One of the great benefits of my newly full-time focus on space advocacy (thank you, donors!) is that I can really commit time to following the process of how NASA gets funded. This includes being able to react, reach out, and educate people about individual amendments that try to take money from NASA and shift it to other federal programs during the budgeting process.
Last week, before the House voted to approve an increase to NASA's budget, the floor debate on the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill saw four amendments proposed by three members of Congress that would have taken money from NASA and applied it to other programs. From Marcia Smith at Space Policy Online, they were:
- Kildee (D-MI), H.Amdt. 693, reduce NASA's Exploration account by $10 million and shift the funds to the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center: defeated by voice vote.
- Kildee (D-MI), H.Amdt. 720, reduce NASA's Exploration account by $15 million and shift the funds to Violent Crime Reduction Partnership Program: defeated by voice vote.
- Cicilline (D-RI), H.Amdt. 727, reduce NASA's Construction account by $8.5 million and shift the funds to Safe Neighborhoods Program (crime prevention): defeated 196-212.
- Kilmer (D-WA), H.Amdt. 728, reduce NASA's Aeronautics account by $2 million and shift the funds to Economic High Tech and Cyber Crime Prevention Program: defeated by voice vote.
None of these amendments passed, though the vote on H.Amdt. 727 was pretty close (see how your Representative voted, the yeas take money away from NASA).
And look, these other programs deserve support, and I doubt that these representatives are necessarily out to "get" NASA, but the space program should not be used as a piggy bank for unrelated programs. Not only is NASA struggling to reach its congressionally-mandated goals, but it serves as one of the very few long-term investments made by our government. It energizes private industry partners, seeds future scientists, and generally makes the world a better place. It's optimistic. It's peaceful. It gives us something to strive for. We need to preserve these gains when we get them and resist any cuts to NASA, no matter how small.
To that end, we faxed letters to the local and national offices of each Congressman asking them to support the space program in the future. We also sent an email to Planetary Society members in each of their districts informing them about the attempt to shift funds away from the space program. By providing information and shedding light on the whole process, we will hopefully see less of this in the future.