NASA

NASA FY2008 budget review: summary

On Wednesday President Bush officially signed the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008, which includes funding for a wide range of agencies, including NASA. Congress had passed the bill last week before recessing for the year. With the FY2008 appropriations process at an end (and it being an otherwise quiet time on the space policy front), it’s a good time to review how the NASA budget turned out. Below is a summary of the final appropriations bill as compared to the administration proposed back in February (all values in millions of dollars):

Program Request Final
Science 5,516.1 5,577.3
Exploration Systems 3,923.8 3,842.0
Aeronautics 554.0 625.3
Cross-Agency Support Programs 489.2 556.4
Shuttle 4,007.5 4,000.0
ISS 2,238.6 2,220.0
Space and Flight Support 545.7 545.7
Inspector General 34.6 32.6
Reductions n/a -89.9
TOTAL 17,309.4 17,309.4

The “Reductions” line item above are from language in the bill that calls for reductions in “corporate and general administrative expenses”, totaling $57.9 million for the Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration account and $32.0 million for the Exploration Capabilities (Shuttle, ISS, and Space and Flight Support) account.

So, at first glance, over ten months after the appropriations process started, NASA ended up with almost exactly what the administration requested: a little less for exploration, a little more for science and aeronautics. As always, though, the devil is in the details, including the shifts in funding within accounts and the language in the conference report. (Not to mention whether those funding levels are sufficient for the agency to carry out everything on its plate, a whole other debate.) Those details will be discussed in later posts.

25 comments to NASA FY2008 budget review: summary

  • Vladislaw

    RpK Says It Won’t Take NASA to Court Over COTS Dispute
    WASHINGTON — Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) has backed off its threat to sue NASA for withdrawing financial support of the K-1 reusable rocket the Oklahoma City-based company was developing under the U.S. space agency’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to deliver supplies and eventually astronauts to the international space station.
    http://www.space.com/spacenews/

    Does this mean the second round of COTS funding can go ahead with this budget?

  • [...] vanni dall’esplorazione, lo shuttle e la ISS alla scienza. Per il dettaglio, c’è un’utilissima tabella sull’altrettanto utile [...]

  • No, for at least one (and possibly 2) reasons

    First, they are prevented from moving forward while under the GAO reveiw (which hasn’t been completed)

    Second reason (I think), there is the funding issue thanks to Mikulski see http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=5123- I assume that this is for this years budget, not next year.

  • Of important note are the site-specific earmarks in the bill. I counted 81 such earmarks totalling over $83 million. A PDF of the bill is here:

    http://www.rules.house.gov/110/text/omni/jes/jesdivb.pdf

    The earmarks start on page 118 in the PDF (page 113 in the document).

    It’s really hard to see the NASA connection in many of these earmarks. Some would appear to belong to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and even the Department of Health and Human Services. Here’s a sample:

    “Alliance for NanoHealth, Houston, TX, to facilitate the translation of
    nanotechnology from the laboratory to clinical practice”

    “Baylor Physical Sciences Laboratory enhancement at Baylor University”

    “Burlington County College Science Learning Center”

    “Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, for equipment”

    “Distance learning program at Fairmont State University”

    “Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL, for a tool for educators
    to allow their students to reach their full potential through participation
    in exciting hands on projects. The projects are dynamic in scope and
    are structured to be less time restrictive on the classroom schedule and
    the educator though self-directed curriculum”

    “Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, Danville, VA, for installation of broadband
    on the Eastern Shore of Virginia”

    “University of Redlands Education Technology Program”

    “Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling, WV, to expand the reach of the
    HealtheWV program, an electronic medical records system”

    It’s very sad that Congress is willing to levy $83 million worth of uncompeted, low-return, and often non-relevant activities on NASA, but can’t find a lousy $4 million to expand and improve the number of highly competitive, high-return, highly relevant technology inducement prizes in the Centennial Challenges program, or $78 million to fully fund innovative, high-leverage, government/industry COTS partnerships that are proving to be critical to covering the “gap”.

