Congress, White House

Briefly: budget updates, NDAA conferencing, Senate appropriations changes

There are signs that the White House and Congress are approaching a deal to fend off the so-called “fiscal cliff”, including the automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. The two sides have exchanged proposals for a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to both discretionary programs and entitlements. According to the New York Times, the latest proposal by the administration would include $100 billion in cuts to non-defense discretionary programs over 10 years, and an equal amount from defense spending. That would, presumably, provide a much softer blow to NASA and other programs than the more severe cuts that sequestration would impose.

That budget debate has had an impact on planning for the administration’s 2014 budget proposal. POLITICO reports that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has slowed work on the 2014 proposal, awaiting what happens with the 2013 budget given the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations. In particular, federal agencies have yet to receive the “passbacks” from OMB regarding the agencies’ 2014 budget requests; those passbacks are traditionally issued around Thanksgiving. The release of the 2014 budget proposal will also likely be delayed, from early February perhaps into March.

While the fiscal cliff negotiations continue, House and Senate conferees are expected to complete work this week on a final version of a defense authorization bill, reconciling differences between the versions passed by each chamber. One item to keep an eye on is the inclusion of any export control reform language: the House included a provision in its version returning to the president the ability to take commercial satellites and related components off the US Munitions List, but the Senate did not consider an amendment to add similar language to its version.

On Monday, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) passed away at the age of 88. Inouye chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee and also its defense subcommittee. AOL Defense speculates on the reshuffling in the committee that will result, including the possibility that one senator will take over the chairmanship of the whole committee and another of the defense subcommittee. One scenario mooted by the article could have an effect on NASA: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) could take over the defense subcommittee given that she has been active on it, even charing one hearing earlier this year in Inouye’s absence. That would mean, though, that she would have to relinquish the chair of the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations subcommittee, whose jurisdiction includes NASA.

19 comments to Briefly: budget updates, NDAA conferencing, Senate appropriations changes

  • James

    If Senator Mikulski moves to the Defense subcommittee chair, it’s bad news for NASA Goddard. It it weren’t for her position on the CJS subcommittee JWST is dead, along with Goddard. They need her, especially at times like this with cliff’s looming.

  • amightywind

    latest proposal by the administration would include $100 billion in cuts to non-defense discretionary programs over 10 years, and an equal amount from defense spending.

    That’s a $10 billion annual reduction in growth per year (back loaded, no doubt) when the country is running a $1.2 trillion deficit. A less than 1% cut. The GOP must refuse. This country would greatly benefit from discipline imposed by the bond market in the form of higher interest rates. There is no chance of US debt holders ever been paid back. Bond prices should reflect that. The problem is Bernanke is buying all of Obama’s debt with printed dollars. Badness will come from this.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I give sequestration etc about a 40 percent chance of happening which is actually up over the last two days its really hard to see how the GOP capitulates well as they are kind of facing “the end times”

    The GOP reminds one of the South Vietnamese government in 64…Lyndon Johnson sent U. Alex Johnson (who also wrote the words on the lunar lander plaque) over to SAigon with two young state dept. newbies (oddly enough Richard Holbroke and Negropointe) where they spent about 60 days assessing the chances of victory in the ongoing “war”

    The report caught Johnson’s eye and you can listen to his discussion of it with U. A. Johnson at the Johnson library.

    what caught LBJ’s eye was the summation which for government reports was pretty short “Success in South Vietnam is totally dependent on the South Vietnamese government making changes which would allow more inclusive participation by those in the country side; unfortunately the changes required are to the very mechanisms which keep the ruling class in power and hence are unlikely. ”

    The GOP has become that. Their election base is a shrinking minority of the old and low information voters which they have gotten (through Fox News and right wing talk radio) them to believe a version of reality that is completely fiction and in decline generally but which as soon as the leadership abandons it well coups are possible.

    you can see this in the postings here by say Whittington and other right wingers who are stuck in this sort of world where reality doesnt matter. They can say “Solyndra in space” and it appeases them; but it is of course fiction.

    While running to words of free enterprise etc they really are stuck supporting programs (SLS/Orion) which are to more or less service part of the base…and yet those programs really have no support outside the base…and of course are floundering.

    the GOP’s notion of compromise is “protect the spending we like (DOD/NASA aka SLS/Orion) but the spending the 60 percent want (and these include some Romney voters) can be cut…they have to argue this because it is their base making the case and if they go against that base…well go read Red State.

