Space Spending Splurge

The FY19 NASA budget recently advanced in both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The Committees provide robust increases for FY19 above NASA’s budget request and FY18 enacted. The House Appropriations Committee bill funds NASA at $21.5 billion, which is an $810 million increase over FY18 and a $1.7 billion increase over the Trump budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee bill includes $21.3 billion for NASA (+$0.6 billion above FY18 and +$1.4 billion above Trump). 

Chart I shows additional detail for the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) and Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) actions.


The committee bills focus most of their increases on science and exploration. For the Science account, the $786 million HAC increase over Trump includes Planetary Science (+$524 million, +24%), Astrophysics (+$148 million, +17%), and Earth Science (+$116 million, +6%). Within Planetary Science, the Outer Planets and Ocean Worlds line item receives a large increase (+$475 million, +166%) to support Jupiter Europa missions. 

SAC increases Science by $179 million above FY18 and $505 million above the Trump request, including $352 million for the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which was proposed to be terminated in the budget. HAC funds WFIRST at $150 million.

In both bills, exploration funding includes $1.35 billion (+$186 million, +16%, over Trump) for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $2.15 billion (+$72 million, +3%, over Trump) for the Space Launch System. 

HAC maintains Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration at the FY18 enacted level, to “enable NASA to modernize critical assets, improve mission assurance, reduce mission risk, and maintain mission essential capabilities.” SAC funds this account at the President’s requested level, $174 million below FY18.

The Safety, Security and Mission Services account funds the technical and business operations that support NASA’s mission. Included within this line item is Agency IT Services (AITS), which the Trump budget funds at $238 million ($18 million for IT management, and $220 million for enterprise IT). Funds would “strengthen cybersecurity capabilities and safeguard critical systems and data.” The HAC bill increases Safety, Security and Mission Services by $100 million (+3.6%) over the Trump request, but it does not specify how the increase should be allocated. AITS could benefit from some of this increase. 

SAC notes that it is “extremely concerned” about Inspector General (IG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports on NASA IT security. The Committee directs NASA to submit, no later than 30 days after enactment of the bill, its plans to implement the IG and GAO recommendations to improve security.

Both HAC and SAC seek increased oversight of NASA’s cloud computing activities. HAC requires NASA to submit a report within 120 days of enactment of the bill describing NASA’s use of cloud computing services. The Committee is interested in how cloud computing has enhanced services, the use of hybrid cloud technologies, and NASA’s plans for expanding cloud computing. Within the Science account, SAC directs NASA to report within 90 days on the expansion of cloud computing within the Science Mission Directorate.

[Science Mission Directorate’s] cloud computing engagements have delivered rapid and measurable capability gains, along with significant cost savings.

Senate FY19 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Committee Report