    FWIW…

  • “First, they are prevented from moving forward while under the GAO reveiw (which hasn’t been completed)”

    This review is suppossed to be complete in early February. Assuming GAO meets its deadline, it shouldn’t represent much of a delay, if any, to the COTS award.

    “Second reason (I think), there is the funding issue thanks to Mikulski – I assume that this is for this years budget, not next year.”

    It is for this year (FY 2008). NASA requested $238 million for COTS, and Congress provided $160 million, a cut of $78 million. Without knowing the content of the COTS proposals currently under consideration, especially the size and timing of their milestones, we really don’t know what the impact of this cut is; i.e., what proposals the cut might preclude from selection and/or what milestones the cut might delay in the selected proposal.

    Although there was some financial justification for Congress’s cut given the uncertainty surrounding the program, the uncertainty disappeared only a few weeks later. Moreover, it was a really stupid move given Congressional rhetoric about the “gap” and the flagging Ares I project. The exact impact to COTS may not be known, but a cut of that magnitude (nearly 33%) substantially reduces NASA’s options for reducing the “gap” at the same time that the interstage structure for the Ares I-X test flight has experienced a failure in ground testing.

    Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.

    FWIW…

  • Also of important note is this passage from the bill:

    “The amended bill includes a rescission of $192,475,000 from unobligated balances available” from prior year appropriations, instead of $69,832,000 as proposed by the House. The amended bill includes language requesting that within 30 days after the date of the enactment of this section the Administrator shall submit to the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate a report specifying the amount of each rescission made pursuant to this section.”

    Due to its unusually flat funding profile (for a development program), Constellation was depending on those unobligated balances (unspent money from prior years) to keep Ares I/Orion development on schedule. The rescission of those unobligated balances is basically a cut of $192 million to NASA. Even if they perform technically, it’s hard to see how Ares I/Orion are going to stay on schedule for a 2015 operations start in the face of a reduction of that magnitude. It will be very interesting to see a revised Ares I/Orion schedule in the new year.

    FWIW…

  • Al Fansome

    There is also some unspent FY07 money for COTS is left over that was originally planned for RpK.

    RpK had 3 milestones that they failed to achieve in their original COTS agreement that were in FY07. From pages 46 and 47 of the published Space Act Agreements with RpK…

    Milestone 4: Financing Round 2 — 2/07; $7.5 million

    Milestone 5: Pressurized Cargo Module CDR — 8/07; $5 million

    Milestone 6: Unpressurized Cargo Module CDR — 9/07; $5 million

    That is $17.5 million in unspent funds that should also be available for the COTS program to spend. (I am assuming that the funds for milestone #6 were appropriated in FY07. If they assumed that they would be paid 30 days later, they might have budgeted them in FY08, leaving only $12.5M in unspent funds.)

    - Al

  • Ray

    anonymous.space: “Also of important note is this passage from the bill:

    “The amended bill includes a rescission of $192,475,000 from unobligated balances available” from prior year appropriations, instead of $69,832,000 as proposed by the House.”

    It seems like they were almost asking for the money to be snatched away. I’ll be that NASA science, NIAC, and other interests are a bit irritated that they were cut and the money wasn’t used.

    By the way, with all of the COTS-related activity going on (budget issues, SpaceX work, RpK legal challenges, new round of COTS proposals) does anyone know what happened to the COTS Watch site, or anyone is going to make a new version?

  • MarkWhittington

    Just a note to the person calling him/herself Anonymous Space, we don’t know how much or if any of the 192 million in unspent funds comes from the exploration account. The ability of NASA to move that money around between accounts is now somewhat limited.

    Another note. It is fascinating that the amount of the money cut from COTS is about the same as the amount spent of earmarks.

    Finally, Space Frontier Foundation is blaming the COTS cut, apparently, on Senator Barbara Mikulski. There was some insistence in comments on this blog earlier that the cut had to be bipartisan. Why Mikulski engineered the cut (if SFF is right) is rather obvious. She could have the money to spread around on pork to reward her friends. Also, as a liberal Democrat, she has a dim view toward commerce, especially such that might compete with NASA interests in her state.

