Obama Asks Congress to Shift $100M from NASA for Job Initiatives
U.S. President Barack Obama speaking at NASA Kennedy Space Center.
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

WASHINGTON — NASA stands to lose $100 million under an amended budget request U.S. President Barack Obama sent to Congress June 18.

The money, a small part of the roughly $19 billion NASA could receive under the 2011 budget request Obama sent to Congress in February, would instead go to the Departments of Commerce and Labor for initiatives aimed at helping Florida and other states bracing for job losses associated with the end of the space shuttle program.

"This request would fund an initiative to develop a plan to spur regional economic growth and job creation along the Florida Space Coast and other affected regions in furtherance of my Administration's bold new course for human space flight, which revitalizes NASA and transitions to new opportunities in the space industry and beyond," Obama wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a June 18 letter detailing a number of changes to his 2011 budget request. A copy of the letter was obtained by Space News.

In April, Obama pledged $40 million to NASA's largely Florida-based space shuttle work force transition to new jobs. He appointed a task force led by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to decide how best to spend the money. Bolden told Congress in April that the $40 million would come from $1.9 billion NASA was requesting in 2011 to cover costs associated with terminating agency's Moon-focused Constellation program, a 5-year-old effort to replace the space shuttle with new rockets and spacecraft optimized for lunar missions.

Under Obama's newly revised spending proposal, $100 million of the $4.26 billion originally requested for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate next year would go to the Commerce and Labor departments. Specifically, some $30 million would be moved to the Commerce Department for "economic development assistance programs" aimed at helping the area around NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida while another $45 million would be used for "other areas affected by job losses" resulting from the proposed cancellation of the Constellation program. The Labor Department, meanwhile, would get $10 million for Florida-based work force initiatives and $15 million to promote job growth in other parts of the country expected to suffer post-shuttle economic hardship.

NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said in a June 18 statement the space agency "is pleased the president has targeted additional support from his fiscal year 2011 budget request to help the communities and workers around the U.S. most deeply involved in our space program meet the challenges of tomorrow.

"Our workforce is incredibly talented and dedicated, and we are committed to equipping them with the tools they need to contribute to new developments in our nation's space program and related industries," Cabbage continued. "This $100 million investment in our people is essential to spurring regional economic growth and job creation."