Top Observations from NASA’s FY 2018 Budget Request

Published: May 24, 2017


The President’s full budget request was released on May 23, 2017. Amidst a slew of civilian agencies facing cuts, NASA slides by with relatively flat numbers.

The budget for the space agency sends the message to “keep going,” says NASA’s Acting Administrator, Robert Lightfoot, at a State of NASA Address upon release of the President’s full budget request.  In other words, NASA’s budget numbers remain consistent, more or less. The agency requests $19.1B in discretionary funding, a 2.7% decrease from enacted FY 2017 numbers. In fact, the budget lists an outlook to 2022 showing completely flat numbers for the next five years. As the Administrator notes, given the long-term programs that NASA houses, continuity of purpose is a difficult task in the budget environment. Nonetheless, bipartisan support has allowed NASA to overcome this obstacle.

NASA’s budget is divided into the following six pockets of categories: Science, Human Exploration and Operations, Space Technology, Aeronautics Research, Education, and Safety, Security and Mission Services and Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration. It is in this last category that an increase of $197M is seen while most of the others face 1-6% decreases (excluding Education) from FY2017 numbers. An estimated 45% of the budget resides in the Human Exploration and Operations space with a $8.6B request followed by Science with $5.7B in funding.

Lightfoot states that the budget is in line with NASA’s three core missions – discover, explore and develop. Below are observations seen within the budget, particularly in Agency IT Services numbers:

  • Earth science numbers have decreased to $1.7B and five Earth science missions terminated: PACE, RBI, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, CLARREO Pathfinder. RBI was added to the list of dismissed programs after the skinny budget was released. The termination of these programs foresees a $191M savings.
  • Development for deep space missions continues with funding for the Orion Crew Vehicle and SLS Rocket. Orion will receive $1.1B while SLS will be allotted $1.9B, marking 12% and 10% decreases from FY 2017 respectively.
  • $2.4B total is budgeted for space transportation to continue commercial development of U.S. crew transportation systems that support the International Space Station (ISS).
  • $678M requested for Space Technology to encourage continued public-private partnerships in finding innovative space technologies. SBIR and STTR programs will receive $180M to support this space as well.
  • The award for the design and build of the first Low Boom Flight Demonstrator X-Plane is supported to heighten improvements in aeronautics with a total of $72M requested in FY 2018.
  • The Office of Education is eliminated with $37M provided for close out costs, a 63% cut in appropriations for this category. NASA will continue other education programs throughout the agency under the Science Mission Directorate.
  • An additional $135M is granted under the Construction & Environmental Compliance and Restoration to fund critical infrastructure and repair projects including, $90M in modifications to the Exploration Upper State at Kennedy Space Center, $115M to improve NASA’s Deep Space Network and $15M to the Modular Supercomputing Facility at Ames Research Center.
  • The Agency IT Services Fund provides an additional $34M with a total budget of $278M in order to bolster cybersecurity and IT management efforts:
    • $32M increase used to speed up personal identity verification (PIV) compliance, mature the Security Operations Center (SOC) capabilities and improve overall detection and response to threatening activity.
    • $14M requested to ensure that the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) is effectively implemented at NASA in FY 2018 in licensing, PIV solutions and deployment and management of CDM on mission networks.  
    • $20M more dedicated to the IT Investment Fund (ITIF) to implement FITARA regulations and other cybersecurity initiatives.