  • MarkWhittington

    There is some speculation that the President might choose to ignore earmark requests inserted in the legislative language of the bill, on the theory that it is not legally binding. The money still has to be spent, but with NASA as with other departments and agencies it could be spent in a more rational manner. Such a decision would have explosive ramifications for relations with the Congress, but considering public discontent with pork happy spending, it might be politically appealing.

  • “Just a note to the person calling him/herself Anonymous Space,”

    You can just call me “anonymous.space”. Mr. Foust welcomes anonymous comments on this forum.

    “we don’t know how much or if any of the 192 million in unspent funds comes from the exploration account.”

    Wrong. Every Directorate at NASA has year-to-year carryover, but Exploration Systems is the only Directorate with high amounts of carryover that can be targeted by Congress. High carryover was the only way that large costs of Constellation/Ares I/Orion could be crammed into the VSE budget and afforded on schedule. But the budget strategy added considerable political risk — risk which is now coming back to haunt the program.

    “There was some insistence in comments on this blog earlier that the cut had to be bipartisan.”

    No, you made sweeping comments that all Democrats are against commercial space flight. Every other poster in that thread argued or showed that you were wrong.

    That is not the same thing as “insistence… that the cut had to be bipartisan”. In fact, I specifically stated that we had no evidence showing whether Democrats or Republicans or both supported or opposed the cut.

    “Why Mikulski engineered the cut (if SFF is right)”

    Mikulski is the highest ranking majority member and chair of NASA’s Senate appropriations subcommittee, and as such, the Space Frontier Foundation is right to target her first in any letter writing campaign. But that doesn’t mean that Mikulski sponsored the cut.

    “is rather obvious.”

    Very wrong. The “obvious” reason for the cut is already there in black-and-white on page 112 of the bill. At the time the bill was drafted, there was both a GAO ruling and a lawsuit pending, either of which added substantial financial uncertainty to the COTS program. Congress (maybe Mikulski, maybe another member, and probably just an appropriations staffer) did not want NASA to commit to a new, third COTS performer until this uncertainty was removed. To ensure that NASA could not make such a commitment, Congress deleted the funding necessary to make the commitment as scheduled.

    “She could have the money to spread around on pork to reward her friends. [sic]”

    Wrong. Cutting COTS just reduced the bill’s topline number. To pay for most of the earmarks, Congress reduced “amounts available for corporate and general administrative expenses” across all programs on page 106 of the bill.

    Also, if one reads through the list of earmarks, many of Mikulski’s “friends” are from states and districts represented by Republicans. With only the occasional McCain going the other way, the majority of both parties in Congress are still guilty of feeding at the trough.

    “Also, as a liberal Democrat, she has a dim view toward commerce,”

    Once again, Mr. Whittington uses a sweeping statement to paint an entire wing of a party with one, inaccurate color.

    For example, according to Wikipedia, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party favors globalization and NAFTA. The 2004 Democratic Party platform also plainly states that:

    “Free and fair trade that creates American jobs. Exports sustain about 1 in 5 American factory jobs. Open markets spur innovation, speed the growth of new industries, and make our businesses more competitive. We will make it a priority to knock down barriers to free, fair and balanced trade so other nation’s markets are as open as our own.”

    How is free trade anti-commerce?

    The platform goes on to state:

    “Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy.
    We will encourage small business growth with a plan to make it easier for small businesses to secure capital and loans. We support tax credits and energy investments that slash overall operating costs for small businesses and encourage them to grow and expand here in America.”

    How is stimulating the growth of small business anti-commerce?

    The platform also commits to make the R&D tax credit permanent.

    How are tax credits for R&D anti-commerce?

    I don’t mean to take this thread off-topic with any of the above. And I’m not normally in the business of defending either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. But these kinds of repeated, overly broad, and very inaccurate generalizations about the platforms of our political parties should not stand unanswered. This forum is too good for that.

