Space Exploration Outperforms Earth Science In FY 2019 President’s Budget Request

2018-03-13T14:11:34+00:00 March 13, 2018|

What It Was

The House Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space held a hearing, “An Overview of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Budget for Fiscal Year 2019.”

Why It Matters

Understanding the ocean, weather, and climate is vital to our country’s national and economic security, as well as the safety of all Americans. While most people recognize the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for its role in space exploration, the agency also plays a key role in discovering and understanding our own planet.

Key Points

The president released his budget request in February, outlining administration priorities and suggested funding levels for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. The proposal, which takes into account a $300 million increase due to raised budget caps, outlines $19.9 billion for NASA (a 1.2 percent increase from the $19.7 billion enacted in FY 2017). Most of this was designated for space exploration in line with administration’s December 11, 2017 memo. NASA Earth Science would see only $1.78 billion (a 7.1 percent decrease from the $1.92 billion enacted in FY 2017).

Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot was encouraged by the president’s budget request, stating that it “places NASA at the forefront of a global effort to advance humanity’s future in space…and capacity for innovation and exploration.”

While there was bipartisan approval for the proposed increase, several members cautioned against the focus on human exploration rather than NASA’s full scientific portfolio, including education (the request would eliminate the Office of Education). Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-7) called into question the balance of programs at the agency, suggesting space exploration prioritization came “at the expense of a lot of other missions of NASA.”

Several members expressed concern over the proposed cancellation of six upcoming missions from the Astrophysics and Earth Science programs. Representative Ami Bera (CA-07) highlighted the proposed termination of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, the top priority large mission in the 2010 astrophysics decadal survey. “The decadal survey has served us well, and not looking at this scientific-based prioritization and moving away from that can certainly set a dangerous precedent,” he warned.

NASA is currently being run by Mr. Lightfoot, who is set to retire in April. Several Republican members expressed their disappointment with the delay in confirming the nominee for NASA Administrator, Representative Jim Bridenstine (OK-1). There has been bipartisan concern over his leadership and political ties.


“The [FY 2019] budget request continues to restore balance and support critical work across the entire science directorate [of NASA’s science portfolio].” – Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (TX-36)

“I consider exploration to be a core mission of NASA, but not the core mission of the agency…NASA has been and should continue to be a multi-mission agency with worthy initiatives in aeronautics, science, technology, and human spaceflight and exploration.” – Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)

“In the environment we work in, the resources that the agency needs in the long term, having a director nominated and confirmed by the United States Senate from the administration is critically important.” –Representative Frank Lucas (OK-3)

Next Steps

With the release of the administration’s budget request, the FY 2019 appropriations process begins in earnest. Congressional committees will hear from agency heads on the president’s request as they draft their own appropriations bills. To complicate matters, FY 2018 appropriations have not been completed, so committees are juggling two deadlines (the continuing resolution currently funding the government expires March 23, and FY 2019 begins October 1) and two fiscal years of federal funding.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

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