Lost in yesterday’s hubbub about the State of the Union address was the introduction of legislation to radically cut spending by new Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul’s plan would cut $500 billion in discretionary spending in FY2011 (which is already well underway, although without final appropriations bills) by making major cuts in most agencies and zeroing out some. In the case of NASA, he would cut the agency’s budget by 25 percent, to $13.375 billion, according to a summary he released with the bill. (Paul appears to be cutting from FY2009 levels, when NASA got $17.8 billion, and not FY2010, when the agency got $18.7 billion.) His rationale:
With the presence of private industries involved in space exploration and even space tourism, it is time for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to step aside and allow innovation to flourish. Looking at ways to reduce NASA’s spending is long overdue.
In addition, NASA has consistently been flagged by organizations like Citizens Against Government Waste, which most recently highlighted NASA’s multibillion-dollar Constellation program, a project that has been focused on the exploration of the moon and Mars. Despite spending more than $10 billion on this program, NASA has made very little progress since the program’s inception.
Finally, since President Obama has determined to realign the goals of NASA away from human exploration, and more on science and “global warming” research, the need to fund the agency at levels not consistent with the goals of the past provides the opportunity to direct funds toward deficit reduction. National Science
That said, the agency does pretty well compared to other organizations. Sen. Paul would cut NOAA’s budget by 36 percent, claiming the agency “has become bloated and its breadth and scope has broadened”. The NSF would be cut by 62 percent under Paul’s plan, under his belief that “research in science is best conducted by private industry for economic purposes,” and he would eliminate the Department of Energy. While the legislation likely stands little chance of making it through Congress, it does add to the debate about spending cuts versus spending freezes, as the president proposed last night.