It’s been clear for some time that the budget environment for the next fiscal year (and beyond) will be constrained, given concerns about massive budget deficits and the nation’s growing debt. This week has given another clue about how tight those budgets might be for next year for NASA and other agencies. The House Appropriations Committee released its draft funding allocations for FY12, broken down by subcommittee. For Commerce, Justice, and Science, which includes NASA, the current “notional” spending allocation is $50.2 billion, compared to $53.3 billion in 2011 and nearly $57.7 billion in the administration’s 2012 budget request. In 2011 NASA’s funding of just under $18.5 billion accounted for nearly 35 percent of the subcommittee’s total; if that fraction holds in 2012 NASA would end up with about $17.5 billion, or more than $1 billion less than the agency’s request of $18.7 billion.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that percentage of the overall account will carry over to 2012: appropriators could choose to give NASA more money at the expense of other agencies, or cut it even more. (And the Senate has yet to weigh in with its own budget allocations.) According to the schedule released by House appropriators this week, the Commerce, Justice, and Science budget will be among the last take up by the committee, with a subcommittee markup planned for July 7 and the full committee on July 13.