NASA Funding Bill Advances; Mission to Planet Earth Takes Cut

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Publication date: 
20 July 1995

On July 18, the VA/HUD appropriations bill for FY 1996 went before
the full House Appropriations Committee.  The resulting bill, which
funds NASA, NSF, veterans' and housing programs, was changed
significantly from the version passed by the VA/HUD subcommittee
the previous week.

The original bill reported out of the subcommittee, chaired by
Jerry Lewis (R-CA), made drastic or fatal reductions to several
space science programs, including Cassini, SIRTF, and SOFIA, and
recommended closing the Goddard, Langley and Marshall Space Flight
Centers.  (See FYIs #97, 99 for details.)  Having achieved his
self-described objective of focusing NASA's attention on budget
realities, Lewis successfully offered an amendment in the full
committee mark-up to provide funding for Cassini, SOFIA, and
Gravity Probe B, as well as the three NASA centers.  The amendment
offsets some of this additional funding by cutting $332.6 million
from Mission to Planet Earth.

The full committee's version of the bill would reduce NASA's total
budget to $13.67 billion, $705 million below the current FY 1995
level (after rescissions) and $590 million below the
Administration's FY 1996 request.  Although it provides full
funding for the shuttle and space station, Lewis's amendment would
delay availability of $390.0 million in space station funds until
August of 1996.  Details of the full committee's changes to NASA
funding include:  Cassini and its related services would receive
the full request of $249.0 million; SOFIA would be funded at $28.7
million, $20 million less than the request; Gravity Probe B would
receive $51.5 million; Mission to Planet Earth would be reduced by
$332.6 million from a request of $1.34 billion; and funding for the
three centers would be provided at the requested amounts.  (The
fate of SIRTF remains unclear.)  An amendment was offered by David
Obey, the appropriations committee ranking minority member, to
terminate the space station and distribute those funds to other
programs within the bill, but it was defeated on a voice vote. 

The committee report language will be changed to reflect the Lewis
amendment.  A future FYI will provide selected details of the new
report language when it becomes available.  The bill is expected to
receive consideration by the full House within the next two weeks.
In the Senate, VA/HUD ranking minority member Barbara Mikulski
(D-MD) has promised to fight for additional funding for Mission to
Planet Earth.

An authorizing bill for NASA, marked up by the House Science Space
Subcommittee on July 19, ran along almost identical lines as the
amended appropriations bill, reducing Mission to Planet Earth to
pay for Cassini, SOFIA, Gravity Probe B, and the centers.  The
bill, H.R. 2043, combined with the subcommittee's previous
authorization for the space station (see FYI #92), would give NASA
a total FY 1996 spending ceiling of $13.66 billion.  The
authorization bill is scheduled to come before the full House
Science Committee on July 25.  Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) plans to
offer an amendment to fully restore Mission to Planet Earth
funding, with offsetting cuts to be taken "generally" from the
entire space science budget.  House Science ranking member George
Brown (D-CA) will offer an alternative bill authorizing $13.79
billion for NASA and maintaining Mission to Planet Earth, but it
has little chance of passing. 

In further NASA budget action, the Senate Commerce, Science and
Transportation Committee moved quickly today to mark up S. 1048,
its version of authorizing legislation for the space agency.  While
details are still unknown, commerce committee chairman Larry
Pressler (R-SD) noted in introducing the bill that it attempts to
fund space science, the space station, aeronautics, and Mission to
Planet Earth at, or near, their requested levels.  Pressler said,
"I believe Mission to Planet Earth may be NASA's most important and
relevant program."  He expressed concern "that, under the new
budget constraints in which we find ourselves, some may seek to
sacrifice Mission to Planet Earth, and space science in general, to
fund Space Station.  That would be a disservice to the Nation and
I will oppose any such move strongly."

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