Congress, NASA, White House

Final tweaks to the 2013 budget

Everything is set for tomorrow’s unveiling of the administration’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. The overall budget proposal will likely show up on the OMB website Wednesday morning, with NASA posting its detailed budget proposal documents at 1 pm Eastern. At 1:30 pm, the Office of Science and Technology Policy will hold a budget briefing, with NASA administrator Charles Bolden among the participants; Bolden will hold a NASA-specific briefing at 3 pm.

However, the book is not yet closed on the final 2013 budget. Late last week, OMB used its powers under the Budget Control Act to make an additional 0.2% across-the-board cut for all agencies to account for differences in economic forecasts for the housing market as well as adjusting for additional spending added by the Senate for meatpacking inspectors. Combined with the original 1.877% rescission and 5% sequestration, it means NASA’s $17.862 billion in the bill is reduced to about $16.62 billion.

NASA also has the ability to make some modest reallocations of the funding among its various programs by submitting an operating plan for FY13 to Congress. “They can make proposals to mitigate the impact of cuts on certain programs,” said Diana Simpson, on the majority staff of the House Appropriations Committee, during a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board in Washington on Thursday. “But, of couse, the other side of that is in order to mitigate the cuts to some programs you have to take even bigger cuts in other areas.” That operating plan is due to Congress 45 days after the enactment of the appropriations bill, in early May, but she said she expects NASA to complete it before that deadline. “I think they want to put all of these questions to bed as much as everyone else does.”

What changes might NASA make? One area that might benefit from reprogramming of funds is commercial crew. Speaking at the SSB/ASEB meeting later Thursday, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, noted that the Space Launch System and Orion programs did well in the final budget, even after taking into account rescission and sequestration, ending up with slightly more than in the president’s original request. Commercial crew, though, ended up with $488 million, well short of the requested $830 million. “We kind of knew we were not going get this level, so we planned back at this kind of level,” he said, referring to the $525 million the Senate proposed. “We can repair some of this with an ops plan change with Congress, so we’ll probably make some movement to try and fix commercial crew a little bit.” He didn’t specify how much of a change he would seek.

One program that could suffer under any reprogramming is NASA’s planetary sciences program, which got $1.415 billion before rescission and sequestration in the final appropriations bill, more than $200 million above the administration’s original request. If those cuts are applied evenly, planetary science would still end up with more than $1.3 billion, but James Green, head of the planetary science division at NASA, fears his program will take a bigger share of the cuts in order to reprogram funds to higher priority programs. That could jeopardize plans Green discussed last month to use additional funding to make early payments for the launch of upcoming missions, freeing up money to move up the next Discovery-class mission a year, from 2015 to 2014.

8 comments to Final tweaks to the 2013 budget

  • According to a tweet yesterday by Florida Today space reporter James Dean, KSC Director Bob Cabana will hold a teleconference at 4:30 PM EDT (after Bolden’s 3:00 PM presser) to discuss KSC-specific budget proposal matters.

  • Grandpa Dave


    If I’m not mistaken, that’s what all the centers (13 or so… I can’t remember)do after Charlie has a big announcement to make. At least that was the case when I worked, as a private contractor, on Ares I at MSFC until it was cancelled. You see all the centers have to talk about their piece of the pie plus a Q&A with their civil servants and private contractors… (If there are any left… Most have been RIFed.)


  • Fred Willett

    I notice the GAO has discovered the cost of EELV’s has gone up again. Average price of an EELV launch is now $464M through 2030.
    If DoD wants to make some saving they ought to try an old fashioned method called Competition.

    • Neil Shipley

      How do they calculate cost to 2030 Fred? Is the $464M what it currently costs or is that the expected cost in 2030? Any clarification available?

  • James

    There are 10 Official NASA Centers plus Headquarters:

    GSFC, LaRC, MSFC, KSC, JSC, GRC, Dryden (oops Armstrong), AMES, Stennis, JPL, HQ

    Then there are the politically connected unofficial NASA Centers who know how to pull strings and get competed missions awarded to them: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL),& Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) .

    Then there are the other separate facilities that are organizationally umbrella’d under a NASA Center:

    Goddard Institute for Space Science (GISS)and Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) and White Sands Test Facility (WSTF)and IV&V, all under GSFC management;

    Plum Brook Station under GRC,

    Michoud Assembly Facility under MSFC (I think the NASA Shared Services Center too);

    That is a lot of road , commodes, grass cutting, building maintenance, etc. to be covered by an ever increasingly shrinking budget. I count 20 different installations that need money to stay open. Not much $ left to do anything.


    • Call Me Ishmael

      JPL is not a NASA center. I’m sure NASA is its biggest customer, and there is some kind of “special relationship”, but JPL is owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology.

      • red

        Also, APL and SwRI are not unofficial NASA centers. They mainly do work for national security and other areas. You’d need to assign most of their grass-cutting to non-NASA accounts. However, the point about excessive infrastructure for a shrinking budget still holds. I’ll avoid suggesting closing the center that starts with “M” to solve that problem.

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