Bold Vision Replaced by Under-funded “No Astronaut Left Behind” Reality

Less than forty days ago the President signed into law the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, which passed both the House and Senate without dissent, a stunning endorsement of NASA’s missions in Aeronautics, Science, and Space Explorations and of the President’s Vision for Space Exploration. This law calls for a reinvigorated budgetary commitment to NASA, commensurate with the awesome new tasks and responsibilities borne by the Agency and its employees. Today, the President’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007 represents a disappointing 180-degree turn.

“The Administration has ignored the voice of Congress demanding that NASA be given adequate financial resources to accomplish all of its mandated missions without compromising science or safety”, said Gregory Junemann, President of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, (IFPTE), NASA’s largest union.

“The overall budget is more than 5% lower than that requested by Congress at a time when the Administrator has complained that previous ‘under costing’ has left the shuttle operations budget several billions in the hole. The solution cannot be another round of ‘under-costing’ to once again paper over the problem.

“The budget stubbornly re-embarks on last year’s path of massive cuts to NASA’s Aeronautics programs, a course of action that was repeatedly rejected by Congress during both the Appropriations and Authorization process. The proposed budget is 25% lower than that in the Authorization bill and, once again, ignores NASA key role in maintaining America’s leadership in Aeronautics R&D as well as its economic competitiveness. At a time when Europe is investing heavily in this area in an overt attempt to dethrone us, the United States Government cannot abdicate its responsibilities and sit on the sidelines.

“The budget cuts Science by more than 10% from last year’s presidential projection as well as from the authorization numbers. It also cuts Exploration Systems and Space Operations by about 5% from the authorization numbers. Yet the administration simultaneously promises to complete the International Space Station by 2010 and to develop a new spacecraft system two years earlier than called for in the President’s Vision. This better, cheaper, faster fantasy on steroids has a bad long-term prognosis.

“On January 13 th, I urged the President to respond favorably to his chosen Administrator’s call for budgetary relief. While the President is of course free to choose a different course of action, NASA is not free to reinvent arithmetic and must therefore accept the obvious consequences of today’s decision. NASA simply cannot move forward with both a full slate of Shuttle flights to complete ISS and also deliver a safer new set of space vehicles systems by 2012 with a low-ball budget proposal. The stop-gap approach of devouring everything else at the Agency, while holding out for some future financial miracle, is irresponsible. This course of action is destroying NASA’s key infrastructure and capabilities, and the hundreds of millions recouped cannot make up the multi-billion dollar Shuttle shortfall.”

IFPTE has called for a GAO study of the possible scenarios of an accelerated Shuttle retirement so that Congress is fully informed of the fiscal and programmatic trade-offs as it deliberates the FY07 budget. To view IFPTE’s letter, visit