NASA Could See Budget Boost Despite Spending Freeze

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WASHINGTON — A top White House budget official suggested to reporters Jan. 26 that NASA could still see a budget increase for 2011 despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed three-year freeze on most non-defense discretionary spending.

During a conference call the day before Obama’s first State of the Union address, Rob Nabors, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), told reporters that while NASA is among non-defense agencies otherwise subject to the freeze, not every such agency would see its budget held at current levels when Obama sends his 2011 budget request to Congress on Feb. 1.

“I’m not in a position to say how NASA fared,” Nabors said. “But it would not be the case that a request for NASA will be identical to the request that happened last year.”

Nabors was responding to a question about whether the spending freeze means no budget boost for NASA next year.

Obama asked Congress last year for $18.68 billion for NASA for 2010 and said he intended to request slightly less for the space agency for 2011, 2012 and 2013. Sources close to the administration have told Space News that NASA now stands to get an increase for 2011, but nowhere near the $1 billion boost some space advocates have been expecting since NASA Administrator Charles Bolden met with Obama in December to discuss the agency’s future.

Bolden is set to unveil NASA’s budget proposal during a Feb. 1 news conference at the agency’s headquarters here. Bolden is scheduled to participate in a Feb. 2 newsmakers event at the National Press Club here, according to the club’s events calendar.