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NASA's Initial FY 2004 Operating Plan

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Monday, March 15, 2004

Full operating plan and all appendices (PDF)

March 10, 2004

The Honorable Christopher S. Bond
Chairman
Subcommittee on VA-HUDIndependent
Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

The purpose of this letter is to submit to the Committee NASA's initial FY 2004 Operating Plan, in accordance with the agreements between NASA and the Committee, and to provide an update to the FY 2003 Operating Plan.

In formulating NASA's initial FY 2004 Operating Plan, we have taken into account: appropriations levels included for NASA in the FY 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-199); direction included in the Conference Report (House Report 108-401) accompanying H.R. 2673, the FY 2004 Consolidated Appropriations bill, and application of a 0.59-percent rescission, as specified in Section 168, Division H, of P.L. 108-199.

Aggregate NASA funding in this Operating Plan is $15,378.0 million, a decrease of $91.3 million from the President's FY 2004 request. This decrease represents the net effect of a total of $388.2 million in Congressionally directed increases (151 discrete items) in House Report 108-401, offset by Congressionally directed reductions totaling $334.0 million and $54.2 million in unspecified reductions required to fund the directed increases while meeting the appropriations total, and further offset by a reduction of $91.3 million as the result of the 0.59-percent rescission. The following table compares NASA's FY 2004 budget request with NASA's initial FY 2004 Operating Plan:

FY 2004 Budget (in millions of dollars)

This Operating Plan is presented in a structure consistent with the appropriations and budget structure reflected in the NASA FY 2004 Integrated Budget and Performance Document (IBPD) submitted to Congress. Total funding for the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration (SAE) and Space Flight Capabilities (SFC) accounts is reflected in full cost budget authority. In this initial FY 2004 Operating Plan, NASA has made certain transfers between the SAE and SFC accounts for institutional adjustments under authority provided in P.L. 108-199. Additionally, under authority provided in P.L. 108-199, this Operating Plan reflects certain transfers between the SAE and SFC accounts to properly assign funding between the Aeronautics and Crosscutting Technology Programs, which, in prior years, were budgeted together under the Aerospace Technology Program. A comparison of the FY 2004 budget request with this initial Operating Plan is provided in Enclosure 1. The discrete total of Congressional interest items included in the Conference Report is 151 items, a record-high total against the annual NASA appropriation, funded at a value of $388.2 million.

I am very concerned by the exponential growth in the number of earmarks in NASA's annual appropriation. As recently as FY 1997, the total number of NASA earmarks was 6 items, valued at $74 million. The FY 2004 total represents a 25-fold increase in the absolute number of earmarks and a 5-fold increase in the cost of such earmarks. I am even more concerned that the FY 2004 appropriation funds this record-high number of earmarks totally through reductions in funding of ongoing NASA programs proposed by the President, including reductions in the International Space Station, Space Science and Earth Science programs, and Crosscutting Technology. In some instances, NASA has reassigned Congressional interest items in this Operating Plan to an Enterprise other than that designated in House Report 108-401 when it has been determined that such a reassignment is warranted based upon further information regarding intended content. NASA is in the process of reviewing the management of earmarks to ensure appropriate implementation and oversight, and will keep the Committees apprised. The Congressional interest items are displayed, by NASA program, in Enclosure 2, including any reassignments.

Enclosure 3 provides a detailed explanation of the changes within the HSF and SAT accounts, including changes to institutional support. Enclosures 4 and 5 provide an update for NASA's FY 2003 Operating Plan, and Enclosure 6 is a Return to Flight summary.

Several key features of NASA's initial FY 2004 Operating Plan are highlighted below.

Across-the-Board Rescission

The effect of the across-the-board 0.59-percent rescission included in Section 168, Division H, in P.L. 108-199, is a reduction of $91.3 million from the appropriated level. The Operating Plan reflects application of the rescission across all programs, including Congressional interest items. Specifically, implementation of the rescission has resulted in reductions in Space Flight (-$35.0 million), Space Science (-$23.7 million), Biological and Physical Research (-$5.8 million), Earth Science (-$9.5 million), Aeronautics (-$6.2 million), Crosscutting Technology (-$9.5 million), Education Programs (-$1.4 million), and Inspector General (-$0.2 million).

