FY 2012 House Funding Bill: NASA

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Publication date: 
15 July 2011

There  are 14 pages of text pertaining to NASA in the committee report accompanying the  FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill that was passed by the House  on July 13.  In often great detail House  appropriators spell out their recommendations for how the $16,810,257,000 provided  to NASA should be spent in FY 2012.   Selections from this language, which starts on page 68 of the committee report  follow.  All figures are taken  from the committee report.

Total NASA

The FY 2011 appropriation was $18,448.0 million     The FY 2012 Administration request was $18,724.3  million     The House Appropriations Committee recommends $16,810.3  million, a decline of 8.9 percent or $1,637.7 million

The report states:

“After several years of debate and compromise, the  Congress and the Administration have finally settled on a consensus program for  NASA in the form of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111–278). In  order to successfully accomplish everything outlined in that Act, NASA needs to  develop and pursue new and different ways of operating that will promote  efficiency and economy; annual budget increases can no longer be counted on as  the means for achieving mission goals.

“The new reality of constrained budgets, however,  does not mean that NASA cannot or will not continue to make significant  achievements in science, exploration and other areas. The Committee’s fiscal year  2012 recommendation supports high priority scientific research       missions; maintains aeronautics research and testing  activities; formally establishes a new program to develop next-generation space  technology; maintains current investments in the development of commercial crew  capabilities while also funding implementation of NASA’s own Multipurpose Crew  Vehicle (MPCV) and Space Launch System (SLS); continues operations of the  International Space Station and the closeout of obligations from the Space       Shuttle program; promotes STEM education through a  streamlined portfolio of programs; and sustains general agency mission  operations and oversight.”


The FY 2011 appropriation was $4,935.4 million     The FY 2012 Administration request was $5,016.8  million     The House Appropriations Committee recommends $4,504.0  million, a decline of 8.7 percent or $431.4 million

Specific Administration program requests are  provided here;  see page 70 of the committee’s report for their recommended funding levels.

The full text of the committee report follows:

Earth Science missions. - The Committee  recommendation includes a reduction of $100,000,000 below the request for Earth  Science activities. While the Committee supports Earth Science functions, this  area has rapidly grown over the past few fiscal years, and the current  constrained fiscal environment simply cannot sustain the spending patterns  envisioned by NASA in this field. The Committee has not included detailed,  line-item reductions within the Earth Science portfolio. Instead, NASA should  propose such reductions as part of the spending plan required by section 537 of  this Act. In proposing reductions, NASA should take care to protect, to the extent possible, high priority  missions of the Earth Science decadal survey, including Ice, Cloud, and land  Elevation Satellite-2, the Soil Moisture Active-Passive mission, and the  Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice mission, as well as  missions with near-term launch readiness dates. In addition, NASA should be  careful to propose a funding portfolio that maintains an essential balance  between actual spaceflight projects and the critical mission-enabling  activities (research and data analysis, data application, etc.) that support  and enhance the value of those projects.

Planetary Science missions. - The Committee accepts  the findings of the most recent Planetary Science decadal survey and supports the  application of the survey’s decision rules to determine how best to structure  the program within the available budget. The program elements most  significantly impacted by these decision rules are the flagship missions, which  must be substantially descoped in order to remain within the portfolio. The  Committee directs that       $4,000,000 of the Outer Planets Flagship (OPF)  budget be used to conduct the necessary descoping studies for the decadal  survey’s two highest priority flagship missions: Mars Sample Return (MSR) and  the Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO). The results of these studies shall be  transmitted to the Committee as soon as they are complete. The remaining  $39,000,000 of OPF funds should be held pending the completion of the descoping  analysis and, depending on the results, either used in support of an acceptably  descoped  flagship mission or proposed  for reprogramming to other Planetary Science project lines in accordance with  the decadal survey’s decision rules.

Plutonium-238. - The bill makes available  $10,000,000 from this account, as requested, to restart production of  Plutonium-238 (Pu-238), a radioisotope that is an essential source of  electrical power for long-range planetary science missions. The Committee urges  NASA to work expeditiously with the Department of Energy to bring Pu-238  production back online as quickly as possible while simultaneously pursuing  Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator technology that will allow NASA to  make better, more efficient use of available Pu-238 stocks.

