The budget is tight – NASA has multiple unfunded missions
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At a hearing in Washington DC on 10 February, members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science asked the inspectors general of NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) how they could reduce federal spending at those agencies. The hearing is part of the effort by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to specify how to slash $58 billion from the FY2011 budget. “We are looking at making cuts in programs that are inefficient and ineffective to meet our debt reduction needs,” said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the subcommittee. The most immediate challenge to NASA funding, which would decrease by $379 million under the Republicans’ plan, comes from two conflicting legislative directives, said Paul Martin, the agency’s Inspector General. Congress passed an Authorization Act last September ordering the agency to cancel the Constellation program, aimed a returning US astronauts to the Moon, while simultaneously funding the federal government under a continuing resolution, which prohibits NASA from terminating or initiating new programs, he said. “Without congressional intervention, by the end of February 2011, NASA anticipates spending up to $215 million on Constellation projects that it would have consideredcancelingor significantly scaling back,” he said, adding that the figure could grow to $575 million by the end of the fiscal year. Those estimated funds would be welcome at an agency that needs an additional infusion of $500 million over the next two years forthe James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the perennially troubled successor to Hubble. The money is required to cover cost overruns on the project, which have grown from an initial estimate of $1.6 billion to $6.5 billion and highlight a “systemic weakness” at the agency to properly gauge mission costs, said Martin. NASA must also deal with the Authorization Act’s provisiontoflyan additional space shuttle flight before the fleet retires, at a cost of $500 million. “It remains to be seen whether the agency will obtain additional funding for this final shuttle flight or whether it will need to pay for it using existing funds,” said Martin. Martin identified the aging infrastructure at NASA’s ten national facilities as another potential source of savings. With over 5,400 labs and building, 80 percent of which are more than 40 years old, the agency spends approximately $2.5 billion annually just “fixing roofs and plugging holes,” he said. Getting rid of elderly and unnecessary buildings could reduce this figure, he added. Some of the subcommittee members were interested in savings from overlap reductions between NASA and other agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with Rep. Wolf specifically citing climate change data collection as a possible starting point. The idea may been in response to a letter earlier in the week from six Republican members of Congress urging appropriators to prioritize NASA’s manned spaceflight over climate change research. The issue is a policy directed one and, as such, Martin declined to comment. But others members urged swift action to get NASA out of the quagmire its in. “We need to provide some clarity if we want to save money,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the subcommittee ranking member.
Link Turn – General – Riders
Congressmen will use the plan as a vehicle to fund other projects
The ongoing budget negotiations between the House Republican leadership and Senate Democrats has broken down, as Republicans continue to insist that their spending bill — H.R. 1 — "serve as a starting point for all negotiations." House Republicans "have demanded everything: not just some of their cuts but almost all of them, and not just a reduction in spending but a reduction only in the programs they don't like," the New York Times n otes today. In fact, many are "insisting Democrats also agree to nonbudgetary riders, like ending the financing of Planned Parenthood or health care reform." But a closer examination of the at least 81 riders from OMB Watch reveals that many would have the opposite of the GOP's intended effect and actually increase federal spending. For instance, a CBO analysis of Sec. 4017 of H.R. 1 — which would strip funding for any provisions in the Affordable Care Act — argues that partially defunding the law increases costs "by $3.1 billion in fiscal year 2012 and by smaller amounts in each of the fiscal years 2013 through 2021." The same may be true for the following riders:
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Like their counterparts in the House, the Senate has larded its version of an “emergency” war spending bill with nearly $20 billion in pork-barrel outlays, including $100 million for the two major political parties’ 2008 presidential conventions. The $121 billion bill includes $102 billion for the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as $14 billion for Hurricane Katrina aid and more than $4 billion for “emergency farm relief.” “Congress will have to make the choice between booze and balloons or bullets and body armor,” John Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told The Examiner on Monday. Coburn and a handful of other senators hope to shame their colleagues into stripping the pork out of the war spending bill. The Senate bill is $18 billion more than President Bush requested for militaryoperations. The House bill, which passed last week, exceeded the administration’s request by $21 billion and included money for spinach growers, peanut storage and citrus farmers. If the Senate bill goes to conference committee as written, the two chambers may find themselves fighting over the best cuts of pork. Coburn and his fellow pork foes will offer a series of amendments this week aimed at eliminating fat domestic spending or redirecting it to crucial needs for soldiers, sailors and airmen. “Maybe this is what Democrats mean by ‘phased redeployment’,” Hart said. Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., Monday defended the extra spending, describing it as “common sense and good economics.” “Funding for the war is not the only critical need worthy of the supplemental spending,” he said. The war “must not obliterate every other concern.” The $100 million for the political party conventions — $50 million for the Democratic convention in Denver and $50 million for the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn. — is included in a section described as “Katrina recovery, veterans’ care and for other purposes.”