The Senate is considering this week a package of appropriations bills dubbed a “minibus” since it’s not as encompassing as an omnibus bill. This bill combines the Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS); and Transportation appropriations bills into a single measure, based on the bills that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in recent weeks. The minibus bill has been debated on the Senate floor this week, although there have not been any amendments related to NASA, NOAA, or the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).
The Office of Management and Budget issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) about the minibus bill earlier this week, providing the White House’s opinions about elements of the legislation. It warns the bill “falls short of the funding needed” to keep the first satellite of the Joint Polar Satellite System, the successor to NPOESS, on schedule for a 2017 launch. It asks for funding at the level of the administration’s request ($1,070M vs. $920M), adding that “without sufficient funding for JPSS the Nation faces a significant risk of a gap in satellite coverage that will result in degraded weather forecasts”.
For NASA, the SAP offers more general language, appreciating the Senate’s support for the Space Launch System, Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and James Webb Space Telescope programs. The SAP asks the Senate to “provide sufficient funding for the Commercial Crew Program” to avoid delays, but doesn’t specify what that level of funding should be. (The Senate bill offers $500 million for CCDev, while the administration’s budget requested $850 million.) The SAP also asks the Senate to fund the Space Technology program at the appropriations committee’s level of $637 million, below the approximately $1 billion requested.
The SAP is silent on FAA/AST, which the Senate bill would fund at $15 million, the same level as last year. The report accompanying the Senate transportation appropriations bill does not discuss its decision to fund AST below the requested $25 million. This likely means no funding for a Commercial Spaceflight Technical Center or a low-cost space access prize, two major initiatives in the FY12 budget request for the office.