FIGURE 1.1 F-16XL SCAMP flow visualization test inside a wind tunnel. Aeronautics research is rarely linear, proceeding directly from simulation and modeling to wind tunnel testing to flight research. Often models and wind tunnel tests have to be validated by actual flight research. SOURCE: NASA Headquarters, Greatest Images of NASA; Photo GPN-2000-001935.
This period was marked by U.S. aerospace industry predominance. The agency and its predecessor conducted research across all areas of aeronautics research and development—from computer simulation and modeling to wind tunnel testing to flight testing.
During the past two decades, and particularly in the past decade, NASA’s aeronautics budget has shrunk substantially, from more than $1 billion in 2000 to approximately $570 million in 2010. As a percentage of the NASA budget, aeronautics research has declined from ~7 percent in 2000 to ~3 percent in 2010. (See Table 1.1 and Figures 1.2 and 1.3.)
As Table 1.1 demonstrates, the NASA aeronautics budget has shrunk by approximately 40 percent from 2006 to 2011.2 However, during this same period, the NASA aeronautics civil servant workforce dropped from 1,449 employees in 2006 to 1,371.5 in 2011, or approximately 4 percent (Table 1.2). Thus, a major decrease in funding occurred, but civil servant staffing remained essentially unchanged. At the same time, until 2010, the civil service workforce also received regular wage increases. As a result, the civil service salaries now represent a much greater proportion of NASA’s aeronautics budget than they did in 2006.
The “fixed portion” of the NASA aeronautics research budget related to government personnel and support contractors is 56 percent. Facility maintenance now represents 14 percent of the NASA aeronautics budget by
2 NASA has used different accounting procedures over the years, and the budget figures over that time period have not always included the same categories of expenses. However, there has been a clear decline in both absolute dollars and as a percentage of the overall NASA budget.