Sen. Tom Coburn’s deficit reduction plan cuts the notional NASA budget by $51 billion over a decade. How about this as a tone-setter?
NASA’s lack of focus is evident in its budget and many of the projects it funds.
Of course, the proposal isn’t just tone. There are numbers as well.
NASA’s total budget for 2011 is nearly $18.5 billion. Only a third of that ($6.031 billion) will be spent by the Space Operations and Aeronautics accounts. The bulk of NASA’s budget ($12.417 billion) will be spent on other accounts, such as education, cross-agency support, construction and environmental compliance and restoration.
There are also proposed DoD cuts and they are larger by an order of magnitude (and then, times two). The total is a Ron Paul – Barney Frank – Alan Simpson – Erskine Bowles-like $1 trillion in proposed defense cuts. As the takes pertain to space:
Precision Tracking Space System Program
Savings: $7.5 billion
Terminating the Missile Defense Agency‘s Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS) would save $7.5 billion over the next ten years. According to the CBO, the plan to build a constellation of six to twelve satellites for the purpose of detecting enemy missiles may not be a cost-effective use of funds given the Air Force‘s and Missile Defense Agency‘s existing ability to track missiles with both surface and space-based assets.
Then there’s this:
Reduce Nuclear Weapons Force Structure ($79 billion)
This option would reduce the size of the nuclear weapon stockpile to levels within the START treaty limits and make the following changes:
Reduce the size of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) force from 500 to 300.
Maintain a 1,100 nuclear weapon reserve.
Reduce the size of the ballistic nuclear submarine fleet from 14 to 11.
Maintain 40 strategic bombers and delay the purchase of new bombers until the mid-2020s.
One of Sen. Coburn’s themes is clearly to move federal spending out of the Cold War model. So beyond the changes to the nuclear deterrent force, he specifically mentions cuts to NASA’s 80-plus ‘outreach’ and education programs (many of which “have little to do with space”) as well as the $1.7 billion that DoD is planning to spend on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to elementary-age school kids.
When did NASA come into existence? 1958. When did the DoD education effort start? It was first in the The National Defense Education Act, passed in 1958.
Think our national ‘Sputnik moment’ had anything to do with this?
But, but, but…it’s for the children!
Today the Department of Defense operates over 100 distinct programs to encourage students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). These are in addition to 207 other federal programs at other federal agencies.
DoD to NASA: anything you can do, I can do bigger.
NASA to DoD: perhaps, but we have a different primary mission, that of Muslim outreach.