Latest News

Stardust-NExT Press Conference Rescheduled to 3:30 pm EST Today

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Minutes before it was scheduled to start, NASA announced that it was rescheduling today's Stardust-NExT press conference for 12:30 pm PST (3:30 pm EST). The spacecraft flew by comet Tempel 1 late yesterday.

Rhetoric Heats Up Over FY2011 Spending

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

Democrats today turned up the heat on House Republicans over the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year, FY2011. President Obama threatened to veto the House version of the CR, H.R. 1, and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), made clear that the bill in its current form is unacceptable.

The House began debate today on the version of H.R. 1 recommended last Friday by the House Appropriations Committee. It would cut $100 billion in federal spending for the remaining months of FY2011, which ends on September 30. Although both Republicans and Democrats have publicly stated that they do not want the governnent to shut down at midnight March 4 when the current CR expires, the chasm between the two sides seems to grow wider every day. The House Republican leadership promised an "open rule" to debate H.R. 1, and hundreds of amendments are expected, many demanding even deeper cuts.

Senator Inouye complained that the House bill is using a meat axe to cut programs with no consideration of their merit. In a press release, he said "...many of the reductions ... were made not because programs were ineffective or wasteful, but out of desire to meet an arbitrary dollar figure cited during a political campaign. Many of the recommendations ... resulted in a 'meat cleaver' approach to budget cuts, when we should be using a scalpel -- responsibly identifying specific programs that are wasteful or unneeded."

Meanwhile, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) saying that it "strongly opposes" the bill and that "If the President is presented with a bill that undermines critical priorities or national security through funding levels or restrictions, contains earmarks, or curtails the drivers of long-term economic growth and job creation while continuing to burden future generations with deficits, the President will veto the bill."

The House expects to pass the bill this week. Both the House and Senate are in recess next week. That leaves only the week of February 28 for a resolution to be reached. Talk continues to grow that there will be another short-term CR to give both sides more time to find a compromise, as challenging as that will be.

UPDATE 2: Events of Interest: Week of February 14-18, 2011

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

UPDATE 2: Minutes before it was scheduled to start, NASA rescheduled the Stardust-NExT press conference for today (Tuesday) until 12:30 pm PST (3:30 pm EST).

UPDATE: A link has been added to the webcast of the OSTP budget briefing at 1:30 today (Monday). Also, NASA plans to post its budget on its website at 1:30 pm today.

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. All times are EST unless otherwise noted. Times, dates and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change. Check the relevant committee's website for up to date information.

During the Week

The House is expected to take up the latest FY2011 Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) this week. See our fact sheet for the budget numbers it recommends for NASA. Amendments to cut the federal budget more deeply are expected during floor debate.

Monday, February 14

  • Happy Valentine's Day!!
  • Today is "Budget Day." The President will submit his FY2012 budget request to Congress. The budget request should be available on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website by 10:30 am, possibly earlier. The NASA budget should be on its website at 1:30. (Update: 1:30 is the new time for when NASA plans to post its budget)
    • OMB Director, Jacob Lew, will have a press conference at 12:30 pm.
    • Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren will have a press conference at 1:30 pm. The event will be webcast at
    • NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden will have a press conference at 2:00 pm at the NASA auditorium (watch on NASA TV). Associate Administrators will have subsequent teleconferences as follows: Space Operations, 3:30 pm, Exploration Systems, 4:15 pm, Office of Chief Technologist, 5:00 pm, Aeronautics, 5:45 pm, Science, 6:30 pm.
    • Defense Secretary Bob Gates will have a press conference at 2:00 pm. Service secretaries will hold subsequent briefings at the Pentagon. The Air Force briefing is at 4:45 pm.
    • The National Science Foundation will have a press briefing at 3:00 pm at NSF Headquarters in Arlington, VA
  • NASA's Stardust-NExT mission will encounter comet Tempel 1 at 11:37 pm EST (8:37 pm PST). Watch on NASA TV.

Tuesday, February 15

Wednesday, February 16

  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on FAA's research and development programs (not space-related, but may be of interest anyway), 10:00 am, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building
  • House Armed Services Committee hearing on DOD's FY2012 budget request, 10:00 am, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building
  • CSIS meeting on National Security Space Strategy, 1800 K Street, NW, Washington, DC, 10:30 -11:30 am EST

Wednesday-Thursday, February 16-17

  • NAC Astrophysics Subcommittee (of the Science Committee), NASA Headquarters, Washington DC
    • Wednesday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm EST, room 3H46
    • Thursday, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm EST, room 7H45

Thursday, February 17

  • Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget request for FY2012, 9:30 am, Dirksen Senate Office Building room SD-G50
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on the FY2012 budget request for research and development, 10:00 am, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building
  • FAA COMSTAC Space Transportation Operations Working Group telecon, 11:00 am EST, virtual
  • House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Air Force's FY2012 budget request, 1:00 pm, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

NASA's New Vision and Mission Statements Revealed in New Strategic Plan

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Together with its FY2012 budget request, NASA released its new Strategic Plan today. The document reveals NASA's new vision and mission statements.

