FY 2012 NASA Appropriations Bill Signed Into Law

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Publication date: 
18 November 2011

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Yesterday the House and Senate passed H.R. 2112, providing funding  for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  The President signed this appropriations bill  into law today.  Accompanying this bill  is the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference, which is the  second section of House Report 112-284.   This statement provides important language setting forth the  recommendations and specific guidance of House and Senate appropriators  regarding NASA’s programs. 

The following selections  are taken from the Joint Explanatory Statement.  The section on NASA starts on PDF page 256. 

Note that introductory language in the Statement includes the  following:

“The committee of conference approves report language included in House Report 112–169  or Senate Report 112–78 that is not changed by the conference. The  statement of managers, while repeating some language for emphasis, is not  intended to negate the language referred to above unless expressly provided  herein. In cases where both the House and Senate reports address a particular issue  not specifically addressed in the conference report or joint statement of  managers, the conferees have determined the House report and the Senate report  are not inconsistent and are to be interpreted accordingly.”

NASA  (total):

The  FY 2011 budget was $18,448.1 million     The  Administration requested $18,724.3 million     The  FY 2012 appropriation provides $17,800.0 million, a reduction of $648.0 million  or 3.5 percent

The  Statement has brief language on Fiscal Oversight and Budget Structure.


The  FY 2011 budget was $4,935.4 million     The  Administration requested $5,016.8 million     The  FY 2012 appropriation provides $5,090.0 million, an increase of $154.6 million or  3.1 percent

The  Statement contains extensive language regarding NASA’s science programs starting  on PDF page 257, shown in full below:

“The  conference agreement includes $5,090,000,000 for Science.

Program,  project and activity level funding designations. -- The conferees have not  included a detailed, line-item funding table for the Science Mission  Directorate. Instead, the conference table provides totals for Earth Science,  Planetary Science, Astrophysics, the James Webb Space Telescope and  Heliophysics. Using these totals, as well as any additional funding direction  provided below, NASA should develop a budget plan for each division that  incorporates any necessary reductions and submit these proposals as part of the  spending plan required by section 538 of this Act. In proposing reductions, NASA  should take care to protect, to the extent possible, high priority missions of  the decadal surveys, 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.

Earth  Science. -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the  Senate report on carbon monitoring systems and the Deformation, Ecosystem  Structure and Dynamics of Ice mission.

Planetary  Science. -- The conference agreement includes no less than $581,700,000 for  Mars Exploration. Within the amount provided, NASA shall continue working to  define, plan and execute future Mars missions and continue seeking and taking  advantage of opportunities for international cooperation on such missions.

“The  conference agreement also includes $43,000,000 for outer planets flagship  missions. The conferees understand that required descoping studies for  planetary flagship missions are at or near completion and direct that those studies  be submitted to the Committees on Appropriations as soon as possible. NASA is  also directed to continue working on a detailed definition of an appropriately descoped  flagship mission, consistent with the findings of the most recent planetary  science decadal survey.

Astrophysics.  -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the Senate  report regarding the Hubble Space Telescope and the Explorer Program.

“The  Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) was identified as the first  priority of the most recent astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey. NASA  should build on the work of the Joint Dark Energy Mission project and pursue  WFIRST to the extent that foreseeable budget resources can accommodate this  mission.

James  Webb Space Telescope (JWST). -- According to the recent JWST budget replan, the  program’s lifecycle cost estimate is now $8,835,000,000 (with formulation and  development costs totaling $8,000,000,000). This represents an increase of  $1,208,000,000 over the previous lifecycle cost estimate, including an increase  of $156,000,000 above the budget request for fiscal year 2012. In order to  accommodate that increase in this agreement, the conferees received input from  the administration and made reductions to the requested levels for Earth and  planetary science, astrophysics and the agency’s budget for institutional  management. Although the amounts provided for these other science activities  still constitute an increase over the fiscal year 2011 levels, the conferees note  that keeping JWST on schedule from fiscal year 2013 through the planned launch  in fiscal year 2018 will require NASA to identify another $1,052,000,000 over  previous JWST estimates while simultaneously working to meet the deficit  reduction requirements of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112–25). As a  result, outyear work throughout the agency may need to be reconsidered. The  conferees expect the administration to come forward with a realistic long-term  budget plan that conforms to anticipated resources as part of its fiscal year  2013 budget request. 

“To  provide additional assurances that JWST’s management and funding problems are  under control, the conference agreement includes language strictly limiting  JWST formulation and development costs to the current estimate of  $8,000,000,000 and requiring any increase above that amount to be treated  according to procedures established for projects in 30 percent breach of their  lifecycle cost estimates.

