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Europa-bound. A congressional spending panel wants to give NASA $100 million to plan a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa.

Europa-bound. A congressional spending panel wants to give NASA $100 million to plan a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa.

NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

House Spending Panel Backs NSF, NASA Science

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA science programs would receive favorable treatment in a 2015 budget bill drafted by a House of Representatives spending panel. Despite an overall cut of 1% in the overall allocation to the House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee, legislators are proposing a 3.3% boost for NSF, to $7.4 billion, and a 1% hike to NASA science programs, to nearly $5.2 billion. Those increases compare with a 1.2% increase requested by President Barack Obama for NSF and a 3.8% cut for NASA science. But the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would get less than the White House had requested.

“This legislation reduces discretionary spending while continuing to preserve core priorities such as job creation, fighting crime, gangs, terrorism and human trafficking, bolstering cybersecurity, and boosting U.S. competitiveness through smart investments in science and space exploration," said CJS subcommittee Chair Frank Wolf in a press statement today. The panel will meet tomorrow to vote on the spending levels.

The legislation is one of 12 appropriations bills that Republican leaders hope the entire House of Representatives will adopt by the July recess. The Democrat-led Senate hopes to do its part as well, although most Washington observers expect Congress to extend current spending levels into the 2015 fiscal year, which begins on 1 October, and then take up a permanent spending bill after the November elections.

Within NSF, the CJS bill would boost NSF’s research portfolio by 2.9% over current spending levels, to $5.98 billion. In contrast, the administration requested flat funding for research. Legislators would allocate $31 million more for education programs, to $876 million. That’s a $14 million drop from the administration’s request for $890 million. New construction would be funded at the requested and current level, which is $200 million. NSF would also get a $37 million boost in operating expenses, most of which would go toward preparing for its 2017 move to new headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

The NASA request for science includes $100 million to continue planning a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, well above the White House’s $15 million request. As in previous spending bills, it would also cap the overall cost of building the James Webb Space Telescope at $8 billion.

Core research programs at NIST would get $671.5 million, an increase of $20.5 million, or 3.1%, over 2014 levels. But that is $8.5 million less than the $680 million the White House had requested. Overall, the House panel would give NIST a $5.8 million increase to $856 million, about $44 million below the president’s request.

At NOAA, the House panel would hold spending flat at about $5.3 billion, below the administration’s $5.5 billion request. The bill provides few details, but according to a committee press statement, the bill would give NOAA’s weather programs more than the White House request, while “denying proposed cuts to hurricane forecasting and tsunami warning grants.”