In response to the avalanche of comments to an earlier post about a presentation Charles Miller gave at the Space Access conference last month about the budgetary pressures NASA is facing and one potential solution, Charles approached me about fleshing out that talk into a more detailed essay. Part one of that essay appears in Monday’s issue of The Space Review and goes into detail about the budget crunch NASA and other discretionary spending programs will be facing in the near future as the Baby Boomers retire. That wave of retirements will cause mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) to increase, putting pressure on other programs. While NASA has done reasonably well in the current administration, when there has been little pressure to balance budgets, it did suffer a cut of nearly 20 percent during the Clinton Administration when there was a bipartisan push to balance the budget—a portent of what may come when there are similar pressures to cut spending.
A key paragraph from the article:
These fiscal pressures will force the next president—regardless of whoever is elected in November—to make some hard decisions in the years to come about discretionary spending. It is unrealistic to expect that NASA will somehow be immune to pressures to cut spending. A budget cut in the next Administration that is equivalent to last decade’s cut would result in reduction of NASA’s budget of over $3 billion per year. If that happens, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the current exploration architecture to continue in anything resembling its current form and schedule. It will be significantly delayed, radically altered, or even cancelled.
The next part will focus on what Charles proposed in his Space Access talk on how to preserve the Vision in such an austere budgetary environment.