Earlier this month the transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee passed a 2012 appropriations bill that included only $13 million for the FAA’s OFfice of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), less than half the administration’s request of $26.6 million and below the FY11 level of $15 million. The report accompanying the appropriations bill has recently been released by the committee, and it indicates that appropriators believe the FAA should be focusing its resources more on aviation issues, including air traffic control, than spaceflight.
“Given the challenges facing the Federal Aviation Administration with NextGen, safety oversight, rulemaking activities, and the operation of the world’s largest 24 hour air traffic control system, the Committee denies the Administration’s request for additional staff and resources for this office,” the report states, referring to AST. “Given the constrained resource environment that is facing the agency, the FAA can ill afford to divert resources away from core mission activities to this office.”
The big losers in the House bill are two new initiatives, a Commercial Spaceflight Technical Center in Florida and a proposed $5-million low-cost access to space prize. Neither program would receive any money in the House bill, accounting for most of the difference between the House bill and the administration’s request.
[Disclosure: my employer does work for FAA/AST, but it not involved with either the technical center or prize projects.]