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Administration Budget Short-Changes Space Programs: Think Tank

By | February 5, 2007

      The Bush administration budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, is a stand-pat document instead of providing needed gains in financial support, the Space Foundation stated.

      Elliot G. Pulham, foundation president and CEO, said the budget should be doing far more to support NASA and other space-related agencies.

      On the one hand, Pulham concedes that with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq chewing up huge sums, it is understandable that fiscal times are tight. In that sense, he said, President Bush did a fair job of attempting to continue support for the many space programs.

      “Given the many demands upon the U.S. federal budget, most notably for war costs, entitlement programs, and homeland security, it is admirable that the administration’s proposed [fiscal] 2008 budget preserves a modicum of funding for the nation’s space programs — civil, commercial and national security,” Pulham stated.

      “Unfortunately, as recent world events have shown, merely maintaining our current level of space capability is a flawed approach when placed in the context of emerging, competing, and even hostile space capabilities all over the world.”

      While Pulham didn’t provide examples, North Korea is developing a long-range missile capable of striking the United States while also detonating a nuclear device in an underground test; Iran is producing nuclear materials and test-fired a missile from a submerged submarine; and China shot down one of its own satellites, “painted” a U.S. military satellite with a ground-based laser, and surfaced a Chinese submarine within torpedo distance of a U.S. aircraft carrier.

      Meanwhile, Congress is weighing cuts to NASA funding in the current fiscal year 2007. (Please see full story in this issue.)

      “The nation can, and must, do more to ensure that NASA and NOAA continue to lead the world in space science and exploration; to ensure that U.S. commercial space companies have the support of government agencies like the FAA and the FCC; and to ensure that we re-invest in national security space systems to assure space superiority for the intelligence, defense and homeland security agencies charged with protecting U.S. citizens in a dangerous world,” Pulham asserted

      He noted that the foundation “continues to recommend a ‘1 percent solution’ to ensure our exploration and Earth observation capabilities are funded for success instead of for delay, program stretch-outs and failure,” he said.

      “This solution would set aside 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget for these programs, as compared to the current .7 percent,” he said. “We were greatly dismayed by the House of Representatives recent decision to roll back civil space funding to unacceptably low levels for [fiscal] 2007. We urge the Senate to reverse this dangerous retrenchment.”

      “And recognizing the nation’s dependence upon aging national security space systems, we strongly recommend more robust funding for new Department of Defense … Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office space programs. As the rest of the world develops and deploys its own space systems, it becomes more crucial that we make the necessary investments to protect our current space capabilities and to develop new systems that assure continued U.S. strength and leadership.”

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