    Sequestration I dont think would be a bad thing for as long as it lasted (which wont be long)…the cuts are painful but survivable and with good leadership at the Executive Branch the programs that can take the bulk of it…are programs like SLS/Orion…things that are functionally dead anyway.

    The right wing pestilence is leaving …they just have to die. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Losing elections hurts (I know while never losing one myself I have been on the losing end of more Presidential candidates then I have won) and sorry I am enjoying pouring salt in the wounds of the people who I have come to the conclusion are irrational…


    In my view this is well deserved (unlike the Noble Peace Prize which was just “thank the creator Bush is gone” sigh of relief) and I would suggest that you read the story…

    Creating Obama’s America…

    I hope he extends that to space policy we certainly need a change.

    I know it is hard to admit but little that has been tried since the Apollo landings in terms of human spaceflight has really worked at NAsA. Almost nothing has met its design goals, little their cost goals, and worse none of it has truly helped human kind move out into space. We are after 40 years of post Apollo efforts still a “government only club” in spaceflight; and at enormous cost.

    It is also hard to say NASA has not gone through “enough” money. Since Cx started it has been nearly 25 billion dollars and SLS/Orion are not even on track to fly a person in space (another government only group) until 202X and another 30 billion.thats over 55 billion dollars for a lunar circum orbit…and you have to wonder why we are even trying that.

    Well I know the answer as well as any rational person here…but the point is we have to try something else. Commercial cargo/crew while started by Bush43 are more or less Obama’s template for new space endeavors…and no they are not purely commercial but they are the closest thing to commercial NASA has tried EVER.

    People who cannot graps that fact define the metric of people who should simply be voted out of the discussion.

    If Bolden and Garver cannot kick it into high gear to come up with a new plan for space efforts; to call a failure a failure and to taught success then Obama needs to move them out the door and find people who can. He should be able to do so, there are good Americans willing to serve their government and to do things which are for the good not for the corporate interest.

    If the path to that is sequestration; bring it on. People who cannot acknowledge that the programs from the past are not working, cannot be made to work, and are the problem today…it is time for the history books to roll over them. We have done that before; Jeff Davis, Bobby Lee, for instance just got everything wrong…

    There are example abounding in our society that what was done for the first part of this century; the first decade was simply wrong; it took us down Diablo canyons and to continue marching into the cliffs is foolish

    COME Charlie and Lori, summon some courage get out there and make some coherent speeches about a national future in space for the entire nation.

    Long Live The Republic

    Robert G. Oler

  • MrEarl

    Mikulski is appointed chairman of the senate appropriations committee.

    Orion and SLS are safe.

    Let the wailing and nashing of teeth begin .

    • Dark Blue Nine

      Mikulski’s “support” for MPCV/SLS is a quid pro quo so other appropriators support her NASA priorities, specifically JWST and other Goddard Space Flight Center missions and Solar Probe and other Applied Physic Lab missions. When push comes to shove, as will likely happen with discretionary cuts under sequestration or a budget deal, and the NASA dollars flowing to Maryland become constricted to keep MPCV/SLS afloat, there’s little doubt where Mikulski’s ultimate priorities and loyalties will lie.

      The bigger question is who takes Mikulski’s subcommittee chair if she does not retain it. That would likely be someone indifferent or even inimical to NASA interests. With the exception of Feinstein, none of the remaining senior Democrats on the subcommittee come from a state with a NASA field center.

  • Coastal Ron

    MrEarl wrote:

    Orion and SLS are safe.

    Was Mikulski ever part of the original cabal that fought for the SLS? The only NASA program that I’ve heard her support is JWST.

    I think all this means is the JWST is safe.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Was Mikulski ever part of the original cabal that fought for the SLS? The only NASA program that I’ve heard her support is JWST.”

      Mikulski is an appropriator, so she (and her staff) didn’t help write the 2010 NASA Authorization Act that created MPCV/SLS.

      That said, she has released lukewarm statements of support. But these are always couched in terms of a “balanced” NASA program, including the science dollars that keep the lights on at Goddard Space Flight Center, the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute, and the Space Department at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. Here’s an example:

      And if you follow the questioning during NASA hearings before Mikulski’s subcommittee, it’s very clear her interests lie with these science programs, not MPCV/SLS. Here’s an example:

      “I think all this means is the JWST is safe.”

      Yes, and every other GSFC and APL mission.

      • Coastal Ron

        Dark Blue Nine wrote:

        Yes, and every other GSFC and APL mission.

        That was the impression I had, so thanks for confirming it.

