Congress

Budget flexibility

Both the House and the Senate passed the omnibus budget bill, HR 4818, yesterday, with the Senate finally passing the bill a little after midnight. (The bill actually won’t be delivered to the President for a few days because of a last-minute glitch with language in the bill regarding Congressional access to tax returns, which will apparently be handled by a separate bill in the next few days.) As previously noted, the bill gives NASA $16.2 billion, roughly the full amount requested by President Bush. However, as the Orlando Sentinel reports, the bill gives NASA an unusual degree of flexibility to determine how much of that money it needs to return the shuttle to flight and begin a Hubble repair mission. NASA must report to Congress within 60 days regarding how much money it needs and how it plans to reallocate its funding accordingly.

Some more details about NASA’s budget are buried in the conference report on the omnibus budget bill. (The section that deals with the VA-HUD-independent agencies portion of the bill is here [warning: large PDF file], with the subsection that deals with NASA begins on page 176 of the PDF file, or printed page 116.) A few interesting tidbits gleaned from an early morning review:

  • The budget includes only $10 million for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission—compared to $70 million in the original request—with a directive that at least a quarter of the money spent on LRO instruments be used for basic science research rather than exploration-driven objectives. (The hand-edited document shows that they previously planned to give LRO $20 million, then cut it apparently at the last minute.)
  • The budget includes $25 million for the X-43C, the successor to the just-completed X-43A hypersonic research program. NASA had announced earlier this year that they were canceling the X-43C since it did not fit into the exploration program.
  • The budget includes $10 million for the Centennial Challenges prize program, “subject to passage of authorizing legislation.” I did not see an explicit mention of a provision that would increase the limit on prizes from its current level of $250,000.
  • The report notes that “conferees are prepared to commit funds for development of a Crew Exploration Vehicle [CEV], but remain concerned that there has not been enough initial planning to determine what specific capabilities the CEV should have.” The report calls on NASA to deliver a report “that details the criteria and developmental goals the CEV must meet to accomplish the missions envisioned by NASA” to Congress within 60 days.

29 comments to Budget flexibility

  • MrEarl

    This has been a very good weekend for everyone who supports space exploration. NASA and the Vision for Space Exploration have been fully funded for FY2005. In my opinion this will be the beginning of the second great exploration mission for the US and the planet, with the moon race being the first.
    We also sall passage of the Commercial Space regulation bill that will allow US companies to do what they do best; innovate! This should clear the way for commercial flights to LEO in our lifetime.
    The only naysayer left is Oler considering it has been done with a Republican President and Congress.
    Come join the dark side Robert!

  • Robert G. Oler

    No. this bill is a farce and nothing will change.

    I’ll make a prediction. At the end of two years (the Congressional mid terms) there will be zero progress toward anything exploration and NASA wont have bought any product of significance from commercial companies.

    Robert

  • Dogsbd

    What do you base that on Oler, other than hating Republicans and not wanting to see NASA succeed under Republican leadership?

  • Mike Puckett

    Bob just hates Delay and anyone who enables Delay like the President or anything Delya likes, Bob hates.

  • mrearl

    OK Bob; what makes you think that in two years nothing will happen?
    The VSE was announced in Jan. The White House put the money in the budget with NASA being one of the very few government agencies to receive an increase. The White House and O’Keefe fought and maneuvered to get the money passed through Congress. NASA has been reorganized to favor the VSE. So there is strong evidence to backup the position the next big human exploration of the solar system has begun.
    What recent evidence can you point to that will back your claim?

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Let not your hearts be dismayed. Oler has a history of making wild predictions that don’t turn out. Indeed, if he makes a prediction it is a safe bet that the opposite will likely happen (g).

  • Philip Littrell

    What a good year for spaceflight, for both the government (VSE) and the private sector (SpaceShipOne).

    They have a long way to go – VSE needs to return to flight and build CEV, Rutan needs to build SpaceShipTwo – but they’re off to a great start.

    We can celebrate by reading James Cameron’s exploration issue of Wired Magazine.

  • Brad

    So much for the predictions of the critics

    The critics said it was a pipe dream, that the VSE was phony with no real political support. The votes are cast and show the critics are wrong.

  • I have argued that Mr. Bush’s space plan is the correct one, and, while it is early days, so far so good. This remains true, however misguided Mr. Bush’s other policies.

    One does not have to approve of a government’s wider policies to approve of something that it is doing.

    However, before everyone jumps too hard on Mr. Oler, I would ask them to consider how they would react were the shoe on the other foot. I was pilloried by Republicans when I dared to suggest in Space News and Space Daily four years ago that the Democrats support a strong space exploration vision (http://www.speakeasy.org/~donaldfr/democrts.html). Therefore, I don’t see why Republicans expect Democratic voters who also support spaceflight to fall in line when Republicans support the same thing.

    – Donald

  • Robert G. Oler

    Therefore, I don’t see why Republicans expect Democratic voters who also support spaceflight to fall in line when Republicans support the same thing.

    – Donald

    Posted by Donald F. Robertson at November 22, 2004 05:16 PM

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Moon, Mars, and Beyond has nothing in common with the space station in any of its incarnations. For Oler to say otherwise is just, well, wacked. I also cannot get too worked up about the Vomit Comet, now that private companies are selling rides on similer aircraft.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I also cannot get too worked up about the Vomit Comet, now that private companies are selling rides on similer aircraft.

