Congress, NASA

Differences in FAA/AST funding presage NASA funding battle

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a pair of fiscal year 2014 appropriations bills on Thursday, including one that funds the FAA. The Senate bill includes $17.011 million for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. That’s significantly more than what the House’s version of the same appropriations bill provided for the office: $14.16 million, a level below 2012 and 2013 and low enough to raise concerns by some in the industry. (Funding for AST is within FAA’s Operations budget, which also gets more overall in the Senate version, although the difference isn’t as large in percentage terms: $9.71 billion versus $9.52 billion in the House.)

Neither House nor Senate appropriators have gotten to their Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bills, which fund NASA (and NOAA), but are expected to do so some time in July. The gaps between the House and Senate bills for FAA suggest that we may see similar gaps between the House and Senate CJS bills, including for NASA. Bill Nelson, for example, has suggested that the $16.8 billion in fiscal year 2014 in a draft NASA authorization bill is far too low, and indicated that not only would the Senate version of the authorization bill give NASA more, but that Senate appropriators would also follow suit.

The potential for that gap can be seen in the budget allocations given to the two CJS appropriations subcommittees, in effect the pots of money they have to spend. The House CJS allocation, released in May, is $47.2 billion, while the Senate CJS allocation, released last week, is nearly $52.3 billion. So it shouldn’t be a surprise if Senate appropriators offer significantly more to NASA than their House counterparts when they get to their CJS bills, but what that eventually means for the space agency given the bigger issues about spending, and the prospects for another round of sequestration, remains to be seen.

32 comments to Differences in FAA/AST funding presage NASA funding battle

  • DCSCA

    FWIW C-SPAN wil lbe airing a Newsmakers Q&A w/Charlie Bolden Sunday evening, 6/30– budget issues will vome up– at least they do in the promo clips. .

  • Neil Shipley

    It’s not worth anything.

  • amightywind

    It is quite simple. Senate democrats continue to free spend, having run up $6 trillion in debt the last 5 years. The House GOP wants to retrain spending. Shut down the government until the dems cry “uncle!”, I say.

    $14.16 million, a level below 2012 and 2013 and low enough to raise concerns by some in the industry.

    Hmm. If it were really an ‘industry’, the industry would care more about market conditions then the money they can wring from congress.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      If it were really an ‘industry’, the industry would care more about market conditions then the money they can wring from congress.

      If the Congress is going to write laws to regulate an industry, then they must be prepared to allocate enough money to regulate it.

      If they don’t want to properly support the regulation process, then they should stop regulating it – it’s that simple.

    • Simple pimple.

      Fund NASA or surrender space to China, India and Russia. Once they have their orbiting weapons platforms up there the whiners here in the US will have the GOP to blame for surrendering America to make a few folks here richer than they already are.

      $6B of cleanup of the Bush Administration messes? Two wars and a gross mismanagement of the economy during his 8 years. Bush and the GOP got us here feeding their friends in the military industrial complex and the banking sectors. Good luck developing a more convincing spin than that truth.

      Fund NASA $22B a year and get the job done and a new economic sector here in the US for a change.

      • “Fund NASA or surrender space to China, India and Russia.”

        Surrender? Events earlier today suggest the Russians can’t put up much of a fight, either…

      • Daniel Kerlakian

        Also, as much as I want funding to increase for NASA, the argument can’t rely on military purposes. The DoD and Intelligence Community through the Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) respectively have a plethora of space capabilities including reconnaissance, surveillance, communications, missile defense, early warning systems, space debris tracking, navigation, weather monitoring, launch capabilities and others. Those are just some of the unclassified capabilities. Air Force Space Command has around a $12 billion budget. NASA funding relies on economic and educational arguments, but not so much the military one today. Also, an orbiting weapons platform would be easily detectable, illegal under international law, and something out of the movie “Battleship.” Economics, not military might, took down the USSR and is making China weaker by the day. NASA’s job is to inspire and innovate and AST’s job is to facilitate NASA’s goal of commercialization of LEO and protecting the general public’s safety. Neither should be budgetarily (if that’s a word) squeezed.

        • Daniel Kerlakian

          Correction: that would be the movie “Space Cowboys”

        • amightywind

          NASA funding relies on economic and educational arguments, but not so much the military one today.

          Some of us view NASA as another branch of the military. It is an instrument of US power, although the instrument seems to have been turned on ourselves for the last 4 years.

          NASA’s job is to inspire and innovate and AST’s job is to facilitate NASA’s goal of commercialization of LEO

          Inspiration? NASA’s last significant space flight event was releasing a video of a Canadian strumming “Major Tom” on the ISS. Our program has become petty. Yes, NASA seems to have an institutional goal of rewarding their cronies. The problem is that mandate didn’t come from congress. NASA, like the IRS, NSA, and State Department, is a rogue agency with its own agenda.

