There is good news for the civil space program in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget adopted by Congress. Within H.R. 3547, a joint House and Senate omnibus bill, NASA, NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service and the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Flight were funded close to or at the President’s budget request.
NASA FY 2014 funding will be $17.65 billion, an amount just below the President’s budget request, but most significantly, $750 million above what the space agency would have received had sequestration budget levels remained in effect.
AIA is pleased that the final NASA budget is consistent with our position that the NASA budget enable “the agency and its contractors to execute the key programs agreed upon by Congress and the President.” A number of other bill provisions follow AIA recommendations from its 2013 suite of civil and commercial space advocacy papers, including the extension of the Commercial Space Launch Act’s (CSLA) launch indemnification regime for three years. The extension of launch indemnification beyond a one year renewal (as happened in 2013) will provide the commercial launch industry much needed stability and a more level playing field with foreign launch competitors. Also, NASA’s priority programs - the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System, the International Space Station and the James Webb Space Telescope - are funded at levels very close to the President’s request. This aligns with AIA’s 2013 advocacy for steady support and funding of NASA’s priority programs. Unfortunately, the Commercial Crew Program, which is vital to restoring independent US crew access to ISS, was underfunded by $125 million.
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s allocation of education and outreach program funding was maintained in the bill, which tracks with AIA’s space organization group letter submitted in 2013. The letter asked Congress to “reject the proposed consolidation of all STEM activities as requested in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget submitted to Congress.” The bill included language explicitly rejecting the proposed reorganization.
NOAA’s “flagship weather satellite programs” were fully funded at the President’s requested levels of $5.4 billion. AIA had strongly advocated for such funding given NOAA’s need “to replenish aging (weather) satellites and avoid disastrous coverage gaps.”
Finally, full funding of $16 million was provided for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, consistent with AIA’s support for “timely and appropriate licensing for commercial space launch activities.” This office licenses new commercial space capabilities; adequate funding assures prompt license processing.