Congress, Other

House bill would reduce funding for FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation

An appropriations bill marked up earlier this week by a House appropriations subcommittee would reduce funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) office responsible for oversight of the commercial space transportation industry. The bill, approved by the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee on Wednesday, would give the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) $14.16 million in fiscal year 2014. In FY2012, the office received $16.271 million, and was subject to a full-year continuing resolution, less sequestration, for FY2013. The administration had requested $16 million for the office in its FY14 budget proposal.

Industry officials are concerned about the effect the cuts, modest in absolute numbers but more significant as a percentage of AST’s overall budget, will have on the office’s ability to perform its mandates to regulate and promote commercial space transportation activities, even as the industry picks up with the develop of commercial suborbital systems and orbital commercial cargo and crew launches. Bigelow Aerospace’s Mike Gold, who chairs the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), which provides advice to AST, warned in a phone conversation earlier this week that these cuts could have a “devastating” impact on AST’s activities. In an April letter sent to “commercial space stakeholders,” AST warned that the cuts imposed by sequestration alone—less than the cut in the House bill—could delay environmental reviews associated with the office’s licensing work or even delay the evaluation of license applications themselves, among other affected activities.

(Disclosure: my employer does a small amount of work for FAA/AST, although not in licensing-related activities.)

9 comments to House bill would reduce funding for FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation

  • amightywind

    This office is peripheral to the FAA’s primary mission. It should be no surprise that its budget is flat. I am glad the House is finally working the will of the people.

    • Most of “the people” don’t even know FAA has been charged with Commercial Space Transportation nor do they care.
      As usual you are clueless.

    • josh

      the gerrymandered house is a national disgrace. full of nutjobs and extremists. so i’m not surprised you see these people as “working your will”, windy…

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      I am glad the House is finally working the will of the people.

      The will of the Tea Party you mean. Despite your claims to the contrary, you don’t act like a capitalist when you advocate for slowing down the private sector.

      If the government isn’t going to fund the FAA enough to perform it’s necessary duties, then they should abolish the laws that regulate the launch industry, and let the launch industry regulate themselves.

      If you don’t like that, then you should be in favor of fully funding an agency that will enable MORE employment, instead of crippling the government so much that commerce is retarded.

    • Daniel Kerlakian

      Safety approvals, launch and reentry licenses for non-reusable launch vehicles, launch and reentry licenses for reusable launch vehicles, launch and reentry site licenses, and experimental permits are all FAA mechanisms for regulating commercial space activities. Regulation of these activities requires policy, safety, payload, and environmental reviews. These activities are currently on the rise and reducing AST’s budget puts not only the general public at risk but also the success of the industry during a critical growth spurt. Until we have some sort of a Federal Spaceflight Administration, having AST at the FAA makes common sense.

    • Explorer08

      “The will of the people…” What an incredibly naive statement. “The people” are too busy playing Angry Birds to give a damn about anything. The concept of the uninformed electorate was never more true than in these modern times. “The People” have no will.

  • I don’t how practical it would be for the private sector to take over the tasks that are having funding reduced in this bill. If it is practical, it might be something for industry — especially New Space — to try.

  • vulture4

    It’s simply impossible for US launch companies to compete if they have to launch under the regulation of the Eastern Test Range. The DOD can do many amazing things, but regulating a highly competitive industry isn’t one of them. FAA isn’t perfect, but it has a track record of working successfully with the airline industry, and the AST seems to have reasonable judgement as to the role of regulation in commercial space transportation.

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