          • Daniel Kerlakian

            I understand that NASA served as an instrument of US military power historically, but I am suggesting that it shouldn’t be if we want to return to a space agency of the Apollo era. After all, NASA is a civilian agency. I am of the view that war should not be the reason for NASA’s existence and strength, but instead the reasons should be for furthering science and human knowledge. The results can then show American power, but military might should not be the reason, which today is for Air Force Space Command to worry about.

            Also, my nephew is intrigued by an astronaut playing the guitar and singing from the ISS or from a shuttle launch, he is not intrigued by an IRS Star Trek reenactment. There is a huge difference there. Plus Hatfield is a Canadian so NASA does not even claim him as their own, unfortunately.

            • amightywind

              Also, my nephew is intrigued by an astronaut playing the guitar and singing from the ISS or from a shuttle launch, he is not intrigued by an IRS Star Trek reenactment.

              Is that you or your nephew speaking? If he is young he would be intrigued by fire and explosions of launch day, or images of new worlds.

            • I understand that NASA served as an instrument of US military power historically

              No, it didn’t. It has never been such.

              • Daniel Kerlakian

                I was referring to the Space Race for higher ground which served as an instrument of military power. I am familiar with the law governing NASA and its purpose as a civilian agency but my point was it served multiple purposes during the Cold War. It is well documented that the race to the moon was due to the war driver as opposed to a scientific one.

              • DCSCA

                “No, it didn’t. It has never been such.”

                Except it has. Perhaps not directly, but much of its operational resources at birth- both in personnel *from the Army’s Von Braun to the on-lone military test pilots) the hardware– even its initial HSF programs. (For instance, Mercury’s orgins can be sourced to the USAF; X-15 as well.) The LVs for HSF ops and civil space satellite ops were essentially modified and adapted from military missiles- save Saturn. And, of course, the shuttle budget during development was fattened w/Dod finding and the orbiter itself was modified in desin to carry DoD payploads as it was planned to be a key ‘customer’ for shuttle ops.

                Any attempt to deny NASA wasn’t an ‘instrumnt’ representing American military prowess is simply wrong.

              • I was referring to the Space Race for higher ground which served as an instrument of military power.

                A demonstration of technological capability is not “an instrument of military power.” Nothing in Apollo had any military (i.e., killing folks and breaking their stuff) utility. And it wasn’t a “space race for the higher ground.” If it had been, we would have taken it, and stayed.

          • Coastal Ron

            amightywind said:

            Some of us view NASA as another branch of the military.

            Well then you don’t know what you are talking about.

            Per The National Aeronautics and Space Act (Dec. 18, 2010):

            CONGRESSIONAL DECLARATION OF POLICY AND PURPOSE

            Sec. 20102. Congressional declaration of policy and purpose

            (b) Aeronautical and Space Activities for Welfare and Security of United States.–Congress declares that the general welfare and security of the United States require that adequate provision be made for aeronautical and space activities. Congress further declares that such activities shall be the responsibility of, and shall be directed by, a civilian agency exercising control over aeronautical and space activities sponsored by the United States, except that activities peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems, military operations, or the defense of the United States (including the research and development necessary to make effective provision for the defense of the United States) shall be the responsibility of, and shall be directed by, the Department of Defense; and that determination as to which agency has responsibility for and direction of any such activity shall be made by the President.

            NASA is not another branch of the military, and from all the indications I’ve seen, they don’t want to depend on NASA for anything.

          • Some of us view NASA as another branch of the military.

            Only those of us who are profoundly ignorant of history, and the military, and haven’t read the Space Act.

            • DCSCA

              Only those of us who are profoundly ignorant of history, and the military…” insists Rand.

              You’re prjecting again. The history of NASA is deeply rooted in the military and to try to infer otherwise is simply wrong.

              Even you should know the baseline history of the agency, particularly w/respect to HSF ops: from the USAF orgins of Project Mercury (MISS), the X-series, including the X-15 and its military test pilots; the military ICBM Atlas LV; Gemini’s Titan, a military ICBM LV; the Redstone, (even cousin Jupiter C) from the Army’s Von Braun, a military misile man most of his professional life– right through the roster of astroanuts – nearly all military test pilots- into shuttle development wher DoD funds forced orbiter redesign to accomodate DoD payloads- a planned big customer for the STS as it was pitched; as well as the military shuttle launch complex at Vandenberg- (mothballed post Challenger) right up to the current NASA administrator- a military down to the ‘corps’. Any attempt to spin “NASA” as ‘military free’ in sources and ops is just wrong– or desperate NewSpacer spin. For obvious reasons

              • The history of NASA is deeply rooted in the military and to try to infer otherwise is simply wrong.

