NASA will receive slightly more than a two-percent increase to its budget under the FY 2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations Act. This compares favorably with the Bush Administration's plans to reduce domestic discretionary funding by 1.0%. The House-Senate conference committee, led by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), reached an agreement that "supports both the new vision [for space exploration] and NASA's other core functions," according to the conference report. The report also notes that, although faced with "difficult choices in allocating the scarce resources," the conferees did not accede to "the Administration's proposed reductions to the aeronautics research program or science programs, and have partially restored funding to these core programs."
The budget numbers and comparisons below require several caveats. First, the FY 2005 numbers used for comparison are based on NASA's initial FY 2005 operating plan, and include both emergency supplemental funding and a rescission to that year's appropriations. The FY 2006 request numbers used reflect the Administration's initial request, and not the budget amendment that was submitted to Congress later.
In addition, an across-the-board rescission of 0.28 percent was applied to all accounts in this FY 2006 appropriations bill. The conference report amounts cited below include this rescission, based on the assumption that it would be applied evenly across programs.
Total NASA: The FY 2005 budget was $16.070 billion. The Administration requested $16.456 billion. The FY 2006 conference report provides $16.411 billion, an increase of 2.1% or $0.341 billion.
Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration: The FY 2005 budget was $7.681 billion. The Administration requested $9.661 billion. The FY 2006 conference report provides $9.734 billion, an increase of 26.7% or $2.053 billion.
Exploration Capabilities: The FY 2005 budget was $8.484 billion. The Administration requested $6.763 billion. The FY 2005 conference report provides $6.644 billion, a decrease of 21.7%, or $1.840 billion.
Below are some selected quotes from the conference report. Please note that the quotations have not been adjusted for the rescission, and are based on the Administration's amendment to its NASA budget request, not the original request. The entire conference report (H. Rept. 109-272) can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/.
VISION FOR SPACE EXPLORATION:
"The conferees are supportive of NASA's new vision and mission for space exploration and the conference agreement includes funds for the Administration's priorities for these activities. However, the conferees remain concerned about the need to maintain the nation's leadership in science and technology. To this end, the conferees have not agreed to the Administration's proposed reductions to the aeronautics research program or science programs, and have partially restored funding to these core programs. However, given the serious nature of the budget deficit facing the nation, the conferees were forced to make a number of difficult choices in allocating the scarce resources available to NASA. The conference agreement includes a budget that supports both the new vision and NASA's other core functions."
CREW EXPLORATION VEHICLE:
"The conferees have agreed to provide funds to the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) according to the Exploration Systems Architecture study, but are concerned about the impact the accelerated schedules for the CEV and CLV will have within the agency. NASA is directed to find an approach that will, to the maximum extent possible, mitigate the impacts within NASA of this planned redirection of funding in fiscal year 2006 and beyond for the CEV and CLV."
HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE:
"The conference agreement provides an increase of $50,000,000 above the budget request for the Hubble Space Telescope for a total of $271,000,000. The conferees have provided this increase to continue planning, preparation and engineering activities for the SM-4 servicing mission pending a final decision on the use of the space shuttle by the Administrator. The conferees reiterate their position that the Hubble Space Telescope has been one of NASA's most successful programs and remains one of the top priorities for the nation's space program. The conferees direct the Administrator to continue to take all appropriate steps to ensure Hubble's continued safe operations."
MARS EXPLORATION PROGRAM:
"A key element of the nation's vision for space exploration is NASA's popular and scientifically important Mars exploration program. The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity have captured the world's imagination as indicated by the more than 10 billion hits on NASA's Mars website. Therefore, the conference agreement provides $680,000,000 for the Mars program. The conferees urge NASA to continue these important programs within the context of the President's vision for space exploration."
"The conferees note that the National Academy of Sciences, Solar System Exploration Decadal Survey of planetary scientists concluded that the highest priority of the scientific community is an orbiter/lander mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. The Administration...had proposed that the first or second mission of the Prometheus Nuclear Systems and Technology Program would be the Jupiter Icy Moons Mission (JIMO). NASA no longer plans a JIMO mission for Project Prometheus because of funding and technical considerations, and because the NASA Administrator has determined that funding is needed to implement the President's vision for space exploration. Recognizing that these deep space missions usually take a decade to complete from design to orbit, the conferees support NASA moving forward with a conventionally powered mission to Jupiter as soon as possible."
EPSCoR, SPACE GRANT COLLEGE AND FELLOWSHIPS:
"The conference agreement provides a total of $12,500,000 for NASA's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Additionally, the conferees recommend a total of $30,200,000 for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. This amount will fund 40 grantees at $611,250 each and 12 grantees at $425,000."
LANDSAT DATA CONTINUITY MISSION:
"Funding was proposed in the budget requests for NASA, the Department of the Interior's United States Geological Survey, and the NOAA for a Landsat Data Continuity Mission. The Administration proposed a Landsat-type instrument to be flown on a NOAA spacecraft. The conferees now understand that such a mission is no longer feasible for both funding and technical reasons. The conferees direct the above agencies, in consultation with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to report back to the Committees on Appropriations within 120 days of enactment of this Act with an appropriate alternative for a Landsat mission."
Among other provisions in the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration section of the conference report are the following: The conferees include additional funding above the request for the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM), stating that "NASA's search for planets and life beyond our solar system is having increasing and dramatic success with more than 150 planets now discovered.... The conferees have provided these additional funds to ensure that SIM's important mission remains on schedule." An amount equal to the budget request ($371.6 million) is provided for the James Webb Space Telescope. The conferees "fully support the emphasis being placed on the development of a new Crew Launch Vehicle, understanding that this is a critical element of the Exploration Systems Architecture." They "note that the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle is critical to NASA's exploration plans," and provide additional funding to enable "NASA to initiate work on critical systems earlier than is currently planned." The conferees provide additional funding above the request for the Earth Science Applications program and for the Living With a Star program, and set a cap of $425.0 million on all future Discovery missions. The conference report also contains funding for nearly 200 congressionally-directed projects.
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION:
"Changes to the budget request include an overall reduction for International Space Station of $80,000,000, of which $60,000,000 is for crew cargo services, a reduction of $10,000,000 for space communications, and $10,000,000 as a general reduction.... The conference agreement provides a funding level for the International Space Station crew and cargo services program of $198,000,000, which includes $98,000,000 in carryover funds from fiscal year 2005 as well as $100,000,000 appropriated in this Act. This funding level should be sufficient to address NASA's needs in this area.... NASA is encouraged to utilize, to the fullest extent possible, commercially developed domestic cargo resupply and, ultimately, crew rotation capabilities for the International Space Station. This should be a priority for NASA. Utilizing the market offered by the International Space Station's requirements for cargo and crew will help to spur true competition in the private sector, result in savings that can be applied elsewhere in the program, and promote further commercial opportunities in the aerospace sector."