    “especially such that might compete with NASA interests in her state.”

    Very wrong. COTS is a human space transport program that competes with Ares I/Orion jobs in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Utah, Lousiana, and California. COTS is not an Earth or space science program that competes with Goddard or APL jobs in Maryland.

    In fact, it would be in Mikulski’s interest to boost funding for any COTS proposals that used the Virginia Spaceport at Wallops, which has many workers residing in Maryland.

    “There is some speculation that the President might choose to ignore earmark requests inserted in the legislative language of the bill, on the theory that it is not legally binding.”

    It’s not a theory. Earmarks in report langauge are not law. In fact, any report langauge is not bill language and thus is not law.

    That doesn’t mean that the White House will take such an action, that the earmark funding would go to COTS (vice the almost $200 million hole in Ares 1/Orion carryover), or that Congress wouldn’t just put the earmarks into law and pass them over a Presidential veto.

    FWIW…

  • Jerry

    I agree with anonymous.space, he hit all the right spots. My disagreement comes with the total amount of the budget. I would rather of added 4 billion to restore the programs cut because of Constellation/Ares 1/Orin and speed up development of nuclear rocket engines.

    I don’t mind the funding earmarks as long as a sticker is put on the doors and in the offices “Brought to you by NASA” or something to that effect.

    It seems to me that most politicians and the public miss the connection of man space exploration research and development with all the improvements in technology that we take for granted in our society. Just for example communications, energy, etc.. NASA sponsor’s and or funds hole or in part all sciences. We need to increase our technology research, it is our best hope for economic advancement.

  • COTSadvocate

    WHITTINGTON: Finally, Space Frontier Foundation is blaming the COTS cut, apparently, on Senator Barbara Mikulski. There was some insistence in comments on this blog earlier that the cut had to be bipartisan. Why Mikulski engineered the cut (if SFF is right) is rather obvious. She could have the money to spread around on pork to reward her friends. Also, as a liberal Democrat, she has a dim view toward commerce, especially such that might compete with NASA interests in her state.

    Mr. Whittington,

    If you were the professional, and expert, space policy analyst that you think you are — then the reason that the Foundation points its finger at Mikulski would be “rather obvious”. However, you again demonstrate your ignorance of a basic space policy issue.

    Mr. Kevin Kelly of Van Scoyoc & Associates is a lobbyiest for Rocketplane Kistler (RpK), and has worked for Mr. George French for years. For example, Mr. Kelly spoke on behalf of RpK at NewSpace 2007 last July.

    For information on Kevin Kelly see:
    http://vsadc.com/pages/kell.htm

    As you will see, Mr. Kelly is extremely well connected to Senator Mikulski. Space policy experts have known, for some time, that Mr. Kelly has been shopping around language on the Hill in an attempt to tie NASA’s hands on COTS.

    In other words, it is RATHER OBVIOUS, that the Space Frontier Foundation is saying that the specific COTS-related language, that is attempting to tie NASA’s hands, comes from Senator Mikulski. And that Senator Mikulski is putting the COTS program in danger at the behest of her old staffer Kevin Kelly.

    In fact, it is also becoming obvious that RpK (via Mr. Kelly) asked Chairman Mikuslki to take a much harder stance on COTS. George French acknowledges this in the following article:

    http://www.space.com/spacenews/spacepolicy/Frenchweb122407.html

    where Space News reports: “In his statement, French also said RpK was “very disappointed that Congress decided not to direct NASA to reinstate RpK’s funded agreement under the COTS program in the recently concluded Omnibus Appropriations bill.”

    In summary — George French, via Kevin Kelly, asked Senator Mikulski to force NASA to reinstate the U.S. Government’s $200M agreement with RpK.

    Obviously, she said “No”. Instead, she chose to hold up the entire COTS procurement at the behest of RpK.

    Meanwhile, NASA has a letter from RpK basically saying that “If you hand over $10M of the taxpayer’s money, we will go away and leave you alone.”