                To imply that a) I don’t know NASA’s history and b) that I am “inferring otherwise” is simply wrong. Your comment about NASA’s history is both true and irrelevant to anything I have written.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Jeff -

    Perhaps you should repeat your earlier disclaimer in this post:

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

  • henry vanderbilt

    One thing to keep in mind here is that this year, the House has figured the Sequester into all their funding totals in advance, while the Senate (the White House too) is pretending it doesn’t exist.

    The higher Senate numbers will end up reduced anyway in the end (should the House go along with them in conference) by whatever percentage it takes to reduce the final non-Defense discretionary total to meet the Sequester cap.

  • vulture4

    FAA is seen as an ally of commercial space, which is in turn seen as a Democratic initiative, so is opposed by the Republican House and supported by the Senate. Both should support it. In reality one of the primary impediments to cost-effective US launch services, whethe “government” or “commercial”, is the need to meet the sometimes convoluted requirements of the DOD, which manages the Eastern Test Range and regulates all orbital launches from Florida. Just as one example, every LV is required to have a massive, expensive and hazardous system of ancient design for blowing the entire booster to smithereens if the rocket goes off course. Every other launch site uses a much simpler system called “thrust termination”; if the vehicle goes off course one needs only a reliable mechanism for shutting down the engines. Booster destruct may have been reasonable in the days when an IRBM was an “into the Bannana River missile”, today it’s just a question of whether the rocket falls into the ocean in one piece or dozens.

    • vulture4 wrote:

      FAA is seen as an ally of commercial space, which is in turn seen as a Democratic initiative, so is opposed by the Republican House and supported by the Senate.

      Until the Obama administration, commercial space was championed by Republican administrations. The Reagan administration in 1984 amended the National Aeronautics and Space Act to require NASA to commercialize space. The W. Bush administration started the commercial space program we know today.

      I suspect the fact that the Obama administration also supports it causes a reflexive opposition by some, but I also think that it’s mostly porkery at work, which is bipartisan.

  • Robert G. Oler

    the only two things that NASA and the US military have in common is 1) a dysfunctional procurement system and 2) a relationship with Congress that causes number 1 RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Happy Fourth of July from abroad to those back home…celebrating today by flying some microgravity profiles in the plane I ferried over Long Live The REpublic RGO

  • DCSCA

    “”A demonstration of technological capability is not “an instrument of military power.” Nothing in Apollo had any military (i.e., killing folks and breaking their stuff) utility.” insist Rand.

    Directly, no. Indirectly, of course– which was the nature of many Cold War era projects of scale. The F-1 used in the Saturn V was originally developed by Rocketdyne to meet a 1955 US Air Force requirement for “a very large rocket engine.” The USAF has been known to ‘kill folks and break their stuff’ Rand. USAF General Sam Phillips, who was managing the Minuteman and ‘other AF projects’ was hired by George Mueller to serve as Director of NASA’s Apollo Manned Lunar Landing Program from 1964 to 1969. A USAF general, Rand, ran the Apollo manned lunar landing program. Per Bill Moyers, in a 1969 ABC News forum during the Apollo 11 flight, Phillips announced he was leavinghis Apollo spot and returning to the military. Phillips later served as a NSA director and w/t AF Systems Command. And, of course, the Soviet Sputnik launch was as much a demo of the Russian ICBM capability as it was about orbiting a satellite– the success of which lwegitimized overflight rights in Ike’s POV for Corona.

    Certainty the ‘soft power projection’- the geo-political and military aspects of same from Apollo was not lost on those who made it a reality– as the late Rocco Petrone reinterated in 1994 during several broadcast interviews.

    The ‘military’ aspects of ‘civil’ space ops– has shadowed spaceflight since the moment Sputnik left the pad. Bill Moyers, WH operative during the LBJ days- reiterated this perspective from the U.S. POV- a ‘reactive’ one- in a 1969 forum during the Apollo 11 flight when discussing the formulation of national space policy wihin the White House in that era.

    “To imply that a) I don’t know NASA’s history and b) that I am “inferring otherwise” is simply wrong. Your comment about NASA’s history is both true and irrelevant to anything I have written.” pleads Rand.

    Except it’s not.

    Nobody is “inferring” you don’t know NASA history nor posted that except you. That you don’t know it very well and/or often cherry pick or spin it to fit your NewSpace agenda is inferred. Nothiong new there. Bur nice try, Rand.

    • That word salad does nothing to support the notion that NASA had military utility.

      • DCSCA

        “That word salad does nothing to support the notion that NASA had military utility.” chadds Rand.

        Except it does.

        But if you want to pitch that a project of scale on a Cold War battle front, utilizing personnel and hardware directly and/or indirectly derived from the military, in a program led from top(a UsAF general named Phillips) to bottom (a project depending on USN assets for recovery) had ‘no military utility’ as an instrument of battle in Cold War, go for it.

  • vulture4

    Apollo was conceived by Kennedy as an instrument of geopolitical power, to divert the inescapable ideological conflict between the US and the Soviets away from a perilous race in nuclear arms.

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