NASA's Vision is:

"To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown,
so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."

NASA's Mission is:

"Drive advances in science, technology, and exploration
to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality,
and stewardship of Earth."

Government agency strategic plans usually are revised every three years, but this version is two years late. The last one, in 2006 while Mike Griffin was Administrator, expressed NASA's Mission as "To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research." Its Vision reflected President George W. Bush's Vision for Space Exploration and the document says that "NASA enthusiastically embraced the challenge of extending a human presence throughout the solar system as the Agency's vision...."

NASA's FY2012 Budget Request is $18.7 Billion, Same as FY2010, Amid Much Uncertainty

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

The one word that best describes NASA's FY2012 budget request is uncertainty. The agency does not know how much money it will get for the current fiscal year - FY2011 - or what to really expect for its "out-years" -- FY2013-2016. All the agency knows is what the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is allowing the agency to request for FY2012: $18.7 billion, the same as its FY2010 level.

There are other uncertainties, too. The FY2012 budget request does not reflect the results of pending detailed studies of the extra costs associated with the James Webb Space Telescope program or the costs for the new Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle required by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. Those answers may require adjustments to spending within the agency's mission directorates or divisions.

For an agency like NASA whose programs take many years to execute, uncertainty about the out-years is particularly problematic. While projected funding figures are always notional, they do usually reflect a President's policy priorities.

Last year, despite a widespread misperception that President Obama cut NASA's budget, in fact the White House envisioned a $6 billion increase over 5 years for the agency. The upswing would have relatively robustly funded NASA's space and earth science programs, aeronautics, space technology development, and a dramatic shift in the human spaceflight program to government support of companies seeking to build the next human spaceflight system for access to low Earth orbit (LEO) instead of NASA. In a compromise with Congress, the agency ended the year with direction to do both --build a new government Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle to take astronauts to LEO and beyond and support the commercial sector's LEO human spaceflight efforts.

Fitting those 10 pounds of potatoes into the sack NASA was expected to have at the time was going to be a challenge, but now the sack is smaller. When Congress completes action on the FY2011 budget, it looks as though NASA will be lucky to keep the $18.7 billion level it had for FY2010, not the $19 billion it requested. Furthermore, its outlook for the next five years is, at best, to remain level at $18.7 billion.

That is the best scenario. Although NASA was allowed to develop its budget plans for the next 5 years on the assumption that its budget will be flat for the next 5 years, the President's budget request tells a different story, one of decline.

In OMB's Table 33-1, NASA's budget is shown dropping to $18.03 billion in FY2013 and $17.97 billion in FY2014 before starting a very slow rise to $18.08 billion in FY2015 and $18.50 billion in FY2016. Longer term projections in that table show NASA rising to $20.91 billion in the year 2021, roughly the same level President Obama projected for FY2015 last year.

Agencies usually are required to plan their out-year budgets to match whatever is in the President's budget. NASA officials said this year they were nonetheless given permission to plan for a higher budget, level at $18.7 billion, because all projections are notional anyway.

With deficit reduction the overriding concern today, however, the President's figures may well turn out to be more realistic. As a matter of his policy priorities, last year the President exempted NASA from a freeze on other domestic discretionary spending. This year, there is no such exemption for the agency suggesting a change in the President's priorities. While space advocates might hope that it is a reflection of the overall effort to reduce federal spending, three other science and research and development agencies got increases in their FY2012 budget requests. The National Science Foundation would get a 13% increase over its FY2010 spending; the National Institutes of Health would increase from $30.8 billion in FY2010 to $31.8 billion requested for FY2012; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would rise from $863 million in FY2010 to $1 billion in FY2012. NOAA's budget also would go up appreciably, from $4.85 billion in FY2010 to $5.5 billion in FY2012, but it is not possible to determine how much of that is for NOAA's satellite programs with the information released this morning.

The message for NASA seems to be that its activities do not carry the same weight as those other agencies in meeting the President's "innovate, educate, build" goals. Congressional authorizers who want NASA to move out full force on a new crew space transportation system in addition to pursuing its science, aeronautics and technology development programs, not to mention making the International Space Station a robust national laboratory, are likely to be disappointed. The only certainty facing the agency seems to be that it will be another tense year.

FY2012 Budget Is Now Available at OMB's Website

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has released the FY2012 budget request. It can be viewed on OMB's website. Top level information for government departments and agencies is provided. Detailed budget information is usually released by each department or agency later in the day.

