Friday evening, President Obama signed an order officially enacting the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration after the White House and Congress failed to develop an alternative deficit reduction package. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released at the same time a report to Congress detailing the amounts of those cuts. The table below lists the effects of sequestration on NASA’s budget, based on a 5.0% cut for each of NASA’s accounts (exploration, science, etc.) and the assumption that the continuing resolution funding NASA and other federal agencies at fiscal year 2012 levels will continue through the rest of this fiscal year. Also included are the administration’s FY2013 budget request and the difference between the post-sequestration spending levels and that proposal:
|Account||FY13 CR Budget||Sequester||Post-Sequester Budget||FY13 Request||Difference|
|Cross Agency Support||$3,012||$151||$2,861||$2,847.5||$13.5|
|Office of Inspector General||$39||$2||$37||$37.0||$0.0|
This helps explain some of the confusion about the agency’s plans for implementing sequestration released in mid-February. All the accounts are being cut by the same amount, but since the cuts are based on a continuing resolution funding NASA at 2012 levels, it creates the appearance of uneven changes when compared to the FY13 proposal. For example, even after sequestration, space operations, cross-agency support, and education are still funded above the proposed FY13 levels since the administration proposed greater cuts for those programs in 2013. And areas expecting larger increases in FY13, like space technology and exploration, have the appearance of bigger cuts.
It’s worth, in that light, reexamining the cuts to commercial crew that attracted so much attention here and elsewhere. The cuts outlined in the NASA letter looked large since they were compared to the FY13 request of $829.7 million, which more than doubled what the agency got in FY12 ($406 million). The commercial crew program cuts mentioned in the latter, $441.6 million, would bring the program down to $388.1 million, or a cut of about 4.5% from the FY12 level, slightly less than the 5.0% sequester average.
The implications of the reduced budget, though, including a lack of funding for several Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones, are still real: when NASA made the CCiCap awards last August, they based them on getting $525 million for commercial crew in FY13, which is what the Senate had proposed for the program in its appropriations bill and what House appropriators (who had offered $500 million instead) appeared willing to support. Sequestration would mean a potential lack of funding for milestones if the companies continue their work on schedule, but a year-long continuing resolution would have nearly the same effect.