President Clinton's fiscal year 1996 budget request gives NASA a
total of $14.26 billion. This is $203.7 million, or 1.4 percent,
less than the space agency's current year budget.
NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin summarized both the good and bad
news in his February 6 budget briefing. "This FY 1996 budget
request...will allow us to deliver a strong aeronautics and space
program that's relevant to America," he said, but "the tough news
is that...we'll be taking a cut of nearly $5 billion over the next
five years." The Administration's plans call for a NASA budget of
only $13 billion by the end of the century. "Make no mistake,"
Goldin warned, "when this is over, NASA will be profoundly
different. We're going to restructure the agency."
Even with a decreasing budget, NASA maintains President Clinton's
dual themes of reducing costs while investing in the future. NASA
has started a "New Millennium" program to develop a fleet of small
spacecraft "about a tenth of the cost and a tenth of the weight of
today's spacecraft." Another new initiative is a reusable launch
vehicle to replace the space shuttle.
Funding for NASA's Human Space Flight account would remain
essentially flat (decreasing by 0.1 percent), with the space
station program also staying about flat. The Science, Aeronautics
and Technology account, which includes space science, would grow by
1.1 percent; Mission Support would grow by 5.3 percent. Goldin
said NASA intended to allow opportunities for new missions in the
5-year budget profile by including a "budget wedge," starting at
$10 million in fiscal 1996, for which no use is specified.
Questioned about where he would find funding for Gravity Probe B if
it receives approval from the National Academy of Sciences (which
is currently reviewing the project), Goldin replied that NASA "will
make the resources available" from the rest of the budget. Details
of funding for selected NASA accounts will be provided in a future
Funding cuts in recent years have already reduced NASA's budget by
30 percent, shrinking the agency and eliminating low-priority
programs. "The American people have spoken," Goldin announced,
"and they want a NASA that does more with less." Although not
ready to specify exactly how the agency will achieve its budget
objectives, he reported that NASA is currently undergoing a
top-to-bottom review "to determine where to cut." Goldin noted
that NASA's infrastructure was intended, in the early 1990s, for a
growing agency with a projected end-of-the-century budget of $43
billion rather than $13 billion. "Everything is on the table," he
said, including downsizing or eliminating facilities and field
centers, and combining operations with DOD at some bases. He added
that "we also intend to make NASA less of an operations agency and
more of an R&D agency." Asked whether this meant reducing NASA's
efforts in space, Goldin replied no; he hoped to reduce operations
by modernization and privatization.