WASHINGTON – The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would cut almost $1 billion in NASA funding, including $267 million for the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said the proposed cuts would lead to the loss of 2,500 National Aeronautic and Space Administration jobs, about half of those from Goddard and the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
“If these cuts are maintained, the region stands to lose nearly $1 billion over the next five years,” Hoyer said.
Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, joined Hoyer Wednesday in opposing the NASA cuts, which she said would affect several high-tech projects at area universities, including the Deep Impact project of the University of Maryland.
But aides to Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., the bill’s sponsor, said there is only so much money to go around and if NASA is not cut, some other agency would have to have its budget reduced.
The NASA cuts are part of an appropriations bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies. The bill, which is expected to come to a vote Thursday, cuts NASA’s budget from $13.57 billion this year to $12.65 billion in fiscal 2000.
Fred Hawkins, president of the Goddard Alliance, said Thursday that NASA’s budget had dropped by half over the past seven years. The new cuts, he said, would “devastate NASA.”
Walsh, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies, would not comment specifically on the NASA cuts. Aides would only said Thursday that Walsh is confident it will pass.
Goddard, in Prince George’s County, is NASA’s main site for Earth science research and houses the Hubble Space Telescope Control Center, which has been critical to important discoveries on things from ozone mapping to volcanic eruptions.
The biggest cuts at Goddard would be to its space science funding, which would lose $94 million, and Earth science funding, which would be cut by $137 million.
Opponents say the bill cuts $50 million from the Earth Observing Satellites program, which gathers data on urban sprawl, rainfall, ozone depletion and seismic activity. They said it will also lead to a cancellation of the Triana Satellite Mission that will provide a view of the Earth for distribution over the Internet using a high-tech weather-monitoring instrument.
Hoyer said the NASA cuts are being made to fund the Republicans’ “huge, risky tax-cut scheme of nearly $1 trillion over 10 years” by “slashing away at science, research and technology programs.”
In addition to Hoyer and Morella, Democratic Reps. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Ken Bentsen, Ralph Hall and Sheila Jackson Lee, all of Texas, spoke out against the NASA cuts Wednesday.
Jackson Lee said the cuts would affect the International Space Station. “It is key that we look at the space station as a key to progress,” she said, adding that the VA/HUD bill would “create more havoc than Star Wars.”
She said the sponsors of the bill also had no “reasonable explanation” of why they were cutting funds from NASA.