Most readers are familiar with a proposal by the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to cut NASA’s commercial crew development program, saving $1.2 billion a year. That generated criticism in some circles, including a strong response from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. However, it appears the commission co-chairs (or, more likely, their staffs) have quietly edited that proposed cut.
The original version of the recommendation, as seen in this cached copy of the original document listing all the proposed cuts, reads as follows:
24. Eliminate funding for commercial spaceflight. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to spend $6 billion over the next five years to spur the development of American commercial spaceflight. This subsidy to the private sector is costly, and while commercial spaceflight is a worthy goal, it is unclear why the federal government should be subsidizing the training of the potential crews of such flights. Eliminating this program would save $1.2 billion in 2015.
The same recommendation in official version of the document, on the commission’s web site, now reads as follows:
24. Eliminate funding to private sector for spaceflight developments. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to spend $6 billion over the next five years to invest in private sector development of space transportation capabilities, which NASA plans to competitively purchase once available. Eliminating this program would save $1.2 billion in 2015.
The title of the recommendation has changed (from “for commercial spaceflight” to “to private sector for spaceflight developments”). The text of the revised recommendation is also much shorter, and is missing the odd rationale of the original (claiming that the funding would be “subsidizing the training of the potential crews”; the funding was actually proposed for vehicle development). The header of the official document indicates the update was made on November 12, two days after its initial release, but no other details about the change (or even that this particular recommendation had been changed) are posted.
The overall recommendations were made by the commission’s co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. The full 18-member bipartisan commission is due to vote on a final report no later than this Wednesday, although any report released by the commission requires the votes of at least 14 commission members.