The House Appropriations Committee announced Monday night that House and Senate negotiators had reached agreement on a conference report on the so-called “minibus” appropriations bill that combines three separate bills, including the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) bill. The full conference report has not be published yet, but the committee did provide a “detailed summary” of the report.
For NASA, conferees agreed to a $17.8 billion budget for NASA, down from the $18.7 requested by the administration from 2012 and the $18.5 billion provided in 2011. That amount, though, is much closer to the Senate version, which provided $17.9 billion, compared to the House version’s $16.8 billion. Highlights from the conference report summary:
- $3.8 billion for Space Exploration, which is $30 million below last year. This includes funding above the request for NASA to meet Congressionally mandated program deadlines for the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System.
- $4.2 billion for Space Operations, which is $1.3 billion below last year’s level. The agreement continues the closeout of the Space Shuttle program for a savings of more than $1 billion.
- $5.1 billion for NASA Science programs, which is $155 million above last year’s level. The agreement accommodates cost growth in the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by making commensurate reductions in other programs, and institutes several new oversight measures for JWST’s continuing development.
- Language prohibiting NASA or the Office of Science and Technology Policy from engaging in bilateral activities with China unless authorized by Congress.
The summary doesn’t specify how much funding JWST gets, but any funding would be a victory over the House version, which provided no money for the space telescope program that has experienced serious cost overruns and schedule delays. The document is also silent on commercial crew (the Senate offered $500 million and the House $312 million, both below the administration’s request of $850 million) and space technology (both the Senate and House significantly cut the requested $1.02 billion).
(Update: according to one source, the House and Senate split the difference on commercial crew, giving it $406 million. If true, this could have implications for the future of the program, since NASA officials had warned that not fully funding the program would lead to delays and possibly revisiting their procurement plans for the next phase of the program.)
Separately, the conference report provides $924 million for NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System, the weather satellite program that is the successor to the cancelled NPOESS. The administration had requested $1.07 billion for the program and warned last month that without “sufficient” funding the nation “faces a significant risk of a gap in satellite coverage that will result in degraded weather forecasts”.
The conference report also includes funding for the FAA, but the summary does not discuss funding for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Both the House and Senate had significantly cut the administration’s request of $25 million for the office in FY12.