FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FY 2012 NASA Appropriations Bill Signed Into Law

Richard M. Jones
Number 138 - November 18, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

Adjust text size enlarge text shrink text    |    Print this pagePrint this page    |     Bookmark and Share     |    rss feed for FYI

(A note to our readers: FYI is now on Twitter, please follow us @FYIscipolicy .)

Yesterday the House and Senate passed H.R. 2112, providing funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  The President signed this appropriations bill into law today.  Accompanying this bill is the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference, which is the second section of House Report 112-284.  This statement provides important language setting forth the recommendations and specific guidance of House and Senate appropriators regarding NASA’s programs. 

The following selections are taken from the Joint Explanatory Statement.  The section on NASA starts on PDF page 256. 

Note that introductory language in the Statement includes the following:

“The committee of conference approves report language included in House Report 112–169 or Senate Report 112–78 that is not changed by the conference. The statement of managers, while repeating some language for emphasis, is not intended to negate the language referred to above unless expressly provided herein. In cases where both the House and Senate reports address a particular issue not specifically addressed in the conference report or joint statement of managers, the conferees have determined the House report and the Senate report are not inconsistent and are to be interpreted accordingly.”

NASA (total):

The FY 2011 budget was $18,448.1 million
The Administration requested $18,724.3 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $17,800.0 million, a reduction of $648.0 million or 3.5 percent

The Statement has brief language on Fiscal Oversight and Budget Structure.

Science:

The FY 2011 budget was $4,935.4 million
The Administration requested $5,016.8 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $5,090.0 million, an increase of $154.6 million or 3.1 percent

The Statement contains extensive language regarding NASA’s science programs starting on PDF page 257, shown in full below:

“The conference agreement includes $5,090,000,000 for Science.

Program, project and activity level funding designations. -- The conferees have not included a detailed, line-item funding table for the Science Mission Directorate. Instead, the conference table provides totals for Earth Science, Planetary Science, Astrophysics, the James Webb Space Telescope and Heliophysics. Using these totals, as well as any additional funding direction provided below, NASA should develop a budget plan for each division that incorporates any necessary reductions and submit these proposals as part of the spending plan required by section 538 of this Act. In proposing reductions, NASA should take care to protect, to the extent possible, high priority missions of the decadal surveys, as well as missions with near-term launch readiness dates. In addition, NASA should be careful to propose a funding portfolio that maintains an essential balance between actual spaceflight projects and the critical mission-enabling activities (research and data analysis, data application, etc.) that support and enhance the value of those projects.

Earth Science. -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the Senate report on carbon monitoring systems and the Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice mission.

Planetary Science. -- The conference agreement includes no less than $581,700,000 for Mars Exploration. Within the amount provided, NASA shall continue working to define, plan and execute future Mars missions and continue seeking and taking advantage of opportunities for international cooperation on such missions.

“The conference agreement also includes $43,000,000 for outer planets flagship missions. The conferees understand that required descoping studies for planetary flagship missions are at or near completion and direct that those studies be submitted to the Committees on Appropriations as soon as possible. NASA is also directed to continue working on a detailed definition of an appropriately descoped flagship mission, consistent with the findings of the most recent planetary science decadal survey.

Astrophysics. -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the Senate report regarding the Hubble Space Telescope and the Explorer Program.

“The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) was identified as the first priority of the most recent astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey. NASA should build on the work of the Joint Dark Energy Mission project and pursue WFIRST to the extent that foreseeable budget resources can accommodate this mission.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). -- According to the recent JWST budget replan, the program’s lifecycle cost estimate is now $8,835,000,000 (with formulation and development costs totaling $8,000,000,000). This represents an increase of $1,208,000,000 over the previous lifecycle cost estimate, including an increase of $156,000,000 above the budget request for fiscal year 2012. In order to accommodate that increase in this agreement, the conferees received input from the administration and made reductions to the requested levels for Earth and planetary science, astrophysics and the agency’s budget for institutional management. Although the amounts provided for these other science activities still constitute an increase over the fiscal year 2011 levels, the conferees note that keeping JWST on schedule from fiscal year 2013 through the planned launch in fiscal year 2018 will require NASA to identify another $1,052,000,000 over previous JWST estimates while simultaneously working to meet the deficit reduction requirements of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112–25). As a result, outyear work throughout the agency may need to be reconsidered. The conferees expect the administration to come forward with a realistic long-term budget plan that conforms to anticipated resources as part of its fiscal year 2013 budget request. 

“To provide additional assurances that JWST’s management and funding problems are under control, the conference agreement includes language strictly limiting JWST formulation and development costs to the current estimate of $8,000,000,000 and requiring any increase above that amount to be treated according to procedures established for projects in 30 percent breach of their lifecycle cost estimates.

“In addition, the conferees direct the GAO to continually assess the program and to report to the Committees on Appropriations on key issues relating to program and risk management; achievement of cost and schedule goals; and program technical status. For its first report, the conferees direct the Comptroller General to assess: (1) the risks and technological challenges faced by JWST; (2) the adequacy of NASA’s revised JWST cost estimate based on GAO’s cost assessment best practices; and (3) the extent to which NASA has provided adequate resources for and is performing oversight of the JWST project to better ensure mission success. The first report should be provided to the Committees no later than December 1, 2012, with reports continuing on an annual basis thereafter. Periodic updates should also be provided to the Committees upon request or whenever a significant new finding has been made. NASA is directed to cooperate fully and to provide timely access to analyses, data, applications, databases, portals, reviews, milestone decision meetings, and contractor and agency personnel.

