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NASA Planning Afternoon of Events for FY2018 Budget Request Rollout

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-May-2017
Updated: 23-May-2017 12:27 AM

President Trump will submit his complete FY2018 budget request to Congress tomorrow (Tuesday) and NASA is planning an afternoon-long series of events to highlight what they are doing now and what the budget request proposes for the future.

Although a number of media outlets have stories tonight based on leaked portions of the request, nothing is official until it is released by the Government Publishing Office (GPO).  GPO will post it on its website at 11:00 am ET.   NASA will post its own budget material on its budget website at 12:00 noon ET.

At 12:30 pm ET, Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot will give a State of NASA presentation to employees that will be broadcast on NASA TV. At 5:00 pm ET, Acting Chief Financial Officer Andrew Hunter will brief the media via telecon.  The audio will be livestreamed.

In between, each of the nine NASA field centers plus the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will give Facebook Live virtual tours of selected activities at 20 minute intervals.  The schedule and links to the Facebook pages are in a NASA press release.  First is Glenn Research Center at 1:30 pm ET; last is JPL at 4:30 pm ET.

What we know about the budget request for NASA so far is based on the budget blueprint or "skinny budget" submitted in March and an Excel spreadsheet leaked to a Washington think tank, the Third Way, and posted on its website.  As we reported yesterday, here are the top-line numbers for NASA's budget accounts (in the order they appear in the spreadsheet, which is different from how NASA usually displays them):

  • Space Operations - $4,740.8 million;
  • Science - $5,711.8 million;
  • Safety, Security and Mission Services - $2,830.2 million;
  • Exploration - $3,934.1 million;
  • Aeronautics - $624 million;
  • Education - $37.3 million;
  • Construction and Environmental Compliance - $496.1 million;
  • Space Technology - $678.6 million.

That adds up to $19,052.9 million, which would round to the $19.1 billion advertised in the budget blueprint. Although it represents a reduction of less than 1 percent from NASA's FY2016 funding, which was in effect at the time that was submitted to Congress in March, it is significantly less than what Congress ultimately appropriated for FY2017: $19.65 billion.

It certainly does not support President Trump's exhortation to accelerate plans for sending people to Mars -- at least as a NASA program.  The money for the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion spacecraft, and associated Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) comprises the "Exploration Systems Development" portion of the "Exploration" account.  Congress provided $4,324 million for Exploration in FY2017 of which $3,929 million is for SLS/Orion/EGS.  The Trump budget request for the entire account barely matches that.  The account also funds Exploration Research and Development, for which Congress appropriated $395 million in FY2017.

For FY2017, Congress provided more money in each of the NASA programmatic accounts than what the Administration is requesting for FY2018.  The only two accounts that would get increases in the Trump request compared to FY2017 congressional appropriations are for agency operations: Safety, Security and Mission Services and Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration. (See our FY2017 NASA budget fact sheet for details).

Overall, the Trump budget request provides significant increases for defense spending and compensating cuts to non-defense programs.  All in all, NASA fared pretty well.  According to reports tonight, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be cut approximately 20 percent, for example.

Presidential budget requests are just that -- requests.  Under the Constitution, only Congress has the power of the purse, deciding how much money the government may spend and on what.  Even though Republicans now control the House, Senate, and White House, this promises to be yet another difficult debate.


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