The House Commerce, Science, Justice & Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which appropriates NASA’s funds, has released a draft fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill. The bottom line is that the cuts to NASA are deep.
For fiscal year 2012, which “officially” begins on October 1, 2011, NASA is appropriated $16.8 billion. If that number looks small, that’s because it represents a cut of $1.685 billion from fiscal year 2011’s budget of $18.485 billion and $1.78 billion from the authorized budget of $18.5767 billion in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. It wasn’t as though NASA’s FY 2011 budget was generous–it wasn’t, save for a few programs such as the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System. Even those programs suffer severe cuts under the Subcommittee’s appropriations.
As noted by Space News and others, the Subcommittee proposes cancelation of the James Webb Space Telescope. This would be a devastating blow to America’s leadership in science since there is nothing on the horizon that can even partially match the capabilities of the JWST. The reason cited by the Subcommittee in canceling JWST is that it is billions, almost 4-times, over-budget, giving new meaning to program mismanagement.
The Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System programs are dramatically cut. For fiscal year 2012 the Subcommittee appropriates for Orion MPCV $1.063 billion and for SLS $1.985 billion, a cut of $337 million and $665 million in FY 2012 authorized levels for each program respectively. If there is any good news, its that the Subcommittee proposes to appropriate more than the Obama Administration, which sought $1.010 billion for Orion MPCV and $1.8 billion for SLS; but not by much. With the proposed FY 2012 appropriations for NASA, both the Orion MPCV and SLS programs will be stretched, forcing both programs’ costs to increase and the day either becomes operational to fall-back.
As was the case for NASA’s currently fiscal year budget, no funds are specifically appropriated for either the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) or Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) programs, leaving it up to NASA again to figure out how much it wants to pay for those programs, a tough decision given the severe cut NASA is facing. That should come as no surprise since both programs have seen only frigid support in the House.