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NASA Budget, Funding for Artemis Program Are Precarious, Require Big Fight

Oct. 3, 2019 (EIRNS)—To clarify the complex situation with NASA’s FY20 budget, which fiscal year began Oct. 1:

On May 13, the White House submitted to Congress an amendment to the FY20 NASA budget request it had submitted in March. The amendment sought an additional $1.6 billion to NASA’s exploration account, with $1 billion to develop the lunar lander in the Artemis program.

On May 16, the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill for NASA’s FY20 budget that increased funding for the SLS and Orion, but did not include any money for the Artemis program. Meanwhile, unable to finish the FY20 budget bills, the Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), which goes until Nov. 21 and funds the government at the FY19 level. In the past, NASA has been able to get an exemption from the CR and get a funding increase, which Administrator Jim Bridenstine hoped would get NASA the increase it had asked for: That did not happen.

On Sept. 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a NASA FY20 funding bill that gives NASA increases for SLS and Orion, and includes $744.1 million for a lunar lander. Bridenstine has said that NASA could keep the program on schedule with this Senate mark-up for half the requested amount, but that the agency has to get the full $1.6 billion by Jan. 1, 2020, when one would hope budget bills would pass both the House and Senate.

With the House mark-up of zero for Artemis and the Senate at $744 million, there will be a conference committee of both sides to work out a compromise. Even if they agree to go with the Senate amount, that is still half of what NASA needs.

On Sept. 30, NASA went ahead and issued a call for proposals for the human lunar lander. They are betting that they will have the funds from Congress to move ahead.

The Congress is in recess until Oct. 14. The Senate Appropriations Committee staff thinks the bills could be voted on by the full Senate at the end of October. Amendments could be added at that time.

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