James Webb Space Telescope. - The James Webb Space  Telescope (JWST) Independent Comprehensive Review Panel revealed chronic and  deeply rooted management problems in the JWST project.  These issues led to the project cost being  underestimated by as much as $1,400,000,000 relative to the most recent  baseline, and the budget could continue to rise depending on the final launch date  determination. Although JWST is a particularly serious example, significant  cost overruns are commonplace at NASA, and the Committee believes that the  underlying causes will never be fully addressed if the Congress does not establish  clear consequences for failing to meet budget and schedule expectations. The  Committee       recommendation provides no funding for JWST in  fiscal year 2012.  The Committee believes  that this step will ultimately benefit NASA by setting a cost discipline example  for other projects and by relieving the enormous pressure that JWST was placing  on NASA’s ability to pursue other science missions.”


The FY 2011 appropriation was $533.9 million     The FY 2012 Administration request was $569.4  million     The House Appropriations Committee recommends $569.9  million, an increase of 6.7 percent or $36.0 million

The report states:

Research priorities. - The Committee recognizes the  significant economic impact of NASA’s aeronautics research, which increases the  competitiveness of the American aviation industry, enables new job-creating  technologies and improves the efficiency of domestic travel and commerce. To  continue advancing innovative technical concepts, NASA has proposed a program  plan to address critical research needs focusing on airspace capacity,  environmental sustainability and aviation safety. The Committee supports this  plan, including NASA’s discretion to descope hypersonic research activities if  the determination is made that increasing investments in other research areas  is a higher priority.”

Space Technology

This is a new budget category     The FY 2012 Administration request was $1,024.2  million     The House Appropriations Committee recommends $375.0  million

The report states:

“The Committee recommends $375,000,000 for Space  Technology, which is $649,200,000 below the request. This is a new account in fiscal  year 2012. Funding for space technology activities was included in the  Exploration, Cross Agency Support and Space Operations accounts in previous years. Funding under this  heading consists of numerous existing activities, including the Small Business Innovative  Research (SBIR) program, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program,  and significant portions of the Exploration Technology Development and  Demonstration (ETDD) program, as well as some newly evolving cross cutting  activities.”


The FY 2011 appropriation was $3,800.7 million     The FY 2012 Administration request was $3,948.7  million     The House Appropriations Committee recommends $3,649.0  million, a decline of 4.0 percent or $151.7 million

The report states:

Human Exploration Capabilities. - The Committee  recommends funding above the request for the MPCV [Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle] and  SLS [Space Launch System] programs to help ensure that NASA can meet the  programmatic deadlines contained in the most recent NASA authorization bill.  The Committee recommends $1,063,000,000 for the MPCV and $1,985,000,000 for the  SLS. The Committee notes that Administration delays in providing key details on  designs, contracts, budgets and schedules have hindered the development of  funding recommendations. The Committee expects such information to be provided  immediately.”

SLS development. - The Committee understands NASA’s  stated desire to initially field a 70–100 metric ton vehicle that would be evolved  over time to the full 130 metric ton SLS. To the extent that flying a smaller  vehicle can be achieved faster and will minimize the gap in our national human  spaceflight capabilities, the Committee does not object to this proposal.  However, the focus on initially flying a smaller vehicle cannot distract NASA  from fulfilling       its legal obligation to design the SLS from  inception as a 130 metric ton vehicle and to proceed with simultaneous  development of the core and upper stages. NASA is also directed to ensure that  the work done on the 70–100 metric ton vehicle will be applicable to the 130  metric ton SLS. NASA should not expend funds on design or development of a  smaller vehicle that does not add value to the overall SLS effort.”

Exploration destinations. - NASA’s stated intention  is to pursue a capabilities-based approach to human exploration, which means that  the direction of the program will be driven by what technologies are available  at a particular time. While this approach may offer some advantages in terms of  flexibility, it also lacks the clearly defined goals that have historically  driven space exploration achievements. Specific, aggressive goals are necessary  both to focus the program and to provide a common vision around which public and  political support can be rallied. Consequently, the Committee urges NASA to  adopt a destination-based approach to exploration that would designate a specific target location,  such as the Moon, to drive development decisions and timelines going forward.”

