NASA gains, but not in IT

Fiscal 2002 budget

Following a mandate from President Bush, NASA will eliminate some lower-priority activities in order to open the door for a "more vigorous space and science exploration program" and an overall 2 percent increase in funding, according to the agency's administrator.

Daniel Goldin, NASA administrator, said some activities, including the Rotorcraft and Digital Earth programs, will be downsized and phased out so that an increased emphasis can be put on computational, information and communication technology; 21st-century aircraft technology; and a more robust Earth science program.

Goldin said President Bush has challenged the agency to examine its priorities and make sure that its workforce and institutions are properly focused. Goldin touted the importance of "advanced information technologies, biological systems and nanotechnologies" for the future, including innovations in air traffic management technology. "We will support the president," he said. "This budget provides the funding for research and technology advances in all these areas—good, solid funding levels."

In the budget proposal released Monday, NASA's IT funding was slashed by 6 percent, and much of that is attributed to phasing out programs. Among the IT-related projects and systems that received significant funding were:

The International Space Station program is seeking more than $2.08 billion, but that's slightly less than last year's level. The Space Operations program, which provides the telecommunications services that link data, research and mission control facilities and investigating scientists, is seeking more than $482 million, but only $35 million of that is reserved for "technology." The Earth Observing System (EOS) Data Information System is seeking $253 million, to operate the EOS spacecraft and acquire and distribute the information gathered to government, private-sector and academic partners. Nearly $147 million is being sought for commercial technology programs, which include the Small Business Innovative Research program and facilitates the transfer of discoveries developed by NASA personnel—or in partnership with industry and universities—to the private sector for commercial applications. Also during fiscal 2002, NASA's Office of Aerospace Technology will establish five university-based Research, Education and Training Institutes (RETIs). The RETIs are intended to research "cutting-edge emerging opportunities in technology" and "expand the nation's talent base for research and development," according to NASA.

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