NASA reauthorization not likely to make major policy changes

By Jeff Foust on 2013 February 8 at 7:22 am ET

Key members of Congress and their staffs indicated this week that reauthorization of NASA is one of their priorities for the coming year. However, in comments at FAA’s annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, they indicated that these efforts would be more along the lines of adjustments to existing policies than major revisions of them.

A NASA reauthorization bill has been a priority for members of both the House Science Committee and Senate Commerce Committee for some time, as the most recent NASA authorization act, passed in 2010, runs through fiscal year 2013. A key challenge, though, will be reconciling goals for the agency laid out in the authorization with available money, particularly as funding has fallen far short of authorized levels in 2012 and likely again in 2013. “Even in a constrained fiscal environment,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, “I believe it’s possible to cement an authorization” that can be funded.

That mismatch between authorization and appropriations—appropriations for fiscal year 2013 will fall far short of the $19.96 billion authorized for NASA in the 2010 act—will be a key challenge in the next authorization bill. “We realize that the appropriation has not kept pace with the authorization overall, making the next authorization much more of a challenge,” said Ann Zulkosky, senior professional staff on the Senate Commerce Committee, during a panel at the FAA conference Wednesday.

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