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Thursday, December 2, 2021

NASA infrastructure funds have been cut in a revised budget reconciliation deal

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The money assigned to NASA facilities and climate change projects was drastically decreased in a new, scaled-back form of a spending bill announced October 28, while financing for the second Artemis lunar lander was continued to be excluded. The House has unveiled text of Build Back Better Act, a spending bill worth $1.75 trillion that is a reworked version of a $3.5 trillion bill dubbed as budget reconciliation package due to the overall mechanism it would employ to get Senate approval. President Joe Biden revealed the amended proposal in an address at the White House and the bill was released just hours later.

$750 million for the NASA infrastructure enhancements, $140 million meant for Earth science exploration and applications, as well as $220 million for NASA’s aeronautics program are included in the package. The House Science Committee adopted a piece of the original measure on September 9 that comprised $163 million for the Earth science, $4 billion for the NASA infrastructure, and $225 million for the aeronautics. $7 million for the NASA cybersecurity was also included in the previous bill.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has been lobbying for over $5 billion in infrastructure financing to rebuild NASA facilities, particularly those damaged by the hurricanes, since the season of spring. A CR (continuing resolution) passed on Sept. 30 that funded the federal government through December 3 includes a $321.4 mission for NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility situated in New Orleans and the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Nelson stated the mix of that CR cash and what is in the amended reconciliation package will offer NASA approximately $1.5 billion in the additional funding during a discussion with reporters on October 29 about the planned Crew-3 commercial crew mission. He stated, “That is a significant positive.” 1.5 billion dollars to the good?  That’s a fairly good result for NASA, in my opinion.”

The new Build Back Better Act, like previous editions of budget reconciliation package, does not contain any funding for the Artemis program’s future development of lunar landers. In the spring, Nelson requested $5.4 billion in the reconciliation package so that NASA could use its Lunar Exploration Transportation Services program to support future lunar lander service procurements.

The lander program will receive a “large plus-up,” or funding increase, in fiscal year 2023, according to Nelson. “That is what exactly we have been working on with Office of Management and Budget on president’s next budget, as well as both houses of the Congress to get plus-ups that we required,” he said. In February 2022, the proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 will be released.

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