Robotic precursor missions. - Out of necessity, the  Committee’s recommendation adopts NASA’s proposal to delay the start of the robotic  precursor mission program for another fiscal year. The Committee is concerned,  however, that continued delays will eventually impact NASA’s long-term  readiness for exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit, which may require  robotic scouting and validation of destinations and landing sites. In order to  jumpstart       even a minimal level of robotic precursor activity,  the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate is encouraged to work with the Science  Mission Directorate to identify possible science missions       that could serve as flights of opportunity for  robotic precursor payloads.  Flights of  opportunity should only be pursued, however, if the addition of the robotic  precursor activity does not negatively impact the overall program budget or  launch schedule for the science mission in question.”

Space Operations

The FY 2011 appropriation was $5,497.5 million     The FY 2012 Administration request was $4,346.9  million     The House Appropriations Committee recommends $4,064.0  million, a decline of 26.1 percent or $1,433.5 million

The report states:

International Space Station. - The extension of  International Space Station (ISS) operations to 2020 comes at a cost of nearly $3,000,000,000  per year. To make this investment worthwhile,       NASA needs to ensure that the Station’s research  capabilities are maximized. The Committee understands that the strategic target  for maximum NASA research utilization (35 hours of crew time per week) will be  reached during 2012 and directs NASA to keep the Committee apprised of progress  toward that goal.

“Non-NASA research activities will be coordinated by  the nonprofit manager of the ISS National Lab, who will receive NASA funding  support in fiscal year 2012 and, likely, several years thereafter.  The Committee believes that the nonprofit  manager should ultimately be a self-funding entity and that all necessary steps  should be taken to reduce the manager’s overhead costs in order to maximize funding  available for ISS National Lab research grants.”


The FY 2011 appropriation was $145.5 million     The FY 2012 Administration request was $138.4  million     The House Appropriations Committee recommends $138.0  million, a decline of 5.2 percent or $7.5 million

Cross Agency Support

The FY 2011 appropriation was $3,105.2 million     The FY 2012 Administration request was $3,192.0  million     The House Appropriations Committee recommends $3,050.0  million, a decline of 1.8 percent or $55.2 million

Of note, the report states:

Comprehensive independent assessment. - The  Committee has been frustrated by the uncertainty of leadership within the  Administration on space policy and the resulting lack of focus within NASA  itself. It is time for NASA to recommit itself to a bold vision for the future  that will restore the sense of purpose and urgency that existed at the agency  during the eras of its finest achievements.   Accordingly, the Committee recommendation includes $1,000,000, which  shall be for transfer to the OIG [Office of Inspector General], to commission a  comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction and agency  management.

“NASA regularly receives management and programmatic  recommendations from GAO [Government Accountability Office], OIG and various  commissions and other entities,       as well as outside advice on scientific and  technical priorities from the National Academies. While each of these reviews  is useful on its own, they are all targeted to a specific issue or program and therefore  do not provide a comprehensive assessment of NASA’s activities.       The Committee believes that such an agency-wide  assessment will provide a means to evaluate whether NASA’s overall strategic  direction remains viable and whether agency management is optimized to support that direction.

“The assessment should consider the relevance and  feasibility of NASA’s strategic goals; the appropriateness of the budgetary  balance between NASA’s various programs; and the adequacy of NASA’s internal  policies, procedures and organizational structures that underpin its mission  activities. Any recommendations made pursuant to the assessment should be  predicated on the assumption that NASA’s outyear budget profile will be  constrained due to continuing deficit reduction efforts. Such recommendations  should also take into account the need for a common, unifying vision for NASA’s  strategic direction. A report summarizing the conclusions of the assessment and  any relevant recommendations shall be provided to the Congress and the  President no later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act.

“To conduct this assessment, the Inspector General  shall choose individuals with recognized relevant expertise and whose  collective credentials sufficiently cover the whole range of NASA’s mission  activities, including space or Earth science; aeronautics; advanced technology  development; space exploration; spaceflight operations and support; STEM  education; and/or management of any of these activities. In order to promote  objectivity, the Inspector General       shall define and implement any conflict of interest  protocols deemed necessary, but, at a minimum, the selected individuals shall  not be currently employed or retained by NASA or any outside entity that  competes for or receives NASA funding.”

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