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Van KaneAugust 30, 2013

Finally, an FY13 NASA Planetary Budget, Just 11 Months Late

Just a month before the end of Fiscal Year 2013 (September 30), Space Policy Online has released the final resolution of NASA’s FY13 budget. The final budget figures were not released by the government but were supplied following a request by Space Policy Online. The final figures for the Planetary Science program still reflect a substantial cut from the previous year but are much better than the proposed budget for FY13.

The FY13 budget approval was especially messy this year because Congress failed to pass a final budget until last spring (around six months late). The budget was then automatically cut through a process known as the Sequester. The Administration then reportedly proposed larger cuts to the planetary program to spare other parts of the NASA budget the effects of the Sequester. Congress reportedly rejected that division of cuts, resulting in negotiations and the final budget supplied to Space Policy Online.

News reports have also discussed other impacts – some potentially serious – that may eventually result from the continuing cuts to NASA’s Planetary Science budget. I summarize these following the table of numbers. 

Planetary Science Budgets 

$1501.4M – FY12 approved 

$1,192.3M – FY13 Administration proposed budget 

$1,415.0M – FY13 Congressionally approved budget, pre Sequester 

$1196.0M – FY13 reported proposed Administration budget following Sequester 

$1271.5M – FY13 final budget per Space Policy Online post Sequester 

In a nutshell, the final budget represents a substantial cut compared to the previous year (FY12) and compared to what was approved by Congress. The final budget approximately splits the difference between the Administration's proposed budget and Congress’ approved budgets. 

The disagreement over the level of the Planetary Science budget looks to continue for the next year, too. The Administration requested $1,217.5M for FY14, while the House and Senate have approved $1,315.0M and $1,317.6M, respectively for next year. 

Space Policy Online does not provide any detail on spending within the Planetary Science program. Important details would be the level of funding for the Discovery and New Frontiers programs, which would indicate when the selection of the next missions in the programs could begin. We also don't know at what level studies of a future Europa mission are funded. 

In the meantime, Space News has provided a steady trickle of the effects of the declining Planetary Science budget over the last couple of months: 

Read more: FY2014 NASA Budget

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