House To Introduce 2-year NASA Authorization Bill

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Updated at 7:05 p.m. Eastern

WASHINGTON — The House Science Committee will mark up a two-year NASA authorization bill on April 30 that proponents argue “restores much-needed balance” to the agency by shifting funding from Earth sciences and space technology to planetary science and exploration systems.

According to a fact sheet about the bill released by the committee April 24, the bill would authorize funding for NASA for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and include both “aspirational” and “constrained” funding levels depending on whether spending levels set by the Budget Control Act are amended or retained.

Under the aspirational scenario, NASA would be authorized for fiscal year 2016 at $18.53 billion, the same overall level as in the administration’s budget request. However, spending would be shifted among various agency programs so that it “returns balance to NASA’s entire portfolio,” according to the committee fact sheet.

Those changes include reducing Earth sciences spending by nearly $500 million from the administration’s 2016 request, to $1.45 billion. It would also eliminate an increase of nearly $130 million sought for NASA’s space technology program. Exploration systems, which includes the Space Launch System and Orion programs, would be increased by $447 million, while planetary sciences would increase by $138 million from the president’s request to $1.5 billion.

“The NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 builds on the bipartisan one-year agreement that the House passed just weeks ago,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, in a statement April 24. “It restores much-needed balance to NASA’s budget while complying with funding levels set by current law.”

A constrained scenario in the bill would authorize $18.01 billion for NASA in both 2016 and 2071, the same amount appropriated for 2015, but $519 million less than the aspirational scenario for 2016. Earth sciences would be cut by an additional $250 million in this scenario versus the aspirational one. Space technology is reduced by $96 million and commercial crew by nearly $108 million, with smaller cuts in astrophysics and space operations.

A markup of the authorization bill by the full committee is scheduled for 11 a.m. Eastern time April 30.

Comparison of Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request and House Authorization Bill

Values in millions of dollars

Account Request House
Aspriational
House
Constrained
SCIENCE $5,288.6 $4,951.7 $4,678.6
– Earth Science $1,947.3 $1,450.0 $1,198.5
– Planetary Science $1,361.2 $1,500.0 $1,500.0
– Astrophysics $709.1 $730.7 $709.1
– JWST $620.0 $620.0 $620.0
– Heliophysics $651.0 $651.0 $651.0
SPACE TECHNOLOGY $724.8 $596.0 $500.0
AERONAUTICS $571.4 $571.4 $571.4
EXPLORATION SYSTEMS $4,505.9 $4,953.1 $4,845.4
– Exploration Systems $2,862.9 $3,310.1 $3,310.1
– Commercial Spaceflight $1,243.8 $1,243.8 $1,136.1
– Exploration R&D $399.2 $399.2 $399.2
SPACE OPERATIONS $4,003.7 $3,992.5 $3,950.4
EDUCATION $88.9 $119.0 $119.0
SAFETY, SECURITY, AND MISSION SERVICES $2,843.1 $2,843.1 $2,843.1
CONSTRUCTION $465.3 $465.3 $465.3
INSPECTOR GENERAL $37.4 $37.0 $37.0
TOTAL $18,529.1 $18,529.1 $18,010.2