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FY 2012 Senate Appropriations Bill: NASA

Richard M. Jones
Number 117 - September 22, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  This bill provides funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

This FYI reviews those portions of S. 1572 pertaining to the NASA.  There are seventeen pages in Senate Report 112-78 accompanying this bill regarding NASA; selections follow.  Readers are encouraged to consult the pdf version of this report to see the full language regarding NASA using the page numbers provided.  See FYI #90 for the House bill.

Total NASA

The FY 2011 appropriation was $18,448.0 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $18,724.3 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $16,810.3 million, a decline of $1,637.7 million or 8.9 percent as compared to the current budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $17,938.8 million, a decline of $509.2 million or 2.8 percent as compared to the current budget

The report states (page 85):

“The Committee’s recommendations seek to implement the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, focusing on investments that rebalance the space program. The Committee supports major investments in science that help us understand and save our planet and explore our universe, in aeronautics research that makes air travel here on Earth safer and keeps America competitive, and in extending the International Space Station [ISS] so we can utilize the lab we built.

“From the outset, this Committee has sought a human spaceflight program that the President, the Congress and the American people can support. The Committee believes that the restructured program called for in this act should be sustainable from one administration to the next. The United States cannot reinvent its space program every 4 years.

“In the wake of the retirement of the space shuttle, the Committee believes this bill represents a solid path forward for human spaceflight that can reach beyond low Earth orbit with affordable crew and launch vehicles, consistent with Public Law 111–267; invests in the burgeoning commercial launch industry that is poised to bring cargo, and eventually crew, to the ISS; and revitalizes NASA science and technology programs. These elements should be viewed as complementary pieces of a balanced whole.

“This bill is presented in the context of an austere budget and attempts to make tough choices in order to afford the balanced space program that the Congress authorized. To do that, the Committee was informed by the priorities of the Senate as well as the administration.  However, the Committee does not always agree with the administration. . . .”

“While GAO reports that NASA is making progress in strengthening financial management, including better cost estimates and higher standards of accountability for contractors, it is imperative that NASA do a better job of managing these large projects.”

Science

The FY 2011 appropriation was $4,935.4 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $5,016.8 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $4,504.0 million, a decline of $431.4 million or 8.7 percent as compared to the current budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $5,100.0 million, an increase of $164.6 million or 3.3 percent as compared to the current budget

There is extensive language, including a detailed two-page table, in the report detailing the committee’s recommendations, starting on page 87.  Readers are urged to consult this language, selections of which follow:

“Planetary Science - The bill allows for the transfer of up to $10,000,000 to the Department of Energy to re-establish facilities capable of producing [Pu-238] fuel needed to enable future missions. The Committee notes that the most recent decadal survey in planetary science urges NASA to reformulate planetary science flagship missions to fit within the projected budget, as recommended. The NASA budget, like the Federal budget overall, is shrinking, not growing.”

“James Webb Space Telescope - The Committee strongly supports completion of the James Webb Space Telescope [JWST]. JWST will be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope and is poised to rewrite the physics books. Last year, the Committee asked for an independent assessment of JWST. That assessment, led by Dr. John Casani, found that while JWST is technically sound, NASA has never requested adequate resources to fund its development. As with many other projects, budget optimism led to massive ongoing cost overruns because the project did not have adequate reserves or contingency to address the kinds of technical problems that are expected to arise in a complex, cutting edge project. Without funds, the only other way to deal with problems is to allow the schedule to slip. That slip, in turn, makes the project cost even more, when accounting for the technical costs as well as the cost of maintaining a pool of highly skilled technical labor through the completion of the project.

“In response to the Casani report, NASA has submitted a new baseline for JWST with an overall life cycle cost of $8,700,000,000.  NASA has assured the Committee that this new baseline includes adequate reserves to achieve a 2018 launch without further cost overruns. The Committee intends to hold NASA and its contractors to that commitment, and the bill caps the overall development cost for JWST at $8,000,000,000.”

