NASA Plan to Cut $5 Billion; Additional Cuts Loom

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Publication date: 
25 May 1995

Just as NASA readied itself for $5 billion in spending reductions
by the end of the decade that were mandated by the White House, it
now must contemplate additional cuts by Congress.  Commented NASA
Administrator Daniel S. Goldin: "The deeper cuts Congress is
contemplating simply go too far, and I am committed to fighting
them."  He added, "all bets are off" if the additional cuts occur,
as facilities will be closed and programs terminated.

Goldin's remarks came as he unveiled a set of management and
organizational changes that will cut NASA's civil servant
employment to 17,500 by the year 2000.  This is about the number of
employees it had in 1961.  An additional 25,000 contractor
employees will also be cut. 

Under this "Zero-Base Review," all of NASA's ten major field
centers are to be kept open, with retention of major core science,
aeronautics, and exploration programs.  NASA will make the $5
billion in cuts by reducing jobs, facilities, and administrative
overhead.  This newest cut is in addition to a 31% (or $35 billion)
reduction already in progress. 

Every NASA field center would have a primary mission under this
plan.  Earth Science/Physics and Astronomy would be managed by the
Goddard Space Flight Center, which would see a 28% reduction in
federal and contractor employment.  Planetary Science and
Exploration would be centered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
which would see a 22% reduction in employment.  Another three
months of reviews will be necessary before the plan is finalized
and incorporated in the proposed FY 1997 budget to be sent to the
Office of Management and Budget.
House Science Committee Chairman Robert Walker (R-PA) and Space
Subcommittee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) did not comment
directly on the Zero-Base Review in an issued statement.  They
criticized President Clinton because he "punted on deficit
reduction" and NASA for "unrealistic wishful thinking."  Commenting
on the House Budget Resolution to cut another $7 billion from
NASA's FY 1996-2000 budget, Walker said, "Republicans made hard
choices because NASA, just like every other federal agency, had to
take its fair share of cuts.  During this process, everything was
`on the table' including the International Space Station.  The
priorities of the Republicans include: the International Space
Station, the Reusable Launch Vehicle program, basic science, and
investment in cutting-edge technology."  Later, Ranking Democrat
George Brown (CA) commended Goldin, warning that the House Budget
Resolution would "at least double" job reductions.

As if all of this was not enough, some Members of Congress are
talking about the impact of the House and Senate budget resolutions
on the space station.  Said Senate Commerce, Science and
Transportation Committee Chairman Larry Pressler (R-SD), "In terms
of public policy, are we doing this thing right?  Are we in an
unhappy marriage that we should get out of?"  Senator Barbara
Mikulski (D-MD) commented, "I think the draconian cuts at NASA
really place the station in jeopardy."  Station opponent Rep. Dick
Zimmer (D-NJ) predicted, "I think we have a lot of courageous
freshmen who are willing to go against the grain," a view dismissed
by Chairman Walker who says, "From everything we known, we have
plenty of votes on this."  First indications of support for the
station may be the now rescheduled June 6 mark-up of H.R. 1601, a
bill to authorize funding for the space station though its
completion, by the space subcommittee.
The continual cutting of the NASA budget and the uncertainty
surrounding the space station are no doubt having an effect on
NASA's workforce.  When Goldin was informed of the Republican moves
to cut the agency budget he probably spoke for many when he said,
"I couldn't get out of bed, I was so frustrated."  A major task for
his agency and those who depend on it is, he commented, finding
ways to better communicate with Congress.

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