International Space Station

This Operating Plan reflects the imposition of a Congressionally directed reduction of $200.0 million in the International Space Station (ISS) Program, over NASA's objection. The resulting level for ISS in this Operating Plan, after the application of the rescission, is $1,494.5 million. Although the Space Shuttle Columbia accident has resulted in ISS assembly delays, deferral of work and planned destaffing, and necessary additional work for revised assembly sequence planning, the modest nearterm ISS savings from deferred work has been offset by the cost of additional work responding to new operational demands. As a result, the only source of funds to meet the Congressionally directed reduction is ISS reserves. This action places at risk the steps taken last year to address recommendations of the ISS Independent Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force to ensure a “credible” program and the recommendations of two independent cost estimating teams. The resulting depletion of ISS reserves will not only limit the ability of the ISS program to address In response to this reduction, NASA's FY 2005 budget request accelerates $100 million of out-year ISS reserves into FY 2005. However, this action does not constitute a restoration of the $200 million reduction in ISS reserves over the runout. NASA remains concerned about the impact of the FY 2004 appropriations reduction, and is continuing to assess the matter.

Space Shuttle

This Operating Plan includes NASA's updated estimates for Space Shuttle and Return to Flight (RTF) for FY 2003 and FY 2004.

The FY 2003 Operating Plan update reflects an estimate of $93.5 million in FY 2003 for Space Shuttle RTF. This estimate includes activities that have been approved for implementation by the Space Shuttle Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) and verified by the Return to Flight Planning Team (RTFPT). FY 2003 costs can be accommodated with Shuttle resources available as a result of suspension of flight, the addition of $50 million in FY 2003 emergency appropriations for necessary expenses for responding to the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, provided as part of the FY 2004 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-83), and the availability of other uncommitted Shuttle resources.

The FY 2004 Operating Plan for the Space Shuttle Program is $3,927.6 million, a reduction of $40.8 million from the request after application of the rescission. NASA's current FY 2004 estimate for RTF is $265 million. Of this amount, $124 million is included in the initial FY 2004 Operating Plan, offset by a reduction of $107 million to the Shuttle Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) funding, with the balance derived from Shuttle reserves in Flight Hardware. The $124 million is for activities that have been approved for implementation by the PRCB and the RTFPT. Additional RTF activities, with an estimated cost of $141 million, are under evaluation. As we begin implementing the Vision for U.S. Space Exploration, we are evaluating the existing SLEP program and will select those safety and reliability enhancements that will improve the Shuttle during its remaining operational life. Although this Operating Plan discontinues SLEP as a distinct line item, the funds will be retained within the Shuttle program. A portion of the planned SLEP funding will be used for Return to Flight requirements, and the balance will be included within Program Integration for potential Shuttle safety and mission assurance projects utilizing a process similar to that used for SLEP. A SLEP summit was conducted February 16-17, 2004 to help establish investment priorities.

NASA will return the Space Shuttle to flight as soon as safely possible, finish assembly of the ISS, and phase-out the Space Shuttle when its role in ISS assembly is complete, planned for the end of this decade. The Agency will continue to keep Congress apprised through updates of NASA's Implementation Plan for Space Shuttle Return to Flight and Beyond.

NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC)

As previously reported, this initial FY 2004 Operating Plan identifies $45 million in funds for this year's NESC operations as an Agencywide activity within NASA's Corporate General and Administrative (G&A) account. Establishment of the NESC is a preliminary first step based on the early recognition of the need for enhanced engineering and safety organizations to address deficiencies that led to the Columbia accident. The NESC will provide independent engineering and safety assessment not only for the Space Shuttle, but Agencywide, will augment the capabilities of NASA's Safety and Mission Assurance Enterprise, and will perform tests and analysis in support of special reviews by the newly reconstituted Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel. risks in FY 2004-2005, but will also inhibit our ability to enhance research capabilities beyond a crew of three.

