House appropriators on July 21 passed a VA/HUD appropriations bill that would reduce funding for NASA's "Exploration Capabilities" and "Exploration, Science, and Aeronautics" accounts below both the FY 2004 levels and the FY 2005 request, prompting a veto warning from the White House. While Senate appropriators have not yet marked up a VA/HUD spending bill, authorizers in the Senate have introduced legislation that would authorize funding for most space programs at the FY 2005 requested levels, and provide guidance on funding levels through FY 2009.
HOUSE VA/HUD APPROPRIATIONS BILL:
The Bush Administration has issued a warning to House appropriators that funding levels for a number of programs and initiatives in the FY 2005 VA/HUD spending bill could trigger a presidential veto. As reported in FYI #98, the House Appropriations Committee's VA/HUD bill would reduce NASA funding by 1.5 percent over the current-year level. While voicing support for President Bush's Space Exploration Vision in its report, the committee would provide 0.3 percent less for the activities under NASA's Exploration Capabilities account than in FY 2004, and 11.4 percent less than the President requested. The committee expressed hope that additional resources may be identified "as the legislative process moves forward."
In a July 22 letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL) and other key appropriators, OMB Director Joshua Bolten cited several presidential initiatives - space exploration among them - for which the Administration feels the VA/HUD numbers are insufficient. "While the Administration appreciates the Subcommittee's words of support for the new exploration vision," Bolten wrote, "the funding levels provided by the Committee would drastically delay plans …to implement the President's Vision…. If the final version of this bill that is presented to the President does not include adequate funding levels for Presidential initiatives, his Senior Advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."
SENATE AUTHORIZATION BILL:
NASA's authorizers on the Senate side have put forth legislation that would reauthorize the space agency through FY 2009. The bill (S. 2541), introduced by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ) and Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee Chair Sam Brownback (R-KS) on June 17, would authorize NASA to conduct a space exploration initiative, and would approve the following funding levels for NASA programs:
A total of $16,245.0 million would be authorized for NASA in FY 2005 (compared to FY04 funding of $15,378.0 million and an FY05 request of $16,244.0 million), increasing to $17,677.0 million by FY 2009.
In FY 2005, $8,442 million would be authorized for Exploration Capabilities (compared to FY04 funding of $7,521 million and an FY05 request of $8,456 million), climbing to a high of $9,449 million in FY07 before dropping to $8,894 million in FY09.
In FY 2005, $7,760 million would be authorized for Exploration, Science, and Aeronautics (compared to FY04 funding of $7,830 million and equal to the request), climbing to a high of $9,091 million by FY09.
Within Exploration, Science, and Aeronautics:
Space Science would be authorized at $4,138 million in FY05 (compared to FY04 funding of $3,971 million and equal to the request), climbing to a high of $5,561 million by FY09.
Earth Science would be authorized at $1,485 million in FY05 (compared to FY04 funding of $1,613 million and equal to the request), dropping to a low of $1,343 million in FY08 and then climbing to $1,474 million in FY09.
Biological and Physical Research would be authorized at $1,049 million in FY05 (compared to FY04 funding of $985 million and equal to the request), dropping to a low of $938 million in FY07 and then climbing to $944 million by FY09.
Education Programs would be authorized at $169 million in FY05 (compared to FY04 funding of $226 million and equal to the request), increasing to $170 million by FY09.
In addition to authorizing funding levels, the bill would amend the National Aeronautics and Space Act by adding "Title V – Solar System Exploration," authorizing a program "to implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic exploration of the solar system and beyond" and "to extend human presence across the solar system." The program would include technology development, promotion of international and commercial participation, and a human return to the Moon by 2020. To achieve these goals, the bill calls for returning the shuttle safely to flight, retiring it once space station assembly is complete, and developing a new crewed exploration vehicle that would be ready to "conduct its first human mission no later than 2014."
Among other provisions, the bill would require the NASA Administrator to submit reports on the necessary activities, lifecycle costs, opportunities for international and commercial participation, and robotic precursors for a human mission to the Moon (and, in some cases, to Mars), and a legal review of laws and treaties governing exploration and ownership of resources on those bodies. The bill calls for the Administrator, within 60 days of receiving the National Research Council review of the issue (see FYI #96), to submit a plan including options and costs for future servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. The bill would also authorize a competitive prize award program to encourage private sector development of advanced space and aeronautics technologies.
In the House, Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) is also working on an authorization bill, and has indicated that he is "in close contact" with his counterparts in the Senate. It is important to keep in mind that, even if an authorization bill is passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the President, it only provides guidelines for funding; it does not provide the actual money.