      • MrEarl

        Well DBN, lets go back to the beginning.
        Here’s a quote from Jeff’s post of June 15th;
        “Update: Sen. Mikulski did have a response to Nelson’s letter: as reported by Space News she said that Nelson’s plan was “an alternative framework for NASA’s human space flight program that could snap us out of the ‘stagnant quo.’” She added that she looked forward to additional details and promised to work with Nelson as they worked on their respective appropriations and authorization bills.”
        I have also talked to the senator personally and she is genuinely interested in human spaceflight BEO and the options that Orion and SLS opens up.

        I will admit that if it came down to Orion/SLS or the Webb Telescope she would protect GSFC and Maryland interests but I don’t think she would let it come to that.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Well DBN, lets go back to the beginning.”

          I don’t see your point. The Space News article just confirms what I wrote earlier — that Mikulski is an appropriator (not authorizer), has made tepid qualified statements in support of MPCV/SLS (e.g., “alternative framework that could”), and had no direct hand in the development of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.

          “I have also talked to the senator personally and she is genuinely interested in human spaceflight BEO and the options that Orion and SLS opens up.”

          If you’re one of her constituents, I’m sure she’d be “personally” and “genuinely” interested in anything you have to say.

          But getting a secure agreement out of her with regards to MPCV/SLS funding is something else entirely. The reality is that the appropriators, Mikulski included, did not introduce, nevertheless pass, a NASA budget last year that came anywhere close to what MPCV/SLS required for FY 2012 in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.

          Words are cheap, especially for politicians. Taxpayer dollars are not, especially in this budget environment.

          “I will admit that if it came down to Orion/SLS or the Webb Telescope she would protect GSFC and Maryland interests but I don’t think she would let it come to that.”

          She’ll have little choice. Either Boehner and Obama come to an agreement that cuts discretionary funding by some amount or they don’t and sequestration does it for them. Either way, Mikulski is not at the table.

        • Coastal Ron

          MrEarl opined:

          I will admit that if it came down to Orion/SLS or the Webb Telescope she would protect GSFC and Maryland interests but I don’t think she would let it come to that.

          All it takes is simple math to foresee the future of the SLS, something I’m sure even you are capable of. Just pencil out what NASA would need to build two SLS mission payloads per year, for ten years, and it quickly becomes apparent that the massive budget increase NASA would need to use the SLS at such a minimal level will never happen. Never.

          OK, not never in the way that it can’t happen, since if one of E.P.’s asteroid is determined to be a major threat, that might create a “National Imperative” that requires an SLS-sized rocket. But without a change in the status quo, there is no “National Imperative” that demands a massive increase in NASA’s budget.

          Eventually this will be noticed in Congress, especially when grand budget deals are required. It may not be this year, nor next, but eventually the house of cards that is the Space Launch System will fall – there just isn’t enough money to use it.

          From that perspective, Mikulski would have no problem in choosing between the SLS or NASA programs in Maryland. No problem at all.

  • MrEarl

    Mikulski is a supporter of both Orion and SLS.

    The first stage is Denial, Ron.

    Anger is next followed by bargaining and depression.

    Let me know when you reach acceptance.

    • Coastal Ron

      MrEarl reactively said:

      The first stage is Denial, Ron.

      Where have I denied? I asked a question, made a statement of fact, and you became defensive. Is there a reason you are so defensive about this?

      If you think Mikulski is an ardent SLS supporter, then you should be able to provide some evidence of that. I just don’t remember her standing side-by-side with Shelby and Nelson.

      • MrEarl

        Just poking fun Ron. Lighten up. :-)

        Mikulski has a good relationship with Nelson and even more so Shelby. (Who would have thought?). She was a supporter of SLS.

        It does seem you’ve reached anger though. :-)

        • Coastal Ron

          MrEarl explained:

          Just poking fun Ron. Lighten up.

          Oh I know what humor is, and I think you are a little rusty at it. Instead it looked like you were desperate to find any hope the SLS will survive…

      • @Mr. Earl
        “The first stage is denial”
        Like you denying the validity of Booz-Allen-Hamilton Report. :)

  • Robert G. Oler

    they probably still will reach a deal, probably the one The POTUS put on the table awhile back…but gee maybe not. Its pretty clear that The Speaker does not control his caucus…and the deal the POTUS put on the table will require Dem votes so it will probably have to go more “to the left” and that will fracture the GOP caucus because well the Defense Lobbiest are right now explaining to every Tom Dick and Jane in the GOP that they wont like sequestration.

    The more I look at it, the more I like it…among its benefits it destroys the GOP right wing.

    And it probably takes SLS/Orion with it…

    Silver bells….RGO

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