FY 2012 Senate Appropriations Bill: NASA

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Publication date: 
22 September 2011
Number: 
117

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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.