NASA budget books for FY 1991 through FY 1998 were used to examine gross budget trends. Budget data, along with relevant language from budget justification documents and experience with NASA programs, allowed the task group to track R&DA-related activities through changes in accounting definitions.

The task group's definition of the NASA "research base" pulls together six categories of data extracted from the NASA budget: (1) traditional R&A line items; (2) data collected on an accumulation of relevant ground-based activities, referred to as "other science support," that have only recently begun to appear in the NASA budget; (3) suborbital programs; (4) MO&DA; (5) supporting infrastructure, a category devised to incorporate engineering, operations, and other support for science infrastructure;2 and (6) academic programs, as specifically listed in NASA budget documents. Box 4.1 defines these six budget categories. The budget trends for these and other components of NASA science-related activities during the 1990s are given in Table 4.1.

It is difficult to get a sense of the historical trends for the DA funding of MO&DA because NASA has not separated DA from MO&DA. The task group notes that the rapid increases in MO&DA early in the decade were driven by the operational needs of large space science missions such as the HST and the Gamma Ray Observatory. The summary here does not reflect the full impact of these MO&DA increases since the HST operations and servicing line have been moved to the flight hardware budget summary. (See Appendix A, Table A.2) It is important to note that NASA is implementing a major restructuring of these activities. 3

The task group makes the following observations:

  • Total R&DA funding (adjusted for inflation) grew 44 percent between FY 1991 and FY 1998, but the increase was due mainly to growth in the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) (with an increase of $157 million in FY 1995 dollars over the 8-year period) and to the transfer of technology development funding from the Office of Space Access and Technology (OSAT) to OSS ($201 million in FY 1995 dollars). R&DA funding in areas other than EOSDIS and the transfer of technology funds from OSAT showed a net increase of about 7 percent in inflation-adjusted terms.

  • Traditional R&A declined by $98 million (in FY 1995 dollars), or nearly 22 percent.

  • All science-related, ground-based activities account for about 11 percent of the overall NASA budget in FY 1998, up from about 7 percent in FY 1991.

  • Funding for the suborbital program increased 19 percent in constant dollars. The increase was related to the transition from the Kuiper Airborne Observatory to the new Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

  • Academic outreach programs increased from a small base of about $61 million for distributed activities in FY 1991 to $113 million in FY 1998.


 The task group is grateful for the assistance of Mr. Malcolm Peterson, comptroller, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and his staff in providing some of the data on NASA budgets. Any errors are attributable to the task group and not to NASA.


 The detailed historical tables in Appendix A provide information on the science discipline breakdown that has been the traditional program structure of the NASA budget. Specific R&A budget line items can be found in earlier budgets for physics and astronomy (P&A, which includes astrophysics and space and solar physics), for planetary exploration, for life sciences and microgravity research, and for the Earth sciences.


 "Full Costing in NASA," Office of Chief Financial Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, February 1996.

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