NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe took some time Tuesday to celebrate, in a sense, NASA’s budgetary victory in Congress in talks to employees and a meeting with reporters. O’Keefe noted that the budget was “as strong an endorsement as anyone could have hoped” for the Vision for Space Exploration, the New York Times reported. Florida Today said that O’Keefe seemed to take some pleasure noting that just this time last week it appeared NASA’s budget would come up several hundred million dollars short of the original request:
“Lots of folks were writing (that) we were stalled,” O’Keefe told the NASA employees, a hint of a smirk peeking from under his salt and pepper mustache. “Well, we beat that.”
Reports were mixed regarding earlier claims that jobs cuts were in store in the shuttle program at KSC and perhaps JSC. The Houston Chronicle said that O’Keefe “dismissed” that earlier report, but didn’t rule out the possibility for future cuts once safety upgrades are completed on the three remaining orbiters. The Orlando Sentinel, which first published reports of the potential job cuts, also reported that O’Keefe said future job cuts were possible, but said there was no specific number (the Sentinel had originally reported that about 100 jobs were to be cut starting December 1.)
The news is not all good, though: the Chronicle reported that O’Keefe said NASA still faces “tough decisions” about how to distribute the $16.2 billion NASA received. The article notes that shuttle RTF activities have now generated an overrun of $760 million, and starting the Hubble repair mission will cost nearly $300 million more. On top of that, Congress added $400 million in earmarks.