Congress, NASA

Now the real budget battle begins

Yesterday the Senate passed its version of HR 2847, the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, which includes NASA. The bill funds NASA at $18.686 billion, the same level as requested in the White House budget proposal and more than $480 million above what the House passed earlier this year. This passage was spun in some places, like a Houston Chronicle article, as a vote to “restore” funding cut by the House; however, the Senate had never gone along with the House cut in the first place. Moreover, the final budget still needs to be worked out in conference between the House and the Senate, with no guarantee that the Senate’s funding level will prevail.

18 comments to Now the real budget battle begins

  • Robert G. Oler

    so much for 3 billion…I know there are a few battles left to go, but to quote Ed Boland..”I will eat my hat” if there is another 3 billion dollars.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Space Sherpa

    RGO – adding $3 billion to this budget was never an option.

    Regarding the $3 billion, there are only two questions:
    – will there be a significant increase in future budget requests?
    – will congress support such an increase if requested?

  • Obviously we’re not going to continue spending nearly $10 billion a year on manned space flight if there is no manned space flight activities going on at NASA during the next decade. So something’s gotta give!

    The Obama administration needs to look at this not as a problem but as an opportunity for his administration to create a new era in manned space travel that will allow America to finally establish a permanently growing human presence off the Earth, starting with the Moon, while also facilitating the ability of private commercial companies to access orbit and beyond without the need to depend on tax payer dollars.

  • Major Tom

    “Obviously we’re not going to continue spending nearly $10 billion a year on manned space flight if there is no manned space flight activities going on at NASA during the next decade.”

    You have heard of the International Space Station, right?

    “So something’s gotta give!”

    No, it doesn’t. The eagle will still fly in LEO, and NASA center employees will still get their paychecks.

    FWIW…

  • Marcel seems to be stuck on this foolish notion that the primary purpose of the NASA human spaceflight program is to put humans into space.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “an opportunity for his administration to create a new era in manned space travel that will allow America to finally establish a permanently growing human presence off the Earth”

    If they did that, it might be well to finally establish a reason for doing it. We don’t have a reason now that pertains to national needs, and even manifest destiny sure doesn’t cut it. I suspect that for no administration, including the Obama one, has establishment of a permanently growing presence off the Earth been of any importance at all. A new era of manned space travel does have some wide appeal, however. At least one could do handwaving about rationale, whether it be for national pride or technological sophistication.

    I agree that while extra money in FY10 and even FY11 is hugely unlikely, the runouts in the FY11 budget proposal will be interesting to watch. Those runouts are not appropriations, but they are a clear view of administration intent.

    A new look-ahead from the administration will be out shortly, one gathers, and this probably sketchy plan will be the foundation for the FY11 budget proposal and runouts therein. To the extent that this plan differs substantially from the Constellation baseline (aside from everything being pushed to the right) and a runout plus-up is in the offing, there will have to be Authorization legislation completed before Congress will appropriate money for it.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    The extra three billion would not go into the FY 2010 budget in any event. If there is such a request, it would either come as a supplemental or as part of FY 2011. But I would not get ones hopes up.

  • eng

    I truly hope this incompetent organization never gets 3 billion plus. We are broke as we are.

    I actually hope they [NASA HSF] get a cut; as a citizen of this country.

  • eng

    And I hope similar for other ‘organizatons’ of this country.

    Cut spending, you morons on the Hill.

  • Major Tom

    “I truly hope this incompetent organization never gets 3 billion plus. We are broke as we are.

    I actually hope they [NASA HSF] get a cut; as a citizen of this country.

    And I hope similar for other ‘organizatons’ of this country.

    Cut spending, you morons on the Hill.”

    This is what the President faces if he proposes a large spending increase for NASA’s civil human space exploration program. (Or Congress, if the majority adopts it.) Opponents will make it Exhibit A in any argument that the Administration or party in power is fiscally irresponsible.

