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Obama’s Budget Request Slams Fusion and NASA, Again

Feb. 9, 2016 (EIRNS)—The release, today, of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2017 funding requests (in the overall FY17 $4 trillion Federal budget plan) for the fusion and space programs, holds no surprises—funding is cut for both programs. For years, the White House has been at odds with the Congress over space policy, and has proposed funding for fusion research with the advice that American scientists do their research on other nation’s devices.

The request for magnetic fusion research is $398.178 million, from a Congressionally-appropriated level for FY 16 of $438 million—a 9.1% cut. No funding is provided for MIT’s Alcator C-Mod tokamak, with the scientists encouraged to work instead on General Atomics DIII-D reactor (at the other end of the country, in California), and "engage in collaborations with international laboratories." What the budget describes as "continued support" for ITER, is a request for $125 million, which had been at the minimally-necessary $150 million level until last year.

For NASA, if the budget is not substantially increasing, either no new projects will be started, or on-going programs will be cut. The Administration’s NASA budget request is for $19 billion, down from the FY 16 congressional enactment of $19.3 billion. Each year, the Administration proposes to cut programs or delay them, and the Congress angrily restores some of the funding. The planetary science programs are again cut, this year by $112 million, to a level of $1.519 billion. The InSight Mars lander, which has been delayed by a European equipment problem, may not even be continued, if the money is not found to store it until launch.

What will get a loud response from Capitol Hill is the proposed cut of 17% in the exploration programs, which include the Space Launch System rocket, and the Orion crew capsule. At the budget briefing this afternoon with NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski, it was pointed out by a reporter that this is lowest exploration budget since 2008. At the funding level the Administration has proposed, advanced testing of the Orion vehicle would be delayed by two years, to 2023. But Radzanowksi assured the press that the Congress would add money to keep it on schedule!

For years, NASA Administrator Bolden has not been at headquarters to brief the press on the budget release. Today, he was AWOL at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where he delivered his "State of the Agency" report. He repeatedly stated, "the state of our NASA is strong."

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