Hubble Space Telescope

After much deliberation and consultation with Shuttle experts regarding safety and risk considerations, I recently made the difficult decision to cancel the final Hubble Servicing Mission (SM4). The decision had to balance the world-class science that HST has produced, and would continue to produce, against the risks and complexity of preparing two Shuttle missions in support of HST and unproven rescue techniques. This decision was not made with regard to budget considerations or any question as to the significance of the science return of the HST, but rather was based on our assessment of what NASA must do to comply with the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board for developing on-orbit inspection, repair, and contingency rescue requirements for every Shuttle flight.

SM4 would have been the sole remaining Shuttle flight not directed to the ISS. Thus, in addition to developing the procedures, technologies, and tools necessary to comply with the Columbia Accident Investigation Board recommendations for missions to the ISS, NASA would have needed to develop a unique set of procedures, technologies, and tools for SM4 because of its unique orbital inclination. In addition, a second Shuttle orbiter would have been required to be ready on the launch pad to take off in the event of a problem preventing the safe return of the SM4 orbiter. Developing these new and unique items and procedures poses a set of risks and increased complexity that would have been significant. While inspection, repair, and contingency preparations are also required for missions to the ISS, those missions provide significantly more time and options to deal with any problems due to the greater capabilities of the ISS.

Given the uncertainties of the schedule for Return to Flight, the earliest that an SM4 mission could have been launched was June 2006. Presently, the Return to Flight planning launch window is March 6-April 15, 2005, which further extends the earliest date for an SM4 mission into spring 2007. This new timeframe could easily be beyond a point where HST servicing may be useful. No astronaut crew has been assigned to an SM4 mission, and training would not begin in earnest until 18 months prior to the mission, or no earlier than January 2005. Instead, we have elected to concentrate our energies on examining options to extend the operating life of Hubble, by modifying our procedures. On February 20, 2004, NASA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to industry and the university community seeking mission concepts and/or ideas for:

  • a robotic mission to capture and safely deorbit the HST sometime after end of science operations;
  • a robotic mission to capture and raise the HST to a long-term, safe orbit for storage;
  • various levels of robotic servicing missions, from missions as simple as one involving a spacecraft attaching to the HST to supply a long-term power source, to missions as complex as one involving robotic change-out of various HST systems, such as gyros and science instruments; and,
  • new operational concepts that would extend the life of HST.

Concepts in response to the RFI are due to NASA by March 20. NASA will review the proposed concepts over a period of one month, after which presentations by parties with the most promising concepts will be scheduled before the HST Project at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA is encouraged by preliminary assessments of alternative options for deploying instruments that would have been flown on an SM4 mission, and this assessment is ongoing. Funding is included in the FY 2005 NASA budget to accelerate technologies to extend the life of HST as long launch vehicle, thereby ensuring its continued contributions to science.

At the same time, we are examining the contracts supporting the HST program to determine the most effective actions to take over the course of the coming months, and undertaking detailed planning to provide for continuation of HST operations and research, termination of SM4, extension of mission life to the extent possible without SM4, and implementation of a robotic mission to retire the HST safely once it can no longer conduct world-class science. We are not abruptly terminating contracts for SM4 hardware items, but we are eliminating the requirement to perform certain tests (e.g; system-level vibration, acoustics), and all SM4 mission integration activities. As science instruments are delivered, we will fully document their performance and place them in storage, for potential use by other future missions. All work on HST-unique support equipment is being closed out. There are also several support contracts, which may be reduced as a result of SM4 cancellation. At the same time, we must accommodate the added work for extension of mission life and a robotic mission to retire or extend HST. We anticipate adjustments in a future FY 2004 Operating Plan update, consistent with these actions.

