Senate Approves $15.3 Billion Budget for NASA

Image credit: NASA

On the heels of the release of the Columbia Accident Investigation report, the United Stats Senate Appropriations Committee approved NASA’s $15.3 billion budget for 2004. There were only a few differences from this budget and the $15.5 billion requested by President Bush earlier this year. $200 million was cut in from the International Space Station because of the smaller crew and use of Soyuz spacecraft. $20 million was cut from the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) mission; although, the explained that this amount had been added last year and not used. There were no other major cuts or changes to NASA’s budget.

? The bill has NASA funded at $15.3 billion. This is the same as the amount enacted in FY 2003.

? The Human Space Flight makes no changes to the funding in the Shuttle account, but are encourages NASA to keep Congress notified of any changes to this program resulting from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB). The report requires NASA to provide a comprehensive plan within 4 months regarding response to the CIAB, as well as a 10-year funding profile for all of Shuttle fleet as safe and the proposed changes. The report expresses concern over what the impacts of the CAIB recommendations will be, and if there is a restructuring at NASA, what the long-term implications of a reorganization may be. We are also making limitations that will not allow NASA to move funds away from the Shuttle program.

? The bill includes a reduction of $200 million for the International Space Station (ISS). With the current situation aboard the station of a reduced crew and Russians supplying vehicles for crew and cargo transfer, there are other pressing needs within NASA and the bill for funds. At this time, NASA is unsure as to when the ISS will be operating with a crew of three, it may only be for a few more months or it could be longer than a year. The ISS has reserves of over $250 million and should be able to cover this modest reduction.

? The Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration fund is funded at the request with the exception of a $20 million reduction for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter. This reduction corresponds to a similar amount funded into the program last year, but that was not requested. The result is that the funding for the program is equal to the FY 2004 request, but is spread over two fiscal years, but actually 8 calendar months. There is also $50 million in additional funds that go towards aeronautics research. The bill also has some other minor adjustments to other programs, but there are no major cuts or terminations to any programs within this portion of the bill.

? NASA has come to the Committee in the recent past about various human capitol issues, including retention bonuses and increased buyout authority. The bill asks for NASA to report on what they feel the budgetary impacts of such practices will be, both initially and over the long term. The bill includes a requirement that the National Academy of Public Administration do a top to bottom management analysis of NASA, particularly in response to the CAIB report which cited NASA management and culture as being a factor in the Columbia accident.

Source: US Press Release