Friday, December 28, 2007

2008 NASA Budget Under the Microscope

Space Politics has an interesting post and comment discussion reviewing NASA's 2008 budget. As I mentioned earlier, Centennial Challenges is again not funded at all. I'm not sure if the will is there to correct that problem next year. Centennial Challenges is mentioned in one of the comments to the Space Politics post:

Of important note are the site-specific earmarks in the bill. I counted 81 such earmarks totalling over $83 million. A PDF of the bill is here:

The earmarks start on page 118 in the PDF (page 113 in the document).

It’s really hard to see the NASA connection in many of these earmarks. Some would appear to belong to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and even the Department of Health and Human Services. Here’s a sample:

... here the comment includes a long list of earmarks - but only a small fraction of the actual list - any of which would have been able to kick off at least one new Centennial Challenge ...

It’s very sad that Congress is willing to levy $83 million worth of uncompeted, low-return, and often non-relevant activities on NASA, but can’t find a lousy $4 million to expand and improve the number of highly competitive, high-return, highly relevant technology inducement prizes in the Centennial Challenges program, or $78 million to fully fund innovative, high-leverage, government/industry COTS partnerships that are proving to be critical to covering the “gap”.

This is only part of one comment in an interesting discussion on the budget that so far concentrates on the NASA COTS and Constellation funding problems.

I encourage you to check out the full Space Politics discussion, and also the budget document. To make the budget document fun, see which earmarks you'd like to replace with a Centennial Challenge or some other preference. The budget document includes the dollar amounts and descriptions for the various earmarks. For comparison, the Centennial Challenges program was looking for a modest $4M this year, and individual Centennial Challenge prize competitions so far have been in the ballpark of $1M (varying from prize to prize, and changing from year to year for most prizes).