Gravity Probe-B

Since NASA's last update to the FY 2003 Operating Plan, the launch date for the Gravity Probe-B mission has been adjusted twice from the planned November 2003 launch date: once as a result of delaminations in the nozzles of the Delta II solid rocket motors, and again as a result of electrical problem in the Experiment Control Unit (ECU) on the GP-B spacecraft. Following replacement of the Delta II solid rocket motor and the ECU, the launch date was reset for April 17, 2004. This Operating Plan reflects funding adjustments in FY 2004, as well as the life cycle cost estimate for GP-B resulting from the necessary technical fixes and schedule modifications.

Education

NASA appreciates the recent enactment of the Workforce Flexibility Act (P.L. 108-201). This legislation allows us to implement the NASA Science and Technology Scholarship Program (STSP), which has been established to address the Agency's critical needs for highly qualified engineers, scientists and other technical personnel. The primary focus of the program is to recruit the best and brightest students by offering them competitive university and college scholarships in return for service to the Agency. NASA is currently developing an implementation plan for the STSP that will include a competitive process for awarding scholarships to students that is fully articulated with the hiring needs of NASA. Implementation of the STSP will begin in the upcoming academic year, and NASA will provide regular progress reports of the program to Congress.

Institutional Requirements

The initial FY 2004 Operating Plan represents an increase in funding for Corporate General and Administrative (G&A) activities for a number of Agency institutional requirements, including a series of Information Technology (IT) initiatives, new hires under the Human Capital Initiative, centralized Independent Verification and Validation activities, Space Architect planning activities which were previously funded by Aeronautics Technology, full-cost charges of corporate activities, orbital debris research, implementation of corrective actions in response to the findings from NASA's financial audit, and creation of the NESC.

New Vision

The President's Vision for U.S. Space Exploration establishes a fundamental goal to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program. In support of this goal, the United States will:

  • Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond;
  • Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;
  • Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, infrastructure both to explore and to support decisions about the decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and,
  • Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.

To accomplish these goals, NASA will, among other things:

  • Return the Space Shuttle to flight consistent with safety concerns and the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board; the Shuttle's sole purpose over the next several years will be to finish assembly of the Space Station, and the Space Shuttle will be phased out following assembly, as planned, by the end of this decade after nearly 30 years of service;
  • Focus U.S. research and use of the ISS on supporting space exploration goals, with emphasis on understanding how the space environment affects astronaut health and capabilities and developing countermeasures;
  • Begin developing a new manned exploration vehicle to explore beyond our orbit to other worlds; the Crew Exploration Vehicle--Project Constellation--will be tested by 2008 and will conduct its first manned mission no later than 2014; and,
  • Undertake a series of robotic missions to the Moon, Mars and other destinations across the solar system.

The President's Commission to advise on implementing the exploration vision has begun its deliberations, and this Operating Plan provides support for that 4-month activity.

NASA is in the process of examining potential steps that may be undertaken in FY 2004 to position the Agency to most effectively implement the Vision for U.S. Space Exploration. NASA's Biological and Physical Research (BPR) Enterprise has begun a systematic review of the ISS research portfolio with the objective of realigning ISS research to exploration-focused “product lines.” Following an internal review, the BPR Enterprise will seek out advice and consultation from representatives of the community through the advisory committee mechanisms. The newly established Exploration Systems Enterprise is establishing an orderly transition from the ongoing Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program to the new Crew Exploration Vehicle program, including a 3- month extension of current OSP contracts to capture managerial and technical lessons learned, cancellation of future OSP Requests for Proposals (RFPs), and open solicitations for trade study analysis and technology development. The Exploration Systems Enterprise is also undertaking transitional activities in the Next Generation Launch Technology (NGLT) program, which will not be continued in the FY 2005 budget. The NGLT transition includes closeout activities on the RS-84 engine and reviews of NGLT support contracts for applicability to other Enterprise programs. The Exploration Systems Enterprise is also reviewing Mission and Science Measurement research capabilities and planning for realignment with the exploration vision. Adjustments for all of these efforts are anticipated in the next update to the FY 2004 Operating Plan.

I look forward to working with the Committee on the implementation of NASA's initial

FY 2004 Operating Plan.

Cordially,

Sean O'Keefe
Administrator

6 Enclosures

Full operating plan and all appendices (PDF)

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