Other programs discussed in the report include: Earth Science Decadal Survey Missions, IceBridge, Carbon Monitoring, Cooperation Between NASA and NOAA, SERVIR, Decadal Surveys and Mid-session Reviews, Astrophysics, Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, Explorer Program, and Heliophysics.

Aeronautics

(page 91)

The FY 2011 appropriation was $533.9 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $569.4 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $569.9 million, an increase of $36.0 million or 6.7 percent as compared to the current budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $501.0 million, a decline of $32.9 million or 6.1 percent as compared to the current budget

Space Technology

This is a new budget category
The FY 2012 Administration request was $1,024.2 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $375.0 million
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $637.0 million

The report states on page 92:

“The Space Research and Technology Program builds on NASA’s current Innovative Partnership Program to fund basic research that can advance multi-purpose technologies to enable new approaches to NASA’s current missions. It includes NASA’s Small Business Innovative Research [SBIR] and Small Business Technology Transfer [STTR] programs.

“The Committee regrets not being able to fund this promising new program more robustly and has prioritized funding for ongoing activities.”

Exploration

The FY 2011 appropriation was $3,800.7 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $3,948.7 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $3,649.0 million, a decline of $151.7 million or 4.0 percent as compared to the current budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $3,775.0 million, a decline of $25.7 million or 0.7 percent as compared to the current budget

The report states beginning on page 93:

“The Committee shares the administration’s enthusiasm for new acquisition models intended to keep the cost of space access low and for investments in new technologies that can radically reduce the cost of human transportation, to and in, space. However, NASA cannot abdicate its responsibility for safety and oversight of entities receiving Federal dollars as an investment in developing launch and crew capabilities.

“The Committee also believes the Nation deserves a robust human spaceflight program. This program aims to regularly and reliably provide access to the International Space Station [ISS] and enable exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Capabilities to reach ISS with U.S. vehicles and explore beyond low Earth orbit must work hand in hand. The United States needs to move forward in building a heavy lift rocket to complement commercial activities for a sustainable human spaceflight program that can accomplish both of these goals.

“One of the greatest successes of the ISS has been a true partnership between the United States and other space faring nations to live and work in space. For our next stage of space exploration, the United States will need to engage its partners to have a truly robust and successful program. With the funds provided here, the United States will be able to contribute heavy lift launch technology, including the capability to launch humans beyond low Earth orbit, to that effort. Within 180 days of the enactment of this act NASA shall report to the Committee a set of scientific and exploration goals, including mission destinations, for utilizing the new space transportation system funded within this account, including any plans for collaboration with international partners.”

The committee report also includes language regarding the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle, Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, Ground Operations, Commercial Crew, and Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems.

Space Operations

The FY 2011 appropriation was $5,497.5 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $4,346.9 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $4,064.0 million, a decline of $1,433.5 million or 26.1 percent as compared to the current budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $4,285.0 million, a decline of $1,212.5 million or 22.1 percent as compared to the current budget

The report has language on the Space Shuttle, Satellite Servicing, and the 21st Century Launch Complex starting on page 95.  It also states the following regarding the International Space Station:

“The Committee fully supports the administration’s plan to extend ISS research and operations through 2020. This Committee has consistently supported the construction and operation of the ISS on the promise that it would support world class science that could improve life on Earth. For example, experiments on the ISS may yield a vaccine for salmonella, a food borne illness that sickens 40,000 and kills 600 in the United States annually. Due to the retirement of the space shuttle, commercial cargo transportation of experiments and logistics is essential to ensuring that ISS can function as a national laboratory.”

Education

(page 97)

The FY 2011 appropriation was $145.5 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $138.4 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $138.0 million, a decline of $7.5 million or 5.2 percent as compared to the current budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $138.4 million, a decline of $7.1 million or 4.9 percent as compared to the current budget

Cross Agency Support

(page 98)

The FY 2011 appropriation was $3,105.2 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $3,192.0 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $3,050.0 million, a decline of $55.2 million or 1.8 percent as compared to the current budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $3,043.1 million, a decline of $62.1 million or 2.0 percent as compared to the current budget

The report also has a section on Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration, starting on page 99.

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095