Sequestration to Squash Commercial Crew?

By Jason Rhian

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — A lot has been said about “Sequestration”, which begins on March 1. And there has been some coverage about the effects of sequestration on NASA’s budget. But enough has not been said about what impact sequestration will have on NASA’s space efforts. A review highlights the impacts as well as the positive aspects of the impending budget cuts. In short, the science and construction budgets for NASA are cut, but not severely. NASA’s current commercial crew program, CCiCap, will see a substantial cut of roughly 25%. By end of April or early May, just less than three months months, CCiCap could be out of money.

On February 5, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden outlined the effects of sequestration upon NASA’s budget in a letter to Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski. After reading Administrator Bolden’s letter, the first thing to note about sequestration is that NASA’s Exploration budget, which includes the “Human Exploration Capabilities” and “Commercial Spaceflight” budgets, will only see a modest cut. “Human Exploration Capabilities,” which is the Orion and SLS programs, will be for the most part unaffected by sequestration. During a briefing held to discuss the future of the space agency’s human space exploration initiatives, AmericaSpace asked NASA’s Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Dan Dumbacher about what impact sequestration would have on NASA,

“Sequestration will not affect SLS or Orion immediately; we are working to the schedule. Sequestration, as we currently understand, will affect NASA to the tune of about a 5 percent hit. We’ve worked very hard to work that into the programs, to plan for it, prepare for it … there will be some impacts, as you mentioned, that will occur across the agency. But in terms of SLS and Orion, we’re working to hold schedule at least for the near term and minimize those impacts that do occur.”

The 5 percent cut in NASA’s budget due to sequestration falls heavily on the Agency’s Construction and Environmental Compliance (CECR), Science, and Commercial Crew programs. NASA has been working to modernize many of its facilities. Sequestration will see these efforts cut from the president’s proposed budget of $619.2 billion to $367.5 billion. The agency’s Science budget will drop from the president’s proposed $4.91 billion to $4.86 billion. Of all of the efforts within NASA affected by sequestration, it is Commercial Crew that receives the deepest cuts. It bears mentioning that the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees with NASA oversight had only approved roughly $5-$5.1 billion for Science and $598-$679 million for Construction for fiscal year 2013.

President Obama had requested $830 million for 2013 to enable private companies to assume the responsibility of sending crew (and cargo) to low-Earth orbit destinations, mainly the International Space Station. House and Senate appropriators had appropriated $500-$525 million for commercial crew. With sequestration, the Commercial Crew Program budget declines to $388.1 million. This dramatic cut will have a sizable effect upon efforts by NASA to promote commercial crew development.

Read more: Sequestration to Squash Commercial Crew? « AmericaSpace.

Home           Top of page