    Posted by Mark R. Whittington at November 22, 2004 11:44 PM

  • mrearl

    “I WOULD oppose this plan whoever presented it. The plan itself is fundamentally flawed if ones goal is to create a new aerospace industry that is going to open the space frontier to non traditional users.”
    Robert G. Oler

    Ok, I see now, Bob dose not understand the purpose of the VSE. It has nothing to do with opening the space frontier to non-traditional users. It has everything to do with returning NASA to its original mission and that is exploration. Exploitation should be left strictly to the private sector.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Exploitation should be left strictly to the private sector.

    Posted by mrearl at November 23, 2004 10:16 AM

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Actually, Moon, Mars, and Beyond will open the High Frontier to quite a few people. It will be seen as big an engine for private development as the air mail was for aviation.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Posted by Mark R. Whittington at November 23, 2004 11:25 AM

  • mrearl

    Bob…..
    Calm down.
    You’re at an 8 right now; we need you at about a 4.
    You proved my point, (or at least the point I was trying to make.) NASA, or any government research agency, should do the exploration or basic research and development; then turn the information over to the private sector for exploitation. The private sector’s innovation and profit motive will usually bring down costs and make these discoveries available to the general public.
    The things you mention like satellites and fly-by-wire were all developed under contract for the US government then exploited by private industry .

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Let it be known that Oler, who accuses me falsely of being a “big government guy”, was a supporter first of Howard Dean and–when that became inconvenient–changed his coat to John Kerry. Two of the biggest big government guys in American politics.

  • Mike Puckett

    “So now he claims with no proof that its because I hate Shrub (and Mike P sings along).”

    No, I said Delay, not the POTUS. And that there is transferrence to the POTUS because he enables Delay.

  • Bill White

    Bob Oler: Calm down, dude.

    We got us a “win-win” here – - IF Bush / Delay / Whittington deliver on this promise,

    Actually, Moon, Mars, and Beyond will open the High Frontier to quite a few people. It will be seen as big an engine for private development as the air mail was for aviation.

    well good. And I will gladly offer credit where credit is due. But after the fact, not before.

    If the VSE flops? We can’t blame Democrats for that if the GOP controls the House, Senate, POTUS and SCOTUS.

    See? “win=win”

    MANDATE = RESPONSIBILITY

    Chill out. Pop a cold beverage. Give the GOP its due props and let’s see what happens. . .

  • Robert G. Oler

    The things you mention like satellites and fly-by-wire were all developed under contract for the US government then exploited by private industry .

    Posted by mrearl at November 23, 2004 12:49 PM

  • Robert G. Oler

    Chill out. Pop a cold beverage. Give the GOP its due props and let’s see what happens. . .

    Posted by Bill White at November 23, 2004 09:46 PM

  • Robert G. Oler

    Posted by Mark R. Whittington at November 23, 2004 01:52 PM

  • Robert G. Oler

    Bob just hates Delay and anyone who enables Delay like the President or anything Delya likes, Bob hates.

  • mrearl

    Ok Bob;
    I for one would be interested in in your opinion on why the VSE is not going to work. Seriously.
    Along with that I would like to know what you think our goals would be in space and why.
    Discorse on such an important subject is good but it has become just so much noise through these posts. Mabey with a statement of positions you might find that we are all closer to agreement than you may think.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Posted by mrearl at November 24, 2004 10:14 AM

  • mrearl

    Sorry Bob;
    I guess we don’t share much in common.
    First off I think you’re writing off participation by non-traditionals too early. The RFP for the CEV will be released in Jan. 05. The language used should give us a better indication of NASA’s seriousness on including the non-traditioanls. Another indication would be the choices for prime and sub-contractors from the RFP responses.
    As for launch systems, anything selected will have to be “man rated” which EELV’s are not. Now, will NASA give companies designs or performance and reliability standards? That will be the test.

    The ISS, which is one of your favorite targets, could be very helpful in promoting commercial uses in space. NASA could lease (vary cheaply) the Destiny module to a private company to make it available to others wishing to carry out experiments in zero g.
    That company would be responsible for getting payloads up and back. This would help promote a more viable commercial launch industry and could lead to a more economical human launch systems. This could also work with a moon base. NASA would establish the base and contract out the re-supply missions. Later the base could be turned over for commercialization. Scientific, industrial and tourist uses would all come about in time but some one has to take that initial, expensive, risky, first step and that’s what NASA is doing with the VSE.

    I think you’re putting the cart before the horse by waiting for cheaper transport before sending humans into space. You have to create a reason to develop that cheaper transport. Sometimes you have to toss your hat over the fence to make you do something and the VSE dose just that.

    Our major difference is that we see this from two opposite perspectives. You see the glass as half empty; NASA is a big, stagnant, wasteful bureaucracy that will never change. I see the glass as half full; NASA has learned from the negative lessons of the past 30 years and is on its way to great change and new glory. The truth is some ware in the middle

  • Robert G. Oler

    Posted by mrearl at November 24, 2004 03:05 PM

  • Dogsbd

    Bob, you are very adept at stating what is wrong with, well with everything. But you’ve never stated in a clear, concise to the point and coherent manner what NASA should do, if anything.

    What should NASA’s mission be? Should NASA be shut down? Should the US leave space exploration to the Russians, ESA, India and China etc? How do we get to privatization of space “usage” if privatization is the goal? What is the private sectors’ incentive to go beyond LEO?

    Stop throwing bricks long enough to build something instead.