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Volume 3, No. 2                February 25, 1999
Overview of FY 2000 NASA Budget

Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) opened the Space & Aeronautics "posture hearing" (2/24/99) to examine NASA's FY 2000 budget with a partisan swipe at the Clinton Administration. He criticized the White House for cutting NASA's budget (once again), while boosting funding for other government science programs. He called the policy misguided and said it was weakening America's space program.

Subcommittee ranking member Bart Gorton (D-TN) pointed out that "NASA has had to operate under tight budgets," which he considered not all that bad. He chided the Chairman's opening statement, saying it was "not a productive way to conduct the hearing." He said the government shouldn't have a "drunken sailor's" attitude to spending the public's money.

Both Rohrabacher and Gorton did agree, however, on one matter; they both praised the performance of NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, who was the only witness testifying at the hearing. Rohrabacher tipped his hat to Goldin, calling him a "courageous visionary," while Gorton gave President Clinton kudos for appointing Goldin as Administrator. In one final dig, Rohrabacher couldn't help mentioning the fact that it had been President Bush who first appointed Goldin.

Testimony of Administrator Goldin

Subcommittee witnesses normally are given only five minutes to summarize their testimony. But Goldin, because of his fancy, PowerPoint presentation, was allotted double this time

In his written testimony, Goldin said he was "pleased" with the Administration's proposed budget of $13.578 billion for NASA in FY 2000. But in his remarks to members of the Subcommittee, the Administrator confessed he "wanted a bigger budget but [he] didn't get it."

Goldin provided some long-term trends at NASA. He said the percentage of the agency's budget "devoted to science and technology has increased from 31 percent in FY 1991 to 41 percent today." The percent of the budget allocated to human spaceflight, however, "has declined from 48 percent in FY 1991 to 40 percent today, and is projected to decline to 35 percent by FY 2004."

"We have changed NASA as an institution," Goldin said. The average cost of spacecraft development in the early 1990s was $590 million. In 1999 it's $205 million, and NASA's goal by 2004 is to drop the total to only $79 million. According to Goldin, "The state-of-the-art in instrument and spacecraft technologies points to the near future when present day thousand kilogram, cubic meter satellites are replaced by constellations of micro and nano- satellites with instruments on chips."

About the International Space Station, Goldin said NASA has authorized the construction of a U.S. permanent propulsion module, which could be available as early as FY 2002. In the meantime, he said reboosting by Space Shuttle coupled with the Interim Control Module's (ICM) capabilities would be sufficient to maintain elements in orbit.

Russia's inability to meet deadlines in building elements of the ISS has caused a 6-8 month slip in utilization flights to the ISS, and as a consequence NASA has "slowed the development of research equipment," Goldin explained. NASA boasts that it's funding "over 900 experienced principal investigators" for microgravity science. Yet at the same time it's funding only a handful of Commercial Space Centers, which will utilize a third of the station. The imbalance means commercial enterprises will be unprepared to take full advantage of the ISS when it opens for business, costing American jobs.

Only four Shuttle missions were flown in FY 1998 (for nearly $3 billion), and only five are planned for FY 1999. But there may be an additional emergency flight in October to service the Hubble Space Telescope, which is experiencing problems with its gyros.

If there are further delays in assembling the ISS, NASA wants to have "standby" missions waiting to fill any gaps. Goldin said the time needed to prepare a gap mission is being reduced from 15 months to nine months. The additional cost for a Shuttle flight would be about $35.

The first flight of the X-33 reusable launch vehicle has slipped at least a year until July 2000. "The X-34 also has experienced some manufacturing difficulties that will delay the first unpowered flight four months to September 1999; the first powered flight is currently scheduled for February 2000," Goldin said.

Members of the Subcommittee expressed concern about America's launch infrastructure. Goldin said NASA may give Kennedy Space Center the responsibility for developing advanced range technologies to reduce the cost and time required to launch spacecraft.

Over the next five years, Goldin said NASA is slated to launch 30 Earth Science missions. In September 1998, NASA "awarded five contracts for Phase II [of the Commercial Remote Sensing Program (CRSP)] of the $50 million Scientific Data Purchase." The agency is "developing plans for the next data buy as the commercial remote sensing market matures."

Goldin said he "would love to see more money going to education." The Administration reduces spending within NASA on education from $71.6 million in FY 1999 to $54.1 million in FY 2000.

About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our national elected officials on space issues.

The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 23,000 members and 75 chapters actively promote the creation of a spacefaring civilization.

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