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The House committee marking up NASA’s budget has added about $800 million to the budget proposed by the Trump administration, restoring the proposed cuts in the SLS/Orion budget as well as in NASA’s education programs.
NASA’s exploration account receives the largest increase in the House bill: a $616 million increase over the request to $4.55 billion. The bill would fund the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System at the same levels as in the 2017 omnibus bill, rather than the lower levels in the budget proposal. It increases funding for ground systems and exploration research and development above both the request and the 2017 omnibus bill.
The bill would also restore much of NASA’s education program, which the administration proposed closing in its 2018 budget request, offering $37.3 million in closeout costs. The bill offers $90 million for education, $10 million below the 2017 level. The bill specifically funds two programs in that office, Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, that would have been shut down in the budget request.
Plans to end those education programs faced bipartisan opposition when the CJS subcommittee held a hearing on NASA’s budget proposal June 8. “I’m concerned about, in your budget, your cuts to the Office of Education,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who is now a member of the CJS subcommittee. “I can’t understand why you would want to cut that.”
The budget also adds money to the planetary budget, but also micromanages NASA by ordering it to fly two missions to Europa.
What this budget tells me is that the Republicans in Congress have no idea why Trump was elected. The public likes space, but it does not like its tax dollars wasted, and the public who voted for Trump (and the Republicans) considers much of what the federal government does to be a big waste. They want that budget trimmed. The Trump budget didn’t gut NASA, but it did try to refocus its effort away from pork. These House changes reinstate much of that pork.