Washington, D.C. The Senate today approved the Fiscal Year 2004 VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill. Highlights of the $124 billion bill are below:
The bill has NASA funded at $15.3 billion. This is the same as the amount enacted in FY 2003.
There are no changes to the funding in the Shuttle account, but NASA is encouraged to keep Congress notified of any changes to this program resulting from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report. The report requires NASA to provide a comprehensive plan within 4 months regarding response to the CIAB, as well as a 10-year funding profile for all of Shuttle fleet as safe and the proposed changes. The report expresses concern over what the impacts of the CAIB recommendations will be, and if there is a restructuring at NASA, what the long-term implications of a reorganization may be. Limitations are included to prevent NASA from moving funds out of the Shuttle program.
The bill includes a reduction of $200 million for the International Space Station (ISS). With the current situation aboard the station of a reduced crew and Russians supplying vehicles for crew and cargo transfer, there are other pressing needs within NASA and the bill for funds. At this time, NASA is unsure as to when the ISS will be operating with a crew of three, it may only be for a few more months or it could be longer than a year. The ISS has reserves of over $250 million and is able to cover this modest reduction.
The Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration fund is funded at the request with the exception of a $20 million reduction for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter. This reduction corresponds to a similar amount funded into the program last year, but that was not requested. There is also $50 million in additional funds that go towards aeronautics research.
NASA - The bill includes a requirement that the National Academy of Public Administration do a top-to-bottom management analysis of NASA, particularly in response to the CAIB report which cited NASA management and culture as factors in the Columbia accident.