Science Committee Democrats Press Administration for Specifics on the Budgetary Impact of the President’s Space Exploration Initiative

(Washington, DC)  With the Federal Budget for FY2006 due out next week, House Science Committee Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon warned that science and technology – vital to U.S. technological growth and economic competitiveness – will likely be severely under funded in the President’s request.

“It’s no secret in this town that budgets are going to be tight across the board.  Everyone is willing to tighten their belt if it’s in the national interest, but when the Administration cannibalizes NASA’s other important missions and vital domestic spending programs government-wide in an attempt to cover the costs of the President’s Moon-Mars initiative, it does more harm than good,” stated Rep. Gordon.

In FY2005 NASA received a 4.3%, $661 million dollar increase.  That has been characterized by some in the Administration as a congressional mandate for the President’s initiative.  However, these figures by themselves are misleading because $1.5 billion of the funding will be needed for activities that were not included in the original budget request.  These activities include at least an additional $762 million to cover the increase in the cost of returning the Space Shuttle to flight status, $291 million to develop a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, and some $400 million in other congressionally directed priorities.  Thus, even though NASA received an increase for FY 2005, difficult choices will have to be made about which programs, among many, to fund.

NASA has been given almost unrestrained transfer authority to shift funding among its programs.  We are concerned about how NASA intends to reallocate those funds.  The Administration has been very tight-lipped to date about which programs will be eliminated or under-funded in order to maintain funding for the President’s exploration initiative.  At least one vital and popular program rumored to be on the chopping block is the Hubble repair mission that was the subject of a hearing by the Science Committee this past Wednesday.  Other rumored cancellations, cuts, and deferrals include the Glory climate change research satellite, the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) mission, and important aeronautics research projects.

“While I favor the goal of returning to the Moon and exploring Mars, the Administration needs to come clean about what the cost of that is going to be – not just in dollars – but also in cuts and elimination of other vital space programs that will be unable to co-exist or compete with the priority being given to the exploration initiative,” stated Rep. Gordon.  “Back in January of 2004, after the release of the President’s plan, I expressed my concern that we needed more specifics from NASA and the White House on the proposed timetable, costs, how the Administration proposed to pay for the initiative, and what impact it will have on other NASA programs.  NASA has still not provided a sufficient answer.  I hope that the FY2006 budget release on Monday will finally answer these questions.”

“An exploration initiative can inspire our young people and demonstrate our continued commitment as a nation to preeminence in science and technology.  However, this proposed initiative should not come at the cost of deferring commitments to our children, our veterans or other national priorities.  Research and development spending in many areas guarantees our country a better future, our kids a better education and our workforce the tools they need to compete in the global marketplace,” continued Gordon.

Below are tables that clearly delineate past budget requests and appropriated funds.  Ranking Member Gordon compiled these numbers as a useful guide in interpreting the Administration’s FY2006 budget release next week.

Science Committee Democrats will be looking for the following in the Administration’s budget request for NASA:

  • An appropriate balance between the President’s Moon-Mars initiative and other important NASA programs.
  • A commitment to completing the Hubble servicing mission as recommended by the National Academies.
  • An honest accounting of what NASA programs/facilities/personnel the Administration plans to cut or redirect for the benefit of the Moon-Mars initiative.

Table 1:
FY2005 Federal Research and Development (R&D) Spending in Millions
Parentheses indicate negative numbers

By Agency       FY2003
Actual  FY2004
Estimate        FY2005
Request Dollar Change:
FY2004 to FY2005 Request        Percent Change:
FY2004 to FY2005 Request        FY2005 Approp
        Dollar Change:
FY2005 Approp to request        Percent Change:
FY2005 Approp to Request       
 "Federal S&T Budget"    56,974  60,658  60,413  (245)   (0.4%)  61,804  1,391   2.3%   
Research        25,306  26,675  26,847  172     0.6%    26,954  107     0.4%   
 Applied Research        26,624  28,348  28,494  146     0.5%    30,016  1,522   5.3%   
 (from Analytical Perspectives: Budget of the U.S. Government, FY2005, page 59.)

FY2005 Actual Appropriated Funding in Millions
Parentheses indicate negative numbers

        FY2004 enacted  FY2005 request  FY2005 Approps. %
Change from Request     Change from FY2004      %
Change from FY2004     
 National Institute of Standards and Technology  621.5   521.5   703.0   34.8%   81.53   13.1%  
 Technology Administration (Salaries and Expenses)       6.3     8.3     6.5     (21.7%) 0.15    2.4%   
 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 3,701.0 3,373.5 3,908.5 15.9    207.5   5.6%   
 Environmental Protection Agency 8,366   7,789   8,023.5 3.0%    (342.5) (4.1%) 
 Office of Science and Tech. Policy      6.99    7.08    6.328   (10.6%) (0.66)  (9.4%) 
 National Aeronautics and Space Administration   15,378  16,244  16,039.1        (1.3%)  661.1   4.3%   
 Department of Energy Science Program    3,482.3 3,431.7 3,599.9 4.9%    117.6   3.4%   
 DOE Renewables  342.4   374.8   386.0   3.0%    43.6    12.7%  
 DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development      878.0   584.7   640.0745        9.5%    (237.9) (27.1%)
 DOE Energy Conservation 672.8   635.8   571.8546        (10.1%) (101.0) (15.0%)
 USGS    938     919.7   935.45515       1.7%    (2.54)  (0.3%) 
 National Science Foundation     5,577   5,745   5,472.8 (4.7%)  (104.18)        (1.9%) 
 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Res., Eng. and Dev.       119.4   117     129.9   11.0%   10.48   8.8%   
 FAA (Fac. & Equip. - Adv. Tech. Dev. & Prototyping)     69.7    37.3    58.6    57.1%   (11.10) (15.9%)
 TOTAL (approx.) 40,159.42       39,789.38       40,481.4        1.74%   321.95  0.8%