NASA needs dough to rise

 - March 22, 2007, 9:35 AM

The first “A” in NASA stands for “aeronautics,” a fact often overlooked in day-to-day discussions of and references to what most people regard solely as the “space” agency.

But when the head of the Aerospace Industry Association (AIA) calls on Congress to fully fund President Bush’s proposed Fiscal Year 2005 budget for NASA, the remainder of the aviation industry should take heed: NASA plans to close the shortfall through internal budget reallocations.

Early last month, AIA president and CEO John Douglass urged Congress to support the Bush Administration’s $16.2 billion plan for the agency, which is more than $2 billion more than the White House’s budget request for the FAA.

Douglass expressed concern that reducing the NASA budget will jeopardize the nation’s New Vision for Space Exploration, as well as aeronautics research and development. As a result of recent action by the House Appropriations Committee, he said, NASA faces a cut of approximately $1.1 billion below the President’s request.

Because NASA plans to close this shortfall through internal budget reallocations, the agency will have approximately $2 billion less for space and aeronautics programs than proposed by the President.

“The bottom line,” said Douglass, “is that the U.S. space program is already under funded in its first year of implementing the new national space vision. If the money requested by the President is not restored, NASA will be forced once again into an internal financial crisis that will undermine our national goals.”

Douglass said AIA will work with Congress and NASA to ensure adequate funding for the critical agency mission of safely returning the shuttle to flight and bolstering the recommendations by the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry to transform the U.S. air transportation system.