NASA FY04 Conference Report: Space Flight Capabilities

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Publication date: 
11 December 2003

As reported in FYI #159, the House has passed H.R. 2673, an omnibus spending measure that contains all the remaining FY 2004 appropriations bills. The Senate does not plan to take up the measure until January. Below are details on the funding recommendations and associated conference report language for NASA's Space Flight Capabilities account. FYI #159provided information on the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account.

Because of recent changes made to 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. Additionally, the FY 2004 amounts must be adjusted by a 0.59% reduction applied elsewhere in the conference report. The adjusted FY 2004 appropriation is provided below for the Space Flight Capabilities account, 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.

SPACE FLIGHT CAPABILITIES: $7,467.8 million (adjusted). This is a $1,286.9 million (20.8%) increase over the FY 2003 appropriation of $6,180.9 million, and a $314.2 million (4.0%) decrease from the FY 2004 request of $7,782.0 million.

The conference report "Specifies that $15,000,000 of the amount provided for the Space Shuttle Life Extension Program shall be for development and independent assessment of concepts to increase crew survivability for crew sizes of 4 to 7 as proposed by the House. The conferees have not included the House language which would have specified these efforts should result in increased survivability by a factor of 20. Deletes the Senate language which would have specified $3,986,000,000 for activities related to the Space Shuttle and prohibited transfer of any of these funds to other programs or activities. Deletes Senate language which would have capped International Space Station costs at $1,507,000,000. Retains House language which allows for the transfer of funds from this account to the science, aeronautics, and exploration account in accordance with section 312(b) of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958."

ISS COST CAP: "The amount provided...includes a reduction of $200,000,000 from the International Space Station request [$1,707.0 million] and a reduction of $70,000,000 from the Space Launch Initiative budget request.... The conferees have not included a cost cap on the International Space Station as proposed by the Senate but do agree that there are substantial cost reductions associated with the program as a result of shuttle operations being suspended and agree that NASA needs to be more aggressive in controlling costs associated with reduced program activity."

AEROSPACE SAFETY PANEL: "The conferees are in agreement that the new charter of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel addresses the concerns expressed in the Senate report and will satisfy the desire of the conferees to receive timely reports that assess the shuttle program in terms of safety, upgrades, operations, and overall management."

ISS CORE COMPLETE: "Upon the resumption of shuttle flights to the International Space Station, the conferees direct NASA to develop and forward to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate a plan detailing the steps necessary to reach U.S. Core Complete, as well as the outyear costs associated with this plan."

ORBITAL SPACE PLANE: "The NASA to expand the membership of the [Orbital Space Plane External Program Assessment Team] to include individuals that have extensive non-NASA experience in program management to ensure necessary independence from the Space Launch Initiative program management.... The Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program is expected to represent a significant investment by the American taxpayers if it is carried out to completion. It is therefore necessary that NASA manage this program unlike any other program it has ever executed or tried to execute in the past. The conferees believe that first and foremost, NASA must heed all the findings and recommendations of the International Space Station Management and Cost Evaluation report as well as the CAIB report. It does not appear from materials provided to the Congress thus far that this is the case."

NEXT GENERATION LAUNCH TECHNOLOGY: "The conferees agree with the Senate direction that NASA report by January 31, 2004, on the outyear costs for each project within the Next Generation Launch Technology program, the criteria being used to select technologies for investment, and the metrics used to determine whether projects within the program are progressing or should be discontinued."

ISS LOGISTICS: "The conferees understand that NASA is currently assessing complementary and/or replacement logistics support to and from the International Space Station (ISS). This assessment encompasses utilization of Progress, Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), Alternative Access to Space (AAS) concepts, Autonomous Shuttle, and possibly other cargo capability concepts. The AAS studies have an anticipated completion date of January 2004 to be followed by a thorough review of all the options by NASA. Additionally, the conferees understand that the administration is reviewing overall U.S. space exploration goals, including new cargo capability, as part of the fiscal year 2005 budget process. The conferees direct the administration to report back to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate with the Agency's plan on ISS re-supply services by June 1, 2004."

SHUTTLE LIFE EXTENSION: "The conferees are concerned that in its desire to return the shuttle to full operations, NASA may damage seriously the integrity of the Shuttle Life Extension Program (SLEP). The conferees believe that the process that NASA has put in place for the SLEP will correctly identify cost effective and necessary modifications, but NASA must still demonstrate the resolve to execute properly the program by requesting adequate budget resources and devoting management attention to the effort."

GENERAL PROVISIONS - RESPONSE TO CAIB REPORT: "The conferees agree with the Senate directive for NASA to provide a comprehensive plan that will respond to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report as well as address other staffing, systemic and program shortcomings in NASA programs. The plan should include an assessment of any proposed investments that NASA considers critical to the reform of the agency and the success of its missions. The conferees expect the plan to include a 10-year funding profile for implementing the proposed reforms with benchmarks that are designed to ensure a safe return to flight."