Heliophysics. -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the Senate report regarding the Explorer Program, Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission and Solar Probe Plus.

Flagship management. -- The conferees believe that flagship missions are an important component of a balanced science mission portfolio but are concerned by NASA’s history of problematic management of these projects. Without substantial improvements in cost estimation, requirements definition, cost discipline and other practices, management problems will persist and, ultimately, erode support for NASA’s pursuit of these missions. NASA has many sources of expertise, both internal and external, on which to draw for ideas about how to address its problems in flagship management, and the conferees urge NASA to do so. In particular, the conferees encourage NASA to look at lessons learned from reviews of the challenges of prior flagship projects; identify those lessons that address universal management issues; and implement those lessons in flagship projects across the Directorate.”

Aeronautics:

The FY 2011 budget was $533.9 million
The Administration requested $569.4 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $569.9 million, an increase of $36.0 million or 6.7 percent.

There was no Statement language.

Space Technology:

This is a new budget category.

The Administration requested $1,024.2 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $575.0 million

See PDF page 259 for Statement language.

Exploration:

The FY 2011 budget was $3,800.7 million
The Administration requested $3,948.7 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $3,770.8 million, a reduction of $29.9 million or 0.8 percent

The Statement, starting on PDF page 259, has extensive language on the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), Space Launch System (SLS), Adjustments to MPCV and SLS Funding, Cost Caps, Commercial Crew Funding, Commercial Crew Management, Commercial Safety Requirements, and Apollo Heritage Sites.  In also contains the following language:  

Exploration destinations and goals. -- The conferees believe that NASA needs to better articulate a set of specific, scientifically meritorious exploration goals to focus its program and provide a common vision for future achievements. Consequently, the conferees direct NASA to develop and report to the Committees on Appropriations a set of science-based exploration goals; a target destination or destinations that will enable the achievement of those goals; a schedule for the proposed attainment of these goals; and a plan for any proposed collaboration with international partners. Proposed international collaboration should enhance NASA’s exploration plans rather than replace capabilities NASA is developing with current funds. This report shall be submitted no later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act.”

Space Operations:

The FY 2011 budget was $5,497.5 million
The Administration requested $4,346.9 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $4,233.6 million, a reduction of $1,263.9  million or 23.0 percent

This program supports the space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS).  The statement notes: “The conferees support the decision to extend ISS research and operations through 2020.”

See PDF page 262 for additional language.

Education:

The FY 2011 budget was $145.5 million
The Administration requested $138.4 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $138.4 million, a reduction of $7.1 million or 4.9 percent

See PDF page 263.

Cross-Agency Support:

The FY 2011 budget was $3,105.2 million
The Administration requested $3,192.0 million
The FY 2012 appropriation provides $2,995.0 million, a reduction of $110.2 million or 3.6 percent

See PDF page 264 for extensive language, which includes the following:

Comprehensive independent assessment. -- NASA has a broad mandate to execute a balanced space program that includes science, technology development,  aeronautics research, human spaceflight and education. NASA regularly receives management and programmatic recommendations from GAO, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and various commissions and other entities, as well as outside advice on scientific and technical priorities from the National Academies. While each of these reviews is useful on its own, they are generally targeted to a specific issue or program and therefore do not provide a comprehensive assessment of NASA’s activities. The conferees believe that such an agency-wide assessment will provide a means to evaluate whether NASA’s overall strategic direction remains viable and whether agency management is optimized to support that direction. Accordingly, the conference agreement recommendation includes $1,000,000, to be provided by transfer to the OIG, to commission a comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction and agency management.

“The assessment should consider the relevance and feasibility of NASA’s strategic goals; the appropriateness of the budgetary balance between NASA’s various programs; and the adequacy of NASA’s internal policies, procedures, controls and organizational structures that support and prioritize its mission activities. Any recommendations made pursuant to the assessment should be predicated on the assumption that NASA’s outyear budget profile will be constrained due to continuing deficit reduction efforts. Such recommendations should also take into account the need for a common, unifying vision for NASA’s strategic direction that encompasses NASA’s varied missions. A report summarizing the conclusions of the assessment and any relevant recommendations shall be provided to the Congress and the President no later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act.

“To conduct this assessment, the Inspector General shall choose an organization that will convene individuals with recognized relevant expertise and whose collective credentials sufficiently cover the entire range of NASA’s mission activities, including space and Earth science; aeronautics; advanced technology development; space exploration; spaceflight operations and support; STEM education; and/or management of any of these activities. In order to promote objectivity, the Inspector General shall define and implement any conflict of interest protocols deemed necessary, but, at a minimum, the selected individuals shall not be currently employed or retained by NASA or any outside entity that competes for or receives NASA funding.”

 

The Statement also includes language on Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration, Office of Inspector General, and Administrative Provisions.  See PDF page 266.

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