Budget clouds on the horizon for NASA? [Washington Post]
The White House is telling federal agencies to draw up plans for trimming their budgets by at least 5 percent “by identifying programs that do little to advance their missions or President Obama’s agenda,” according to the Washington Post.
The memo, which according to the story was set to be delivered the morning of June 8, will direct agencies to prepare and deliver their lists of expendable programs to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by Sept. 13. Not all the programs will be shut down, OMB says; the lists will help the White House prepare a 2012 budget request that freezes all non-national security related discretionary spending at current levels. NASA is not explicitly mentioned in the article, but the agency definitely falls under the heading of non-defense discretionary spending.
“Previous administrations have asked agency heads to justify programs, but budget analysts said they could not recall a time when agencies had been ordered to volunteer programs for elimination. To encourage cooperation, Obama also will ask Congress for new authority to let agencies keep half the savings they identify, administration officials said. The agencies could then put the cash toward higher priorities rather than surrendering it all for deficit reduction, as is typical.”
NASA was one of the few non-defense discretionary agencies actually singled out for a raise in the president’s 2011 budget request, which is still before Congress. The $18.7 billion the White House requested back in February represents a 5.7 percent increase over 2010. But after this one-time budget infusion, NASA’s budget growth would slow considerably with a 1.5 percent raise forecasted for 2012. A freeze would make it difficult for the Obama administration to live up to its pledge to boost NASA’s budget by $6 billion over the next five years.
UPDATE: The June 8 memo, signed by OMB Director Peter Orszag and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, has been posted here [PDF].