NASA FY04 Conference Report: Science, Aeronautics, Exploration

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Publication date: 
11 December 2003

The omnibus bill that contains all the remaining, unpassed FY 2004 appropriations bills (H.R. 2673) was approved by the House on December 8. The Senate, however, will not take it up until Congress returns from the holidays on January 20. This measure incorporates the VA/HUD/Independent Agencies appropriations bill, which funds NASA as well as other departments and agencies. This FYI and the following one will provide details on funding recommendations for NASA's Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account (FYI #159) and Space Flight Capabilities account (FYI #160).

Accompanying the omnibus spending bill is the conference report, H. Report 108-401. Because of an across-the-board reduction applied elsewhere in the report, the FY 2004 funding levels must be reduced by 0.59%. Using this adjustment, it appears that total NASA funding would drop by less than 1%, to $15,378.0 million. The Space Flight Capabilities Account was increased over prior-year funding, while the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account was reduced. The report does not break out specific funding levels for Space Science, Earth Science, and Biological and Physical Research.

Because of recent changes to the titles and content of NASA programs, prior-year across-the-board reductions, and transfer of funds across programs, it is virtually impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison of FY 2004 funding with the FY 2003 levels. Numbers have not always appeared consistent from year to year, or from request to House to Senate within the year. The adjusted FY 2004 appropriation for the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account is provided below, followed by selected quotations from the FY 2004 conference report (H. Rept. 108-401). Selections from the conference report HAVE NOT been adjusted to reflect the across-the-board reductions.

SCIENCE, AERONAUTICS AND EXPLORATION: $7,883.1 million (adjusted). This is a $1,324.7 million (14.4%) decrease from the FY 2003 appropriation of $9,207.7 million, and a $222.1 million (2.9%) increase over the FY 2004 request of $7,661.0 million.

REDUCTIONS: According to the conference report, "The amount provided includes the following reductions to the budget request: $8,000,000 from the Space Interferometer Mission; $20,000,000 from Project Prometheus; $10,000,000 from the Beyond Einstein program; and $11,000,000 from the Global Climate Change Research Polarimeter program."

PROJECT PROMETHEUS: "The conferees share the concern expressed by the Senate regarding the Project Prometheus program, particularly uncertainties in the mission design, and the dependence on the new unproven technologies. For these reasons, the conferees direct NASA to provide specific program milestones and funding paths for all elements of Project Prometheus and report progress to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate on a quarterly basis."

GRADUATE FELLOWSHIPS: "The conferees are in agreement with the House direction for NASA to evaluate the level of stipends for its Graduate Student Research Program and the Earth System Science Fellowships as well as the House direction for an evaluation on the merits of expanding its use of graduate fellowships."

EARTH OBSERVING SYSTEM DATA AND INFORMATION SYSTEM: "The conferees direct NASA to task the [Goddard Space Flight Center] EOSDIS Project Office to develop the initial baseline architecture and information technology blueprint for the future EOSDIS and expect this activity to mirror the direction proposed in Senate Report 108-143. The conferees wish to reiterate that all future earth science enterprise missions should take full advantage of the existing EOSDIS system rather than creating individual ‘stove pipe' ground systems that will diminish the integrated architecture developed over the last dozen years."

LANDSAT: "The conferees are aware that technical problems affecting the Landsat 7 satellite threaten the nation's ability to continue providing land remote sensing data.... To ensure that the U.S. Government does not experience a loss of remote land sensing capabilities which would jeopardize the nation's domestic, foreign policy and national security interests, the conferees instruct NASA to immediately begin developing a successor to the Landsat 7 system...[and] instruct NASA, working in conjunction with the United States Geological Survey, to develop a successor system that may be implemented in the near term based on the remaining options cited in the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act."

NATIONAL POLAR-ORBITING OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SATELLITE SYSTEM: "The conferees have provided an additional $8,500,000 for the NPOESS Preparatory Project to initiate the mission's science data system through the EOSDIS Core System at the Goddard Space Flight Center.... The conferees believe NASA, through the GSFC-ECS, must assume responsibility for this critical portion of the NPP to avoid significant gaps in the utilization of the mission's data and expect NASA to subsequently budget for it beyond fiscal year 2004."

SPACE GRANT/EPSCOR PROGRAMS: "The conferees agree, that within the total funding provided, $25,325,000 shall be for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship program as specified in the House report and $10,000,000 shall be for the EPSCoR program."

The Science, Aeronautics and Exploration section of the conference report includes 144 earmarks.