Proposed Republican budget changes
Before even beginning this story, it is critical for my readers to understand that the worst any of these possible cuts could do to NASA’s budget in 2024 would be to bring it back to budgetary levels from most of the last decade, levels that hardly crippled the agency in the slightest.
The graph to the right, posted initially by Roll Call, outlines in detail the required cuts the Republicans in the House are demanding in the federal budget for the 2024 fiscal year. The percentages in the last column list the amount each of these twelve appropriation subcommittees must cut from their area of focus. NASA is part of the Commerce-Justice-Science category, which requires a total cut of 28.8%.
NASA’s budget in 2023 was $25.4 billion. If the House imposes that percentage cut to NASA, it would lower its 2024 budget to about $18 billion.
O my! We are all going to starve!
However, from 2010 to 2018 NASA’s annual budget was almost always about $18 billion, an amount that was also a generous increase from the budget numbers in the previous decade, when NASA’s budget was usually around $15 to $16 billion. During that time the agency had no problem funding its projects. In fact, now that private enterprise is accomplishing what NASA needs done for far less than in the past, it is clear the agency can manage with less. Cutting its budget by almost 30% will likely cause little impact.
However, it is also possible that NASA, one of Congress’s most favorite programs, will not be cut by this much. As noted by Marcia Smith at SpacePolicyOnline.com:
Each subcommittee is given a fixed amount of money — an “allocation” — to spend. The subcommittee members decide how to divvy it up among the departments and agencies under their jurisidiction.
NASA’s appropriations subcommittee could dole out the cuts unevenly, cutting Justice far more than Science and Commerce for example. In fact, considering the pro-Democrat partisan corruption we have seen in the Justice department, we should not be surprised if it receives a much larger cut so that the science and commerce areas are impacted less.
And even if NASA gets cut 28.8%, so what? As I wrote back in 2011:
Now I am not one to say, “Cut the budget, but please leave my favorite programs alone!” I recognize the serious financial state of the nation, and realize that any budget suggestions I make must include significant total cuts to NASA’s budget.
As a space historian and science journalist who knows a great deal about NASA, however, I also know that there is plenty of room for cuts in NASA’s budget. By picking our priorities carefully at a time when our options are limited, NASA might even be able to accomplish more, not less, with a smaller budget.
Moreover, if I, as a space junky, think it is possible to continue NASA’s most important programs and still trim its budget by 15% to 20%, in real dollars, doesn’t that suggest that the same could be done across the entire federal government?
All it takes is a little knowledge, some common sense, and the courage to say no.
In that essay I then outlined how I would have saved NASA billions, and actually gotten more done in the next decade.
Sadly, for more than a half century Congress has shown little knowledge, common sense, or courage. Instead, it has kept spending madly, even though the money did not exist, putting the American nation deeper and deeper into debt. It is now questionable we can ever get out of that debt.
An effort to meet these new proposed budget cuts would however be a small first step. We shall see if Congress will finally show the ability to do so, in these upcoming budget negotiations.
I have my doubts. During these negotiations the Democrats and their allies in the federal bureaucracy, including in NASA, will squeal like pigs in horror at these cuts. Their squeals will in turn be amplified by the mainstream press, which almost never reports these budget issues with any context.
The likely result, based on what has happened over and over again for decades, is for the Republicans to back down.
Is now different? Some say yes. As I have already noted, I have my doubts.
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