On October 19, Congress sent President Clinton a final
FY 2001 VA-HUD appropriations bill (HR 5482) that gives a 5.0 percent
increase to the budget of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA). The final bill boosts NASA's budget by $685 million or 5.0
percent to $14.3 billion, an amount well above the $14.0 billion
NASA request. NASA R&D climbs 5.6 percent to $10.3 billion
(see Table). Although funding for the Space
Station declines, R&D in the Science, Aeronautics, and Technology
(SAT) account increases dramatically by more than 10 percent, including
increases of more than 10 percent for space science, life and microgravity
sciences, and aeronautics research. [President Clinton signed the bill
into law on October 27.]
The final VA-HUD bill provides nearly $83 billion for
discretionary programs, well above the FY 2000 total of $79 billion
but slightly below the $84 billion Administration request. In the NASA
budget, however, Congress appropriated more than the $13.6 billion FY
2000 funding level and the $14.0 billion request to reach $14.3 billion.
The bill also funds R&D programs in the National
Science Foundation (NSF) and the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), as well as other programs in the Department
of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Two-thirds of the NASA budget, which excludes the Space
Shuttle program and its associated costs, is classified as R&D.
NASA's R&D totals $10.3 billion in the Senate plan, a $544 million
or 5.6 percent increase over FY 2000 and $280 million more than the
request. The total NASA budget rises by 5.0 percent to $14.3 billion
(see Table). The final appropriation far
exceeds the earlier House and Senate-proposed funding levels, which
would have provided a 1.0 percent cut and 0.7 percent increase, respectively,
for NASA R&D. This matches the pattern of other conference reports,
which have generally provided far more for R&D programs than either
the House or Senate bills, and in many cases more than the President's
request. (For details of House appropriations for NASA, please see the
June 8 AAAS R&D Funding Update; for details
of Senate appropriations, please see the September
20 AAAS R&D Funding Update.)
The big winner in the NASA budget is the Science, Aeronautics, and Technology (SAT) account, which funds nearly all of NASA's R&D not related to the Space Station. SAT receives $6.2 billion, well above the request and a substantial 10.9 percent or $610 million above the FY 2000 funding level. The House bill would have kept SAT even with FY 2000, while the Senate would have offered only a modest increase. Included in the final bill are over $200 million in congressionally designated projects spread across the SAT programs.
Space Science receives a generous $2.5 billion,
13.5 percent more than FY 2000 and well above the original request.
The final bill includes $75 million for the Mars Lander 2003 program,
which was proposed by NASA after the original request was submitted
in February. The program is NASA's response to thorough reviews of its
Mars programs after the losses of two Mars spacecraft last year, and
reflects a completely redesigned set of Mars missions for the next decade.
The final bill also provides the requested $20 million for the "Living
with a Star" initiative, which envisions a multi-year program to
understand the sun's impact on the Earth and the space environment through
a variety of missions to study solar variability. The House had zeroed
out the proposed program, but the Senate had funded it.
Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications
(LMSA) receives $314 million for a 14.4 percent increase. This program
funds ground and space-based research to advance the safety and health
of astronauts in space, but covers investigations on a variety of life,
medical, and microgravity sciences research topics. The final bill also
includes instructions to NASA in the Space Shuttle appropriation to
submit a plan to Congress for future shuttle research flights, including
a full schedule of research missions for microgravity research.
The Aero-Space Technology program rises 10.5 percent to $1.2 billion. The House would have cut funding by nearly a quarter, because it would have provided no funds for the $290 million request for the Space Launch Initiative, which funds research and development efforts for reusable launch vehicle technology. But the Senate funded all the programs in the account, including the full $290 million request for the Space Launch Initiative. The final bill follows the Senate lead and also adds over $80 million in congressionally designated projects.
The Earth Science program, formerly known as the Mission to Planet Earth, receives slightly more than the request for $1.5 billion, 3.0 percent more than FY 2000. The Academic Programs appropriation of $133 million is $33 million more than the request because of more than a dozen congressionally designated projects, but because there are fewer such projects than in the FY 2000 bill the FY 2001 total is $6 million less than last year. The core budget funds programs serving academic and minority-serving institutions.
Congress provides $2.1 billion for continued development and construction of the International Space Station, $209 million or 9.0 percent less than FY 2000 because of a planned reduction in costs after several cost overruns in FY 2000. The non-R&D Space Shuttle program, however, sees its funding increase by 5.3 percent to $3.1 billion, in part to fund upgrades to the shuttle.
Figure 1. (click on the image to view or download a
full-size PDF version of the chart)
The generous FY 2001 appropriation is welcome news
for NASA, whose budget has stagnated in recent years both because of
tight fiscal policies for all discretionary programs and because of
NASA's goal of doing more with less. Figure 1 shows the recent history
of NASA's budget for R&D programs. After adjusting for inflation,
NASA's R&D has been essentially flat at $10 billion in today's dollars
since FY 1994, and in fact has declined slightly. NASA's R&D grew
dramatically from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, first because of the
development of a new Space Shuttle after the Challenger disaster, and
then because of the International Space Station and the expansion of
NASA's earth science activities.
Figure 2. (click on the image to view or download a
full-size PDF version of the chart)
Although much of NASA's R&D funds development projects
such as the Space Station, NASA is also an important source of federal
support for basic and applied research. Figure 2 shows the division
of NASA's research portfolio (slightly less than half of NASA's R&D
budget) by science and engineering discipline, while Figure 3 shows
NASA's importance as a funding source for several key disciplines. Engineering
research makes up the largest part of the NASA portfolio. NASA funds
approximately a third of total federal support for engineering research,
and is the second largest agency sponsor behind the Department of Defense.
As Figure 3 shows, however, NASA is by far the largest federal sponsor
of research in the engineering sub-fields of astronautical engineering
and aeronautical engineering, with more than 80 percent of total federal
support. NASA is the leading federal sponsor of the environmental sciences
(oceanography, atmospheric sciences, geological sciences). The environmental
sciences are about a quarter of NASA's portfolio, but NASA accounts
for nearly 40 percent of total federal support for environmental sciences
research. In particular, NASA funds more than half of all federal support
for atmospheric sciences, mostly through the Earth Science program,
while NASA is also responsible for nearly a third of total federal support
for geology (other major sponsors include the Department of the Interior).
NASA also invests heavily in the physical sciences (astronomy, chemistry,
and physics). Approximately two-thirds of NASA's physical sciences funding
goes to astronomy, and most of the remaining third goes to physics.
NASA is the second largest federal sponsor of physical sciences behind
the Department of Energy, and is the leading sponsor of astronomy research.
Figure 3. (click on the image to view or download a
full-size PDF version of the chart)
The FY 2001 NASA budget, with its generous increases
for the research programs in SAT, should allow NASA to expand its basic
and applied research support for the above disciplines after several
years of stagnant funding. NASA's research portfolio is scheduled to
expand in future years if all goes according to plan, as the Space Station
program evolves into more of a research and less of a construction program,
and as NASA continues to shift its aeronautical and earth science programs
away from development toward research.
The final VA-HUD bill emerged from conference last
week, and was approved by the House and Senate on October 19. Attached
to the bill is a revised version of the Energy-Water bill, which had
been vetoed by the President. [President Clinton signed the VA-HUD/Energy-Water
bill into law on October 27.]
-October 24, 2000 (updated November 1)
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005