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President Obama submitted his budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2014 on April 10. Like the budgets passed this spring by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the president’s proposed budget doesn’t directly address sequestration. Rather, his budget and those being dealt with in both houses of Congress will provide the basis for FY 2014 budget negotiations later this year.
The request includes base funding of $526.6 billion for the Department of Defense, an increase of only $1.2 billion (0.2 percent) over fiscal year 2013. Within the total, the request includes a pay raise of one percent for both active duty and civilian employees and assumes changes in military health care enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pay amounts that were denied by Congress last year. The budget also requests a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) beginning in 2015.
The president’s request for the FAA repeats last year’s supplemental appropriations request of $50 billion for infrastructure improvements, including $1 billion in additional funding for FAA’s NextGen program and $2 billion for airport construction. The FAA request includes $6 million for unmanned aircraft system research and development, $12 million for the Joint Planning and Development Office and $18.9 million for environment and energy research, including the Continuous Low Emissions, Energy and Noise program. The agency’s operating budget also points to $62 million in unspecified “program adjustments.” The budget documents indicate that FAA will consider the following strategies for these savings: reduce contract weather observations, realign and consolidate facilities, and conduct reductions in the VOR minimum operational network. The budget would support personnel levels for the air traffic controller workforce at 14,895, slightly down from the fiscal year 2012 level of 15,211.
The president’s request for NASA totals $17.7 billion and includes two major changes. The first is a request of $105 million for an asteroid retrieval mission. The Administration wants to study the feasibility of capturing a 500 ton asteroid and bringing it to the Earth-Moon system for astronauts to explore as early as 2021. This initiative has met with tepid support on Capitol Hill. “While getting points for creativity, a proposed NASA mission to ‘lasso’ an asteroid and drag it to the Moon’s orbit will require serious deliberation,” stated House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). ”Seemingly out of the blue, this mission has never been evaluated or recommended by the scientific community and has not received the scrutiny that a normal program would undergo.”
The president’s proposed NASA budget would also significantly change the space agency’s Earth Science portfolio. The Administration wants NASA to assume responsibility for climate sensors planned for NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System, and to lead efforts to ensure the continuity of satellite remote sensing data. Landsat 8 was launched earlier this year and planning is needed for follow-on satellites to avoid data acquisition gaps.
Another budget request receiving a great deal of attention is the Administration’s proposal for a wide-scale consolidation of 13 agencies’ STEM programs into the Department of Education (K-12 programs), the National Science Foundation (undergraduate and graduate programs) and the Smithsonian Institution (informal education). AIA has joined with other aerospace professional organizations in writing congressional leaders to question the wisdom of this proposal.
AIA Source: rich.efford[at]aia-aerospace.org