    What will the taxpayers get for their $10M? You tell me.

    It all smells.

    - COTSadvocate

  • COTS Proposition

    It all smells.

    Yes, of course it does, but does it smell better or worse than Ares I and Orion, or does it smell better or worse than ATK and Doc Whore’s involvement in ESAS, or does it smell better or worse than Sub Genius Weldon’s shuttle proposal? I guess the only way to find out is to stick your nose into something that clearly doesn’t smell right, something which clearly smells very, very bad, which is clearly something that Michael Griffin, George W. Bush and most members of congress clearly aren’t willing to do.

    The only thing that doesn’t smell like sh@t at NASA anymore, is COTS.

  • Anonymous (and others): With (great) respect, why do you continue to waste your time addressing Mark’s comments? It does make for entertaining reading, but it is blindingly obvious that he is far more interested in partisan attacks than addressing the many real political problems facing NASA and the space industry. Surely, there is a more constructive way to spend your no doubt valuable time, either here or in your day job, which, judging from your evident knowledge, hopefully does involve addressing some of the issues facing the space industry. . . .

    – Donald

  • “‘In his statement, French also said RpK was ‘very disappointed that Congress decided not to direct NASA to reinstate RpK’s funded agreement under the COTS program in the recently concluded Omnibus Appropriations bill.’

    In summary — George French, via Kevin Kelly, asked Senator Mikulski to force NASA to reinstate the U.S. Government’s $200M agreement with RpK.

    Obviously, she said ‘No’. Instead, she chose to hold up the entire COTS procurement at the behest of RpK.”

    It’s true that Kevin Kelly used to work for Mikulski and may or may not have been hired by George French to lobby on RpK’s behalf. (Neither French nor RpK appear on Van Scoyoc’s client list, although that list may not be up to date.)

    That said, the causal connection between the Space News quote about RpK lobbying Congress to reinstate its COTS agreement and the COTS cut in the bill is not obvious, and it requires a leap of logic to connect the two. If Mikulski really was doing Kelly or French a favor, then she wouldn’t cut the program that RpK is trying to get dollars out of. That makes no sense as it only makes it harder for RpK to win more bucks (whether with NASA, GAO, or the courts).

    If there is a causal connection between the two, it would appear that Kelly and/or French’s lobbying backfired on RpK. Instead of helping to reinstate RpK’s agreement, the lobbying campaign drew attention to the COTS program and the fact that almost half of its budget was in limbo. I would guess that an appropriations staffer took advantage of the situation, cutting COTS as part of a long list of reductions to meet an overall budget target (either the original budget allocation for their subcommittee or later White House negotiating limits) for that staffer’s part of the appropriations bill.

    FWIW…

  • “Yes, of course it does, but does it smell better or worse than Ares I and Orion, or does it smell better or worse than ATK and Doc Whore’s involvement in ESAS, or does it smell better or worse than Sub Genius Weldon’s shuttle proposal?”

    This is an important point. To its managers’ credit, COTS has always been run above-board with full-and-open competitions and transparent processes. It’s not the COTS program or NASA’s fault that RpK has tried to circumvent those processes with a GAO appeal, threat of court action, and/or Congressional lobbying.

    That’s a very different situtation from ESAS/Constellation/Ares I, where questionable numbers were employed in a closed, internal study with no independent review, possibly to produce a predetermined result, and where much work has gone to sole-source contracts in the absence of any competition.

    Even with RpK’s challenges, from the point-of-view of both good technical results and good government, we should take the former over the latter, any day.

    FWIW…

  • “Anonymous (and others): With (great) respect, why do you continue to waste your time addressing Mark’s comments? It does make for entertaining reading, but it is blindingly obvious that he is far more interested in partisan attacks than addressing the many real political problems facing NASA and the space industry.”

    Precisely because they are so broadly, falsely, and uselessly partisan. There’s no value in having a discussion about whether all Democrats are against space commerce or whether all liberal Democrats are against commerce when the statements are clearly false on their face. For that to be true, the Democratic Party would have to be a front for a massive communist, socialist, or other non-market political conspiracy, which is obviously and patently not true.