    [Note, I'm not arguing with Eng, just using their comments as an example.]

    FWIW…

  • eng

    Well, Obama can buy a seat at the first *Ares 1* splashdown in 2017 at my taxpaying expense. Thank you.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Major Tom.

    It is going to be interesting to see if the GOP tries to come up with a national campaign theory in 2010 (other then self destruction which is completely possible) and that message is “to much spending and to few jobs” how they work in “but we want more spending for the space program and for government jobs”.

    Robert G. Oler

  • eng

    Our whole country’s spending is out of countrol. We are basically f****d. Space, health, road constructrion, we [as a country - the US] suck… doesn’t matter.

  • common sense

    “It is going to be interesting to see if the GOP tries to come up with a national campaign theory in 2010 (other then self destruction which is completely possible) ”

    The current leadership at the GOP deserves no less than being fired and a total restructuring of the GOP. Let’s hope it does happen or we’re in for Palin the sequel since I hardly see how this WH will get another 4 years.

    “and that message is “to much spending and to few jobs” how they work in “but we want more spending for the space program and for government jobs”. ”

    What is sad about this whole thing is that they, the GOP, cannot even come up with a plan themselves! – Not that I like the overall plan of the current Democrats but at least they have a plan. Oh yeah, cut taxes, free the market… The market is so free it’s off the reservation but heck who cares? The WS guys even got the H1N1 shot before those who fit within the CDC priority list. Unrelated? You decide. HSF yeah sure will decide the next President.

    After all maybe we need a Sarah Palin like to lead the country. At least we’d know where we’re going.

    Oh well.

  • red

    Major Tom: “This is what the President faces if he proposes a large spending increase for NASA’s civil human space exploration program. (Or Congress, if the majority adopts it.) Opponents will make it Exhibit A in any argument that the Administration or party in power is fiscally irresponsible.”

    I agree. If any NASA funding boost is in store, it would probably be safer for a politician to focus the boost on NASA areas with a more obvious and near-term benefit to the nation than the human space exploration program, like robotics, Aeronautics, Innovative Partnerships, and Education.

    If NASA’s human spaceflight budget is considerably increased, it probably wouldn’t make sense to present the increase as a human space exploration program increase:

    - An increase to better support and use the ISS can be presented as just that. This could even be presented in a way that sounds fiscally responsible to those who believe sunk costs matter: why waste the tens of billions spent to build the ISS? This could also be done in a way that supports national needs (eg: promoting the economy through commercial vehicles that can spur non-NASA space commerce, promoting defense and security by enabling those vehicles which can be used by DoD and intelligence agencies, ISS R&D in areas like health, medicine, energy, environment, etc).

    - A budget increase to restore NASA’s R&D / technology development/demonstration capabilities can also be presented as helping solve national problems (security, health, energy, economy, etc). The key is to pick technologies that, if successful, actually do this in an obvious way. Some of these technologies could also be useful to human space exploration, but the “national problem solving” part should be an important if not primary consideration.

    - A budget increase to add satellite servicing capabilities to satellites and to NASA astronaut missions could also be presented as fiscally responsible – if the servicing can be shown to be economically reasonable – and promoting national interests – if the satellites serviced promote the national interest (security, environment, commercial/economic, etc), or if the servicing capabilities will be handed over the commercial space which can then apply them to satellites that promote the nation interest. The servicing capabilities could also, as a secondary consideration, help the exploration effort which may (in the Flexible Path) including servicing of Lagrange point satelllites.

    - If a budget increase comes with some fiscally responsible reform in the human spaceflight area, such as replacing Ares 1 with more cost effective commercial alternatives, replacing Ares V with more cost effective alternatives (such as nothing, refueling, assembly/docking, Phase I or II EELV HLV, or Shuttle deriviatives that are more affordable than Ares V), the whole package may also be more believable to a skeptical and fiscally concerned public.

