Early this morning, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced his choice for running mate: Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). While the decision may, as the Washington Post article linked to above suggests, offer a “stark choice” on fiscal issues, it sheds little, if any light, on the niche issue of space policy. Ryan has said virtually nothing on space issues, and it’s not a local issue in his southeast Wisconsin district. His House web site is virtually devoid of references to NASA, beyond a link on his “Students and Kids” page to the “NASA Kids’ Club” site.
In terms of recent roll-call votes, he did vote against the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 in September 2010, legislation that did pass the House and was signed into law.
Ryan is better known as chairman of the House Budget Committee, and in that role he has offered budget proposals that included sigificant cuts in non-defense discretionary spending. The Ryan budget does not go down into the details about specific agencies, like NASA, but instead is at the “account” level, which can cut across not only the usual divisions of the appropriations process but also across agencies. As SpacePolicyOnline.com noted earlier this year, most of NASA, as well as NOAA, are accounted for within account 250, “General science, space, and technology”, but NASA’s aeronautics program is part of account 400, “Transportation”.
What the Ryan budget does show is a modest decrease in science and space spending in his budget. His ten-year (fiscal years 2013-2022) budget would spend about 6.5 percent less on that account versus the administration’s own ten-year budget, which you can compare by looking at the charts at the end of the House budget resolution with this table from the Office of Management and Budget. (This Excel file compares the two budgets on that one particular account.) This doesn’t necessarily mean he would cut NASA’s budget by this amount: he could choose to spare it and cut other programs by a correspondingly greater amount, or vice versa. And, of course, it doesn’t mean that a Romney Administration would necessarily adopt something like this in its budgets for FY2014 and beyond.