“In  addition, the conferees direct the GAO to continually assess the program and to  report to the Committees on Appropriations on key issues relating to program  and risk management; achievement of cost and schedule goals; and program  technical status. For its first report, the conferees direct the Comptroller  General to assess: (1) the risks and technological challenges faced by JWST;  (2) the adequacy of NASA’s revised JWST cost estimate based on GAO’s cost  assessment best practices; and (3) the extent to which NASA has provided  adequate resources for and is performing oversight of the JWST project to  better ensure mission success. The first report should be provided to the  Committees no later than December 1, 2012, with reports continuing on an annual  basis thereafter. Periodic updates should also be provided to the Committees  upon request or whenever a significant new finding has been made. NASA is  directed to cooperate fully and to provide timely access to analyses, data,  applications, databases, portals, reviews, milestone decision meetings, and  contractor and agency personnel.

Heliophysics.  -- The conference agreement adopts, by reference, language from the Senate  report regarding the Explorer Program, Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission and  Solar Probe Plus.

Flagship  management. -- The conferees believe that flagship missions are an important  component of a balanced science mission portfolio but are concerned by NASA’s  history of problematic management of these projects. Without substantial  improvements in cost estimation, requirements definition, cost discipline and  other practices, management problems will persist and, ultimately, erode support  for NASA’s pursuit of these missions. NASA has many sources of expertise, both  internal and external, on which to draw for ideas about how to address its  problems in flagship management, and the conferees urge NASA to do so. In  particular, the conferees encourage NASA to look at lessons learned from  reviews of the challenges of prior flagship projects; identify those lessons  that address universal management issues; and implement those lessons in  flagship projects across the Directorate.”


The  FY 2011 budget was $533.9 million     The  Administration requested $569.4 million     The  FY 2012 appropriation provides $569.9 million, an increase of $36.0 million or  6.7 percent.

There  was no Statement language.

Space  Technology:

This  is a new budget category.

The  Administration requested $1,024.2 million     The  FY 2012 appropriation provides $575.0 million

See  PDF page 259 for Statement language.


The  FY 2011 budget was $3,800.7 million     The  Administration requested $3,948.7 million     The  FY 2012 appropriation provides $3,770.8 million, a reduction of $29.9 million  or 0.8 percent

The  Statement, starting on PDF page 259, has extensive language on the Orion  Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), Space Launch System (SLS), Adjustments to  MPCV and SLS Funding, Cost Caps, Commercial Crew Funding, Commercial Crew  Management, Commercial Safety Requirements, and Apollo Heritage Sites.  In also contains the following language: 

Exploration  destinations and goals. -- The conferees believe that NASA needs to better  articulate a set of specific, scientifically meritorious exploration goals to  focus its program and provide a common vision for future achievements.  Consequently, the conferees direct NASA to develop and report to the Committees  on Appropriations a set of science-based exploration goals; a target  destination or destinations that will enable the achievement of those goals; a schedule  for the proposed attainment of these goals; and a plan for any proposed  collaboration with international partners. Proposed international collaboration  should enhance NASA’s exploration plans rather than replace capabilities NASA  is developing with current funds. This report shall be submitted no later than  180 days after the enactment of this Act.”

Space  Operations:

The  FY 2011 budget was $5,497.5 million     The  Administration requested $4,346.9 million     The  FY 2012 appropriation provides $4,233.6 million, a reduction of $1,263.9  million or 23.0 percent

This  program supports the space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS).  The statement notes: “The conferees support  the decision to extend ISS research and operations through 2020.”

See  PDF page 262 for additional language.


The  FY 2011 budget was $145.5 million     The  Administration requested $138.4 million     The  FY 2012 appropriation provides $138.4 million, a reduction of $7.1 million or 4.9  percent

See  PDF page 263.

Cross-Agency  Support:

The  FY 2011 budget was $3,105.2 million     The  Administration requested $3,192.0 million     The  FY 2012 appropriation provides $2,995.0 million, a reduction of $110.2 million  or 3.6 percent

See  PDF page 264 for extensive language, which includes the following:

Comprehensive  independent assessment. -- NASA has a broad mandate to execute a balanced space  program that includes science, technology development,  aeronautics research, human spaceflight and  education. NASA regularly receives management and programmatic recommendations  from GAO, the Office of Inspector General (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 generally targeted to a specific issue or program and  therefore do not provide a comprehensive assessment of NASA’s activities. The  conferees believe 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. Accordingly, the  conference       agreement  recommendation includes $1,000,000, to be provided by transfer to the OIG, to  commission a comprehensive independent assessment of NASA’s strategic direction  and agency management.

“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, controls  and organizational structures that support and prioritize 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 that encompasses NASA’s varied missions. 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 an organization  that will convene individuals with recognized relevant expertise and whose  collective credentials sufficiently cover the entire range of NASA’s mission  activities, including space and 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.”


The  Statement also includes language on Construction and Environmental Compliance  and Restoration, Office of Inspector General, and Administrative  Provisions.  See PDF page 266.

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