    - I’m not against Moon-first exploration, but the ESAS approach has poisoned that well enough that the public may find a switch to the Flexible Path – especially if focused on the more affordable early steps of the Flexible Path like lunar orbit, Earth-Moon Lagrange points, and (if I may add a potential Flexible Path destination) GEO – to be more fiscally acceptable and believable.

    However, I don’t think the public will be fooled by these if they’re not done sincerely – i.e. with full attention on returning national benefits, fiscal responsibility, and bringing more players (i.e. commercial and international) into the effort.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense.

    First off Sarah Palin, without a major makeover, and her book isnt it…is going to be president of the Levi Johnston lynching committee…and that is about it.

    The odds still have to favor Obama getting a health care bill and if he does then he has a chance to salvage his administration. Reagan had a rocky first year and recovered, Bush the last would have likely been a one termer had not 9/11 occurred and he encountered feckless opposition in 04…Carter had a bad first year and never got it back…

    But Obama has the Congress and he might be able to convince the party that they either swim together or sink separately. But to get his health care bill he is going in my view have to explain to the American people “why” (they want a health care bill BTW) and how he is going to get the deficit and jobs under control…which is starting to correctly scare them.

    I’ve looked at the recent elections pretty closely and my view is that the most likely course is that both parties will revert to their natural tendencies, the GOP will go rogue as it succumbs to the right wing Glenn Beck, Rush extremist and the Dems will go indecisive and waste their power.

    However, there is also a good chance that one or both parties will start to try and redefine themselves…if Obama is smart he will lead that for the Dems in trying to do a Clinton, ie reestablish himself in the center and start attempting to get the deficit under control while moving to redefine the role of the federal government. The chance for the GOP is going to come in a series of bruising primaries (CA, TX, and FL come to mind) where the extremist on the right (Rick Perry in TX) are going to do battle with the “moderates” or “centrist” like KBH in Texas for the direction of The Party and hence their presentation to The Republic in 2010…the moderates in the GOP might be aided by Dems who are disaffected with their parties slightly left and ineffective answers to the current crisis. If this happens it could be the start of a redefining of the two party system.

    ANY solution of a moderate nature however is in my view tough news for any completely discretionary spending such as human spaceflight. As the dollars are cut “why” and the “urgency” of something being done is going to get extremely important.

    That is why things like human spaceflight and the war in Afland are in my view going to be easy chops. There will be some (like here) who believe that the American people cannot live without human adventures in space, but my guess is that it is kind of like Afland. If Obama said “good election there, we gave them 8 years we are leaving” the chickenhawks in the GOP would be loud for about two weeks and most Americans would say “Yeap good idea”.

    As they will when Obama says “we are not going back to the Moon.”

    I see very very hard times coming. But if we dont do them, then I see worse things happening.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    red. well said.

    Robert G. Oler

  • common sense

    Robert,

    I found this poll, dated January 09 and on Fox News sure, but still very disturbing… Look for Ms. Palin’s approval. So, she may not be winning BUT someone like her just might and it is not great news. So for now I stick to my comment that if this WH fails then someone like her if not her will be sitting at the WH in 2012.

    Favorable Unfavorable Can’tsay Neverheard
    13-14 Jan 09 49% 40 9 2
    Democrats 24% 63 11 2
    Republicans 85% 10 4 1
    Independents 46% 41 12 1

    Sorry for the format don’t have time to correct. Look it up here:
    http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/011509_poll.pdf

    Like it or not but the only chance for this WH to survive 2012 is to make a real health care/insurance reform that will cover all Americans. The current installation of the bill at the House looks like a bad joke. A public option single payer is the way to go if he wants to succeed. It is a case where for-profit institutions have failed us (so far) and will most likely continue to fail us. Profit on others’ ailments seems unethical to me and to a lot of people. A little like WS having huge bonuses on your and my money while ruining the country because otherwise those highly talented people on WS would go work elsewhere… Whatever…

    Anyway. We shall see.

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