NASA Budget Takes $126M Hit on House Floor

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on May 8 cut $126 million from NASA’s Cross-Agency Support account and transferred the funds to the Justice Department, shrinking the House’s proposed budget for NASA to $17.447 billion for 2013.

When debate began May 8 on the $51.1 billion 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act, NASA stood to receive $17.57 billion next year — a $226 million cut that would receive the agency with its smallest budget since 2008.

But by midnight, the House voted 206 to 204 to adopt an amendment offered by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) to take $126 million out of NASA’s Cross Agency Support account — which covers overhead at the agency’s nine government-run field centers — and move it to the Justice Department’s COPS community policing program.

With the additional cut, NASA would see its budget shrink by $324 million — a 1.8 percent drop compared to 2012. Under President Barack Obama’s budget proposal, NASA would receive $17.71 billion in 2013, which is $60 million less than this year.

The House bill, which the White House has already threatened to veto in part because it funds NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at a lower level than Obama requested, originally proposed funding NASA Cross-Agency Support at $2.8 billion for 2013.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that drafted the spending measure, spent much of the evening of May 8 defending NASA’s Cross-Agency Support account.

“The Cross Agency Support account is not free money that can be cut without consequences,” Wolf said. Among the functions covered by the account, Wolf said, are cyber security, human spaceflight safety oversight and medical support services for NASA astronauts and agency personnel working in hazardous conditions on the ground.

“We don’t want to rob our space agency of the important resources it needs to protect our astronauts, to protect its cyber systems,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee Wolf chairs. “We have to be careful there.”