I think that it’s more important to know more about the Earth than it is to know more about Mars? I do, and I don’t think it’s a close question.”
  • The House Science Committee staff is working on an alternative budget that would restore some of those cuts while allowing exploration programs to get started, he said.
  • A NASA authorization bill will be introduced in the House around July 4th, and will move through the House in September. A Senate version of the legislation will be introduced “pretty soon”.
  • Don’t expect Congress to approve a NASA budget until after Election Day, forcing NASA to operate on continuing resolutions for over a month, and perhaps several months.

On Thursday Bill Adkins, staff director for the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, will likely touch on these topics during a luncheon meeting of the local AIAA chapter in downtown Washington.

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