The House Appropriations Committee today approved a joint funding resolution for the remainder of the 2007 fiscal year that does not contain any additional funding for NASA. The plan, announced in December by the incoming chairman of the House and Senate appropriations committees, was to basically extend the continuing resolutions that had been funding much of the federal government since October 1 for the rest of the fiscal year. However, such CRs generally fund agencies at no more than what they received in the previous fiscal year, which for NASA meant a level about a half-billion dollars less than the $16.8 billion the agency had been planning for 2007. There had been talk that there would be opportunities in the joint funding resolution to increase funding for certain areas, but that does not appear to have panned out for NASA, according to the text of the resolution:
Science: $5.251 billion
Aeronautics: $0.890 billion
Exploration Systems: $3.402 billion
Cross-Agency Support Programs: $0.532 billion
Exploration Capabilities: $6.140 billion
Inspector General: $0.032 billion
TOTAL: $16.247 billion
In other words, no budget increase for NASA in 2007. A Space News article (subscription required) notes also that NASA was not given any additional flexibility by appropriators regarding how the agency can spend the money. (A ScienceNOW article does report that the legislation would free up $300 million from the 2006 budget, “giving Administrator Mike Griffin some flexibility to fund efforts such as the shuttle replacement or the upcoming mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope”.)
The big loser here is exploration, which absorbs nearly all of the half-billion cut NASA is facing. (Science programs get but by about $100 million, and aeronautics actually gets a modest but critical increase.) A NASA spokesman told Space News that the budget could delay the development schedules for the Ares 1 rocket and Orion spacecraft, and could jeopardize the 2014 deadline for bringing them into service that was laid out three years ago when the Bush Administration unveiled the Vision for Space Exploration. The article also reports that “at least 40 lawmakers” had asked appropriators to fund NASA at the requested FY07 level, without success.
The full House is scheduled to vote on the resolution tomorrow, to be followed by the Senate. That will be the last opportunity for NASA to salvage some sort of increase, although since House and Senate appropriators jointed drafted this resolution it likely will be no easier to win additional funding there.
A closing comment from House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. David Obey in his press release: “I don’t expect people to love this proposal, I don’t love this proposal, and we probably have made some wrong choices.” A lot of people at NASA and in the aerospace industry would agree with that.