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A Minor 55 Million Dollar Accounting Error Highlights NASA Budgeting Processes

As stated, no one caught this blunder before the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Committee passed the new NASA budget on June 28. It is now scheduled for a vote by the full Senate in the next few days. Presumably the Senate will have to clean this mistake up before the coming House-Senate conference at which the two houses' different recommended NASA Fiscal Year 2008 budgets will be resolved.
by Bruce Moomaw
Cameron Park CA (SPX) Jul 10, 2007
An examination of the official report of the Fiscal Year 2008 budget for NASA ordered by the US Senate's Appropriations Committee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies reveals something extraordinary: a $55 million miscalculation that no one on the Committee caught before they passed it. NASA (and the White House) had originally requested $1.497 billion for NASA's Earth Sciences Division.

The Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Committee's official report of its recommended NASA budget -- which can be found in Senate Report # 110-124 (pg. 101 to 116) -- instead lists it (on pg.105) as recommending a total of $1.635 billion, an increase of fully $138 million. But the Committee's figures for the various subdivisions of the Earth Sciences budget add up to only $1.580 billion.

The reason is confusion over the status of the "Applied Sciences Program" portion of the Earth Sciences budget. NASA had originally requested $40.3 million for this program, along with a separate $428.5 million for its "Earth Science Research Program". The Committee decided to raise the Applied Sciences funding by $15 million, which "shall only be used to support new competitively selected applications projects to be selected during fiscal year 2008.

These projects will integrate the results of NASA's Earth observing systems and earth system models (using observations and predictions) into decision support tools to serve applications of national priority including, but not limited to: Homeland Security; Coastal Management; Agriculture Efficiency; and Water Management and Disaster Management." (pg. 108)

However, the Committee then mistakenly counted its new $55.3 million funding for Applied Earth Sciences twice. It includes it in its $524.09 million total recommendation for "Earth Science Research" (which otherwise would equal only $468.81 million, including other increases of $40.3 million by the Senate). But it also counts it again separately from the Earth Science Research Program (as NASA had originally desired) in that total $1.635 billion Earth Sciences Division budget.

As stated, no one caught this blunder before the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Committee passed the new NASA budget on June 28. It is now scheduled for a vote by the full Senate in the next few days. Presumably the Senate will have to clean this mistake up before the coming House-Senate conference at which the two houses' different recommended NASA Fiscal Year 2008 budgets will be resolved.

Until then, it remains uncertain just how much of an increase in NASA's Earth Sciences budget the Senate Appropriations Committee actually ordered -- $138 million, or only $83 million. This is not exactly encouraging news where Congress' reputation as the custodian of NASA's budget is concerned.

REFERENCES:
NASA's Fiscal Year 2008 budget request: - (pg. 27)

Senate Report 110-124: "Departments Of Commerce And Justice, Science, And Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2008" (June 29, 2007): - (pg. 105 and 108)

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Ceres As An Abode Of Life
Cameron Park (SPX) Jul 02, 2007
As the "Dawn" mission -- the first attempt to explore truly large asteroids -- moves, somewhat uncertainly, toward its hoped-for July 7 launch, we're still finding out new details about its mission. The mission's principal Investigator, C.T. Russell, outlined two of them to SpaceDaily in a recent interview.







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