Top Democratic House Appropriator Warns about Sequestration
Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, is warning about the impact of sequestration not only on the defense budget, but to non-defense agencies like NASA and NOAA as well.
With the clock ticking down to January 2, 2013 when sequestration goes into effect (unless Congress acts to prevent it), focus is broadening to include its impact on non-defense agencies. Until now, the 9.4 percent cut to the defense budget has been drawing the most attention, but all other government agencies in the so-called discretionary part of the budget will be hit with an 8.2 percent cut. A report released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last month spells out the cuts by budget account in every affected agency.
Republicans and Democrats are both using the sequestration drama as part of their political toolboxes for the upcoming elections with each blaming the other for the inability to agree on another method for reducing the deficit. Dicks released a "dear colleague" letter on October 9 on the "consequences" of sequestration. After reviewing the oft-recited dangers to the DOD budget, he moves on to homeland security, public safety, protection of financial markets, international affairs, education, "health, science, and innovation," and safety-net programs.
The impact on non-defense space programs is mentioned under both public safety and in health, science and innovation.
Concerning public safety, Dicks points to cuts in NOAA's procurement of weather satellites that would cause "a 2- to 4-year period in which weather data from NOAA's polar orbiting satellite [sic] would be unavailable, putting American communities at greater risk from tornadoes, hurricanes and other weather events."
As for NASA, he writes that "Funding cuts would cripple NASA's efforts to establish U.S. commercial capability to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station" and "effectively extend the period of U.S. dependence on Russia." That means it would not be "true savings" since the United States would have to pay "at least $63 million per seat" to Russia.
Dicks is in his final months as a Member of Congress. He announced plans to retire earlier this year. He was first elected to Congress in 1976 and rose through the ranks of the appropriations committee, chairing the Interior Subcommittee and later the Defense Subcommittee when Democrats were in control. He is currently ranking member on the defense subcommittee as well as on the full committee.
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