On September 13, the Senate Appropriations Committee
drafted an FY 2001 VA-HUD appropriations bill that would provide a modest
budget increase for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA). Although the Clinton Administration requested a $435 million
increase to the total NASA budget, the Senate would trim the request
and provide NASA with $13.8 billion, 1.8 percent or $243 million more
than FY 2000. In June, the House approved a smaller $13.7 billion NASA
budget. NASA's R&D would inch up 0.7 percent to $9.8 billion,
with increases for many research programs balanced by cuts in development
of the International Space Station (see Table).
This contrasts with a 1.0 percent cut to NASA's R&D in the House
The Senate FY 2001 VA-HUD bill would provide $80 billion for discretionary programs, an increase over the $72 billion FY 2000 total and over the $76 billion House bill total. The bill funds science agencies including NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and non-R&D programs for veterans and housing. The President requested a far higher $85 billion for the bill's programs, including substantial increases for NSF and a smaller one for NASA, but because Congress chose to allocate only $605 billion for total discretionary spending compared to the President's $622 billion, Congress has far less money than the President to allocate for domestic programs such as the ones in the VA-HUD bill. As a result, most science programs fall short of the requested funding levels in the Senate and especially the House bills. The Senate VA-HUD bill has more money than the House version because the Senate was able to divert $4 billion from its Transportation bill to edge its total closer to the request.
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 would total $9.8 billion in the Senate plan, a slight 0.7 percent or $71 million above FY 2000 but below the requested level of $10.0 billion. Because the Space Shuttle program would receive a large increase, the total NASA budget of $13.8 billion would show a higher increase (up 1.8 percent).
The Science, Aeronautics, and Technology (SAT) account, which funds nearly all of NASA's R&D not related to the Space Station, would receive $5.8 billion, slightly below the request but 4.6 percent above the FY 2000 funding level. The House would keep SAT even with FY 2000. Within SAT, the Senate would make several adjustments to the budget request, mostly to add dozens of congressionally designated researtch projects. Space Science would receive $2.3 billion, a 4.9 percent increase but well short of the requested 9.4 percent increase. While the House would grant the entire Space Science request except for the $20 million "Living with a Star" initiative, the Senate would trim some Space Science programs but provide the full request for the initiative. This proposed new program seeks to understand the sun's impact on the Earth and the space environment through a variety of missions to study solar variability. The Senate bill expresses strong support for the Space Science program despite its high-profile failures in recent months, and support for NASA's efforts to learn from its mission failures. The cuts to the request are not targeted to Space Science, but are part of general reductions from the request to all SAT programs.
Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications
(LMSA) would receive $293 million for a 6.6 percent increase, in contrast
to an 18.7 percent increase in the House plan and a 10.1 percent increase
in the request. 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 Senate bill also includes instructions to NASA in the Space Shuttle
appropriation to plan for an additional annual shuttle flight for microgravity
The Aero-Space Technology program would rise 3.3 percent in the Senate plan to $1.2 billion. Unlike the House, the Senate would fund all the programs within this account. The House would cut funding by nearly a quarter (down 24.0 percent) from $1.1 billion to $854 million, because it would provide no funds for the $290 million request for the Space Launch Initiative, which funds research and development efforts for reusable launch vehicle technology. The House bill indicates no opposition to the program itself, and in fact praises the program's efforts to find alternatives to the Space Shuttle for space launches. The bill, however, states that there are insufficient funds for the program, and expresses hope that more funds will become available later in the appropriations process. The Senate would provide the full $290 million request.
The Earth Science program, formerly known as the Mission to Planet Earth, would receive the requested amount of $1.4 billion, 2.5 percent less than FY 2000. The Academic Programs appropriation of $168 million would be a substantial 21.0 percent increase over FY 2000 because the Senate bill contains 20 congressionally designated projects. The House would refrain from designating projects and would therefore appropriate only $105 million, mostly for NASA's existing programs serving academic and minority-serving institutions.
The Senate would provide $2.0 billion for continued development and construction of the International Space Station, $309 million less than FY 2000 because of a planned reduction in costs and additional Senate cuts. The Senate bill states that further reductions in funding are appropriate because the project has continued to slip behind schedule in recent months, meaning many costs will be pushed into future fiscal years. The non-R&D Space Shuttle program, however, would see its funding increase by 6.2 percent to $3.2 billion, as requested, in part to fund upgrades to the shuttle.
The House VA-HUD bill was approved by the full House on June 21 after long, contentious debates between Democrats and Republicans. Most proposed Democratic amendments to boost funding levels failed. The bill's sharp cuts to the President's request have drawn a veto threat. The Senate version was not drafted until September because appropriators had hoped that more money would become available if they waited. In September, an extra $4 billion was diverted from the Transportation bill, and the bill was quickly drafted. The bill has not reached the Senate floor yet, but could see quick action this week. If the bill passes the Senate, the bill will quickly go to conference, and Congress will rush to produce a final version before the October 1 start of FY 2001. Even the Senate version of the bill faces trouble, however, because its funding levels still fall short of the President's request. Because of the unusually strong leverage the President has in this election year, it is likely that final funding levels for VA-HUD bill programs will be far higher than both the House and Senate-proposed levels before the appropriations process is over, which may not happen until well into October. It is likely that additional funds will be found for NASA programs before the budget process is done, and there is a chance that the final NASA budget will exceed $14 billion to match the President's request.
- September 20, 2000
AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program
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