NASA's detailed budget is expected to be posted on NASA's website at 1:30 today. The total requested for NASA for FY2012 is $18.7 billion, the same as its FY2010 level. For NOAA, the OMB documents state that $1.9 billion is requested for NOAA's satellite programs, including geostationary and polar-orbiting weather satellites. The only mention of space systems in the brief write-up about DOD is $975 million for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite system. It also says that DOD will implement an "innovative satellite acquisition approach in order to reduce costs and strengthen the industrial base."

The OMB site in general has lots of other useful budget information as well, including analytical perspectives and historical tables.

Detailed NASA FY2012 Budget Request is Now Available

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

NASA has posted its detailed budget request on its budget website. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson are holding a press conference (watch on NASA TV).

Lost Amid the Budget Numbers? Check Out Our New Fact Sheet on NASA's FY2011 Appropriations

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Keeping track of congressional action on NASA's budget is hard enough today, but it will become that much more difficult tomorrow with the release of President Obama's FY2012 budget request. We have just published a new fact sheet that will track NASA's FY2011 appropriations bill as it continues to be considered in Congress. We will publish a separate fact sheet on the FY2012 request in the near future.

The new FY2011 fact sheet, NASA's FY2011 Appropriations: the Debate Continues in the 112th Congress, is available under "Our Fact Sheets and Reports" on the left menu. The fact sheet will be updated as necessary.

Meanwhile, for those interested in what happened with NASA's budget in the last Congress, including details on the authorized levels in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act for FY2011, FY2012 and FY2013, our earlier fact sheet remains available, although it will not be updated.

House CR Cuts NASA, Prevents Cooperation with China, Allows Constellation to be Terminated

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The House Appropriations Committee's version of the next Continuing Resolution (CR) does more than cut NASA's budget. It prohibits spending money on anything that would lead to space cooperation with China, and releases NASA from the prohibition against cancelling the Constellation program that was in an earlier appropriations bill.

The cuts to NASA are shown in a new Fact Sheet that will track NASA's FY2011 appropriations as they continue to be considered in the 112th Congress. An earlier version of the House Appropriations Committee's recommendations, released last Wednesday, called for cutting NASA $379 million from its FY2011 request as part of an overall $74 billion cut to federal spending for FY2011. Conservative "Tea Party" Republicans rejected the committee's recommendations because they had pledged a $100 billion cut during their campaigns. The committee members regrouped and on Friday issued their revised recommendations that total $100 billion.

The reduction is to the FY2011 President's request for government spending, but the bill introduced by the appropriations committee, H.R. 1, uses FY2010 spending as its baseline. When reading the bill, one must compare its budget recommendations with what is in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-117), not the President's FY2011 request. NASA would be cut $303 million compared to its 2010 spending level, but $578.7 million from the FY2011 request. Details are in our fact sheet.

The committee's bill also prohibits spending any funds appropriated for NASA or the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for space cooperation with China unless specifically authorized by Congress. The exact language is --

SEC. 1339. (a) None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate in anyway with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division.

(b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall also apply to any funds used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations subcommittee, is a long standing opponent of U.S. cooperation with China on space activities.

Separately, the bill would relieve NASA of the prohibition in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act against cancelling the Constellation program or initiating a replacement program. NASA currently is caught between that law and the 2010 NASA Authorization Act (P.L. 111-267), which directs NASA to proceed with a different program.

NASA and all other government agencies are currently funded, most at their FY2010 levels, by a CR that expires on March 4. Congress must pass another appropriations bill before then or the government will shut down. The Senate has reacted cooly to the House-proposed cuts, and talk about passing another short-term CR to give the House and Senate time to reach a compromise is growing. Both chambers will be on recess during the week of February 21, so very few legislative days remain before the current CR runs out.

Revised House Appropriations Proposal Cuts NASA More Deeply

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 12-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The House Appropriations Committee let another shoe drop today with its revised cuts to domestic discretionary spending in the latest version of a Continuing Resolution (CR) to tund the government for the rest of FY2011. The CR is written as a revision of the FY2011 appropriations for the Department of Defense.

The committee's first proposal issued on Wednesday would have cut $379 million from NASA's FY2011 request, and a total of $74 billion from the President's overall FY2011 request for domestic discretionary spending. Tea Party Republicans demanded that the cut be $100 billion, however, and the appropriations committee was forced to propose deeper cuts. The new proposal would cut the $100 billion overall from the FY2011 request, of which $578.7 million is from NASA's FY2011 request of $19.0 billion. The following statement was made by the committee with regard to NASA, as well as NOAA's satellite activities:

"The bill includes necessary funding increases in two areas: to prevent some work stoppage on NOAA's weather satellite program that will help protect Americans from weather-related natural disasters, and to prevent deficiencies in federal detention and incarceration programs. The CR also provides budget flexibility within overall reduced funding levels to allow the Department of Justice to meet high-priority requirements and NASA to carry out its authorized activities."

What that actually means programmatically is difficult to ascertain. Parsing the language of the bill is challenging.

Events of Interest

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


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