House Passes NASA Budget as Obama Administration Threatens Veto

Capitol Building
The House of Representatives passed the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on June 3, 2015. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the measure, which includes funding for NASA and NOAA.

The highlights involving NASA’s budget include:

  • $3.4 billion for Space Launch System, Orion and related ground systems, an increase of $546 million over the President’s request;
  • $1 billion for Commercial Crew, a reduction of $243.8 million from the request;
  • $625 million for space technology, a reduction of $100 million.
  • $1.56 billion for planetary exploration, an increase of $196 million;
  • $1.68 billion for Earth science, a reduction of $264 million;
  • $140 million to begin work on the Jupiter Europa Clipper mission;
  • $19 million to maintain operations of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and $13.7 million for the Mars Opportunity Rover;
  • a requirement to use the Space Launch System for the Jupiter Europa mission; and,
  • a stipulation that $25 million of the space technology budget “shall be for icy satellites surface technology and test beds.”

The table below has the full details.

(In Millions of Dollars)
Earth Science
Planetary Sciences$1,361.2$1,557.0$195.8
James Webb Space Telescope
Jupiter Europa Clipper$30.0$140.0$110.0
Space Exploration$4,505.9$4,759.3$253.4
Exploration Systems Development
Space Launch System
Exploration Ground Systems
$410.1 $410.0-$0.1
Program Integration
Commercial Spaceflight$1,243.8$1,000.0-$243.0
Research & Development$399.2$350.0-$49.2
Space Operations$4,003.7$3,957.3
International Space Station$3,106.6$3,075.6-$31.0
Space & Flight Support
Space Technology$724.8$625.0
Safety, Security and Mission Services$2,843.1$2,768.6
Construction & Environmental Compliance & Restoration$465.3$425.0
Inspector General$37.4$37.4

The Obama Administration has issued a seven-page long veto threat for the legislation, with which it has many objections. The administration’s concerns about NASA funding are show below.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Commercial Crew Program. The Administration is disappointed that the Committee underfunded NASA’s Commercial Crew program by $243 million. This would delay the date for launching U.S. astronauts to the space station with U.S. rockets and force a continued reliance on Russian capabilities, which currently require payments to Russia of approximately $500 million per year.

Space Technology. The Administration urges the Congress to fully fund the FY 2016 Budget request for NASA Space Technology. Compared to the request, the bill reduces funding for these investments by $100 million, or 14 percent, delaying development of a cutting-edge laser
communication system; advanced, high power solar electric propulsion; and other space
technology demonstrations, slowing progress on the journey to Mars, and impacting the
international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry.

Earth Science Missions. The Administration opposes the bill’s reductions of Earth Science by more than $200 million, jeopardizing missions that are helping us respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events and understand how the climate is changing. The bill also eliminates the launch of a key instrument used by western States to manage water supplies—while at the same time adding $500 million above the requested level for the Space Launch
System rocket.

Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act). The Administration urges the Congress to fully fund the FY 2016 Budget request for NASA and the National Science Foundation to implement the DATA Act. This funding will support the agencies’ efforts to provide more transparent Federal spending data, such as updating information technology systems, changing business processes, and employing a uniform procurement instrument identifier.

The Administration also expressed the following concerns about NOAA’s budget.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Infrastructure. The Administration objects to the bill’s funding level for NOAA’s Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction program, which precludes needed long-term infrastructure investments to collect critical environmental data. While the bill includes the requested funding for the current generation of critical weather satellites, it fails to provide the necessary resources to initiate the development of the next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites. The continuity of these satellites has been highlighted as a high risk by independent groups and the Government Accountability Office. In addition to informing the day-to-day operations of businesses and individuals, weather data from NOAA satellites help predict the potential impact of extreme weather events, which lets communities and emergency responders prepare. Not only would the bill heighten the risk of a gap in satellite coverage, but its shortsighted reductions mean that the next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites would cost taxpayers more. In addition, the Administration urges the Congress to provide the funding necessary to acquire a NOAA research vessel. NOAA’s aging research fleet plays a critical role in the research and management of marine resources, directly supporting coastal economies and environmental stewardship.

