The Heritage Foundation, in an online memo criticizing Senate plans to add $32 billion in “emergency” funding to FY2007 budget bills, makes mention of efforts to increase NASA’s budget by $1 billion through such a mechanism. The problem, Heritage’s Brian Riedl believes, is rooted in Congressmen’s tendencies to attach earmarks to NASA budgets. “Had Congress resisted the urge to earmark NASA’s budget in 2005 and 2006, the agency would have enough money to fund” the shuttle return to flight and post-Katrina repairs without such an emergency measure. “Rather than cut back on pork, Senators added $1 billion in ‘emergency funding’ for basic, non-emergency activities” like those.
This analysis misses a couple of nuances, though. Much of the argument for the additional funding has been based on the fact that NASA got no extra money to cover the costs of the return-to-flight efforts in the last few years. Also, paying for Katrina repairs certainly constitutes an emergency, and NASA did get some additional money for FY06 to cover repairs, although not as much as it asked for. While Heritage is right to be concerned about pork and earmarks, Congress has cut back on earmarks so far in this budget cycle, although we’re still far from done (and it won’t be done soon: the Senate version of the FY07 budget is unlikely to be approved before Congress adjourns at the end of this week; it reconvenes after the November general election.)