Congress, NASA

House Appropriations Committee approves NASA funding bill

The full House Appropriations Committee approved yesterday the Commerce, Justice, and Science funding bill, which includes $17.8 billion for NASA. The text of the legislation is not available online yet, and a press release about the bill offers only a few details. The press release does include one ambiguous statement: “Requires NASA report to Congress the full costs of retiring the Space Shuttle by November 2009, and 2 shuttle flights to complete work on the international space station before NASA can retire the Space Shuttle.” Are they talking about retiring the shuttle by November 2009 (a year ahead of schedule), or simply a report due by November 2009? Of course, it may be a moot point depending on how the appropriations process plays out this year.

6 comments to House Appropriations Committee approves NASA funding bill

  • A November 2009 retirement would be good, since it would free up money for future-oriented activities sooner.

    — Donald

  • Vladislaw

    Under the science heading NASA is to receive 1.3 billion and then under the NASA heading 17.8 billion. Does the 1.3 get added to the 17 or is it to come out of the 17 billion. The Nasa total would be 19.1 if they are combined.

  • gm

    a good thing that should be funded by Congress (saving very much time and money) …
    First Look at the 10 m. fairing + 3 standard SRBs Ares 5+

  • Ray

    I still couldn’t find details on the House Appropriations bill, but I think this shows the Senate Appropriations bill:

    Very much unlike the House Authorization bill, there are no provisions directing NASA to implement certain science or Space Shuttle missions, encourage commercial space, or much specific direction at all. About all I saw was an RIF restriction, a fairly weak restriction on moving money from one account to another (and I will refrain from sarcastic remarks about which accounts that would be), and this:

    “Funds for announced prizes otherwise authorized shall remain available, without fiscal year limitation, until the prize is claimed or the offer is withdrawn. Funding shall not be made available for Centennial Challenges unless authorized.”

    For comparison, I dug up the table I made comparing the Administration request and the House Authorization at

    and added the values from the Senate Appropriation bill. It looks like the various accounts other than IG and Operations were tweaked up a bit, but it’s very much like the Administration request. The only notable difference seems to be in what’s left of Aeronautics.

    Administration House Authorization Senate Appropriations

    Science 4,441.5 4,932.2 4,522.9
    *Earth 1.367.5 1,518.0
    *Planetary 1.334.2 1,483.0
    *Astrophysics 1,162.5 1,290.4
    *Heliophysics 577.3 640.8

    Aeronautics 446.5 853.4 500.0

    Exploration 3500.5 3,886.0 3,530.5
    *Constellation 3,048.2 same?
    *Advanced Capabilities 452.3 737.8
    COTS D and ISS docking adaptors 0 100.0

    Accelerate Ares/Orion 0 1000.0

    Operations 5,774.7 6,074.7 5,774.7
    *Shuttle 2,981.7 same?
    *ISS 2,060.2 same?
    *Support 732.8 same?
    Shuttle AMS 0 150.0
    augment ISS cargo services 0 100.0
    SOMD reserves and transition/retirement 0 50.0

    Education 115.6 128.3 130.0

    Cross-Agency 3,299.9 3,299.9 3,320.4
    *Center Mgmt 2,045.6 same?
    *Agency Mgmt 945.6 same?
    *Investments 308.7 same?

    IG 35.5 35.5 35.5

    Total 17,614.2 (1.8% increase) 19,210.0 (+ $1B ESAS add) 17,814

  • Norm Hartnett

    Strange, both the House and Senate authorization bills authorize spending of over $20 billion yet it appears as though the actual appropriations bills in both are around 17.8. Could the authorizations be setting the ground work for supplemental bills in calendar year 2009, after the current administration is gone?

  • Doug Lassiter

    Authorization of spending and appropriation of spending are two entirely different things. In recent history, the amounts authorized are always considerably larger than the amounts appropriated.

    The way to read an authorization bill is “If you can find the money, here are things that Congress thinks are really worth doing without completely breaking the bank.” It means that if the money can be found, those writing the checks can point to it as a formal sense of Congress that establishes what is good. It does that with some deeper thinking than the approps process can manage.

    So the importance of authorization is that it defines Congressional policy in a way that approps cannot. It takes a hard look at strategy and value. Conversely, while appropriating money for things that have never been authorized is possible (e.g. earmarks), it’s not a credible long-term plan.

    So yes, this bill could be setting groundwork for a larger NASA budget, but historically that hasn’t been the case. In fact, had the bill authorized just the amount that is currently being appropriated, it would be a real shocker.

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