In a brief markup session Tuesday morning, a Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee approved a funding bill that would give NASA $17.9 billion in fiscal year 2015, including boosting funding for science and the Space Launch System.
“We were very disappointed in the President’s request,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chairwoman of both the full appropriations committee and the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) subcommittee, in her opening statement about the bill. She and the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), worked together “to make sure that we maintained the balanced space program of human spaceflight, science, and discovery, and at the same time promote aeronautics.”
The text of the bill itself has not been released, but the hearing offered a few clues to its contents. Mikulski said she “listened to Sen. Shelby when he said we needed more money for the SLS rocket,” providing $1.7 billion for the Space Launch System. The administration had requested $1.38 billion for SLS, while the House bill offered $1.6 billion; both also included over $300 million for ground systems.
The markup provided a few other data points for the NASA budget, including $5.2 billion for science (the House bill provides $5.19 billion, while the administration requested $4.97 billion.) The bill provides $3 billion for International Space Station operations, comparable to both the original request and the House bill. For commercial crew, the Senate bill offers $805 million, less than the $848 million requested but slightly more than the $785 million in the House.
However, the bill includes a provision requested by Sen. Shelby regarding “transparency” in the commercial cargo and crew programs. That language, he said, “provides greater accountability and budgetary transparency in the commercial crew program and future commercial cargo missions,” he said. “I believe we must ensure that the taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollar, and I believe the language here will help make that happen.” According to a statement from Shelby’s office, the bill would require “certified cost and pricing data (consistent with FAR requirements)” for those programs.
The bill goes on to the full appropriations committee for consideration at 10am Thursday.