NOAA Operations. The Administration appreciates the Committee’s support for the National Weather Service; however, the Administration opposes the funding levels provided for the National Ocean Service and climate research programs, which are 15 percent and 32 percent below the FY 2016 Budget request, respectively. The reductions impact two high priority programs that help communities prepare for the effects of natural disasters and other ramifications of climate change and provide the science necessary to inform their preparations. The Administration also urges the Congress to provide the requested funding to support
infrastructure permitting consultations, which would reduce project timeframes and support economic development.

  • James

    Oh hey look they keep taking the money from CCDEV and putting it in SLS I mean who would ever have thought that would happen.

  • windbourne

    About time that O started using veto. He has been far too much the senator, rather than the leader. He needs to stick for private space, or we will pay double the money to Russia.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    I only really see one issue with that budget request….well, ok, I guess I mean 3.4 billion issues.

  • cdevboy

    SLS is getting to be a serious drain on everything for a rocket that may never fly. You reduce Commercial crew by 256 M so we pay 500 M a year in russian ferry services to ISS and extend that need beyond the year and a half remain ing in the current schedule.. Then they reduce spending on the technology development for the actual payloads that SLS would have no mission without. It really is true that there are no Rocket Scientists in Congress. Don’t forget, these are some of the same people who tried to declare Apollo Landing sites on the moon and US National parks last year. I guess they didn’t think to check if US Law, the Monroe Doctrine or Manifest destiny applied to celestial bodies.

  • therealdmt

    I’m with you — I’d like to see him stand up and call these guys out on cutting funding to return US independent manned launch capability while simultaneously inevitably paying even MORE than the amount they cut to…Russia! It’s unconscionable on two levels and a big enough deal that it should be rejected.

  • Aerospike

    a requirement to use the Space Launch System for the Jupiter Europa mission;

    This made me chuckle, basically this requirement says “we know that SLS is a stupid idea, so now we will force you to use it instead of some alternatives that might be available by then”…


  • Steve Ksiazek

    Obama never was much of a senator. You do realize that none of Obama’s NASA budgets have ever passed congress. And it’s not the Republican side that the disagreements always come from. The senate does have their idea of how NASA should spend their money, so we will see what comes out at the end. It is obvious with the current requested level of funding for commercial crew, that the vendors are expecting close to 100 percent funding.

  • windbourne

    Agree about the Senator part. However, he is big on compromise. As such, he has compromised over and over on various things to the point of foolishness (though he did manage to force the GOP into a corner on cutting deficit; now if he would do it again and balance the budget).

    Hopefully, he will stand with a veto unless the GOP allows the private space funding through. Otherwise, we will have to spend that amount OR MORE for Putin’s launch systems. Sadly, the GOP (actually the neo-con portion) seems to prefer giving Putin money more than American businesses.

  • windbourne

    On a side note, I have to wonder if SpaceX will simply say, WTF, and finish up Dragon V2 to enable flights to Bigelow. As it is, they are close to having it done, but of course, the NASA reviews are needed for flying to the ISS. BUT, they are not needed for BA.

    Of course, that begs the question if FAA can stop it? I would think that with the recent bill that was passed to help the other companies, will likely allow SpaceX to bypass FAA on this one. IOW, the house GOP can not stop it, if Musk really pursues this.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Well I hope O’Bama doesn’t have the use it, and it’s about time he stuck up for the Commercial Crew Program.

  • Athelstane

    Let’s wait and see first what the Senate does.

  • Paul451

    that begs the question if FAA can stop it?

    Why would they want to? FAA doesn’t require private operators to pass NASA ISS reviews.

  • Paul451

    SLS is getting to be a serious drain on everything for a rocket that may never fly.

    It’ll fly twice. Once unmanned in 2018, and once manned in 2023 or 2024 if nothing goes wrong. That’s all the first-stage tanks that are contracted, and all the engines that they have salvaged from the shuttle orbiters. Beyond that they’ll need a major funding increase to continue.