    These kinds of arguments obscure and detract from the discussions that we should be having. We should be discussing (or at least I would rather discuss) what is the best set of policies (whether they’re from the left-, right-, both, or neither wings) for advancing space commerce (or commerce). It’s goofy to debate whether the Democrats are against commerce when their platform puts substantive issues ranging from NAFTA and free trade to small business subsidies to R&D tax credits on the table for debate. As long as we’re pointing fingers based on utter falsehoods, we’re not discussing anything true or substantive.

    FWIW…

  • Ferris,

    I have to take issue with one point you made several messages ago. The language of the conference report prevents NASA from proceeding with another COTS award until the dispute with RpK over losing their previous funded agreement is resolved. Since RpK has carried that appeal all the way up the chain inside NASA, its only recourse was to file suit in federal court. George French has now publicly stated that they have no intention of doing so.

    The GAO dispute is NOT about the termination, but about NASA’s plans to structure the new COTS procurement as a Space Act Agreement process, just as the first one was. Note that this GAO protest, which is indeed supposed to be resolved by early February, has no impact on the availability of funds for the new COTS award. Therefore, it is not relevant to the Conference Report’s justification for requiring a resolution before a new award.

    So with George French’s announcement, this language is effectively moot. The irrelevant GAO dispute must be resolved before an award can be made simply because the procurement is under an administrative cloud, but not because of the Congressional language.

    – Jim

  • TLE

    The GAO dispute is NOT about the termination, but about NASA’s plans to structure the new COTS procurement as a Space Act Agreement process, just as the first one was.

    Perhaps I can refresh your memory :

    http://www.space.com/spacenews/GAOrulingweb_122006.html

    Now we can see what this action is all about :

    http://rescommunis.wordpress.com/2007/11/12/nasa-moves-ahead-with-cots-despite-bid-protest/

    Some of us find evidence to be much more reliable than spin.

  • COTSadvocate

    Anonymous.space said:

    It’s true that Kevin Kelly used to work for Mikulski and may or may not have been hired by George French to lobby on RpK’s behalf. (Neither French nor RpK appear on Van Scoyoc’s client list, although that list may not be up to date.)

    First, you looked for the wrong name on Van Scoyoc’s list — but more on that later. More directly, Kevin Kelly spoke at NewSpace 2007, where he publicly repreresented Rocketplane Kistler. His talk was about the K1. He is even listed on the NewSpace 2007 agenda here …

    http://www.space-frontier.org/Events/NewSpace2007/#thursdayanchor

    as the “Washington Counsel to Rocketplane Kistler”.

    This was two (2) months before RpK’s agreement was terminated.

    This relationship is not new. There is a July 2004 article that quotes Kevin Kelly, and describes Kelly as a Rocketplane (pre-Kistler) lobbyist, here:

    http://spacefellowship.com/News/?cat=22&paged=5

    Now for the proof … If you look at Van Scoyoc’s client list here:

    http://www.vsadc.com/pages/page04.htm

    you will see “Space Explorers, Inc.”, which has a link to here:

    http://www.space-explorers.com/

    which is a private educational company owned by George French.

    You will find the history of Space Explorers Inc. here:

    http://www.space-explorers.com/about/history.html#begin

    - COTSadvocate

  • Jim and TLE – Thanks for the clarification.

  • [...] up on my previous posts summarizing the budget and reviewing its various requests for reports and studies, there is some other language of [...]

  • [...] analysis of the bill check out Space Politics: NASA FY2008 budget review: summary, NASA FY2008 budget review: reports and studies, and NASA FY2008 budget review: other provisions. [...]

  • [...] in the “Cross Agency Support programs” line item, from under $500 million in 2008 ($556.4 million according to the final omnibus appropriations bill) to $3.3 billion in 2009: apparently some programs are being moved into that line item, but the [...]

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