Why NASA’s budget is changing every 4 years?

Why NASA’s budget is changing every 4 years?

A lot of factors might contribute to the budget of NASA but the opinion of the President certainly matters the most.

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency, commonly known as NASA, is an independent organization of the executive branch of the federal government of United States. Its responsibilities include research related to aeronautics and aerospace and the civilian space program. It became operational on 1st October 1958 after the disestablishment of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

Most of the space missions, including Apollo Moon landing, sent by the US government were led by NASA. The International Space Station is also working in collaboration with this organization. As it is associated with mega projects of international scale, the budget of NASA becomes a whole lot more important.

The annual budget of NASA is approved by the Congress of the United States as it is a federal agency. This means that the policies of the government can seriously impact the funding of this space agency. According to the basic principles of Federal Budget process, the Executive Branch requests the Legislative Branch to give them money to run the everyday affairs of the country. Funds are released to the government as a whole. However, the actual pathway followed is not so simple. There is a series of events that eventually lead to a point where Congress gets involved in the procedure.

The first step is taken by the President himself as the White House puts out an annual budget. A lot of people might wonder that the Congress can be informed about it directly as it has all the powers. That’s where the technicalities creep into the system. The executive branch of the American government has a lot more to take care of other than the White House.

All the federal agencies, including NASA, and the military are controlled by this branch of the government. This means that they have to manage millions of employees to ensure proper functioning of the system. The collective strength of Congress is too less to estimate the expenses of all these departments.

For this reason, the Budget and Accounting Act was passed by the Congress in 1921 according to which the President will have to submit an annual budget. A Bureau of Budget was also established in order to help him with this task. An official auditing body was also formed under the name of General Accounting Office to ensure the transparency of the financial system.

All this was done to reduce the burden on Congress so that they could concentrate on the major issues of the state. Once we know the logic behind the President’s version of the budget, we must know when it has to be presented. This explains why the term ‘Fiscal Year’ was introduced.

A fiscal year can be defined in any way that you want. The fiscal year used by the US government has four quarters and it begins on 1st October of every year. Consequently, it is completed on the 30th of September of the next year. The Congressional Budget Act 1974 instructs the White House to present their budget request by the first Monday of February every year. For agencies like NASA, the release of the budget request marks the end of a year-long process which restarts as soon as the request is made.

It is a hectic 5-step procedure which begins when Office of the Chief Official Officer (OCFO) of NASA sends a request to all the centers that they must compile their budget requests. The details formulated climb up a ladder of designations before reaching the NASA headquarters.

The analysts at OCFO check the feasibility of these requests before passing them to the Administrator’s Suite. After he approves the budget, it is sent to OMB. It ensures that the entire Federal budget is in compliance with the goals set by the President. In case they want to make a few changes, the administration of NASA is informed about that. Mutual consultations are done to persuade each other and a finalized version is sent to the OCFO of NASA for final editing. Once it is done, the President presents the budget to the Congress.

After knowing all this, an obvious answer to the query that why NASA’s budget change every 4 years is that the policies of the President directly influence the funds given to this space agency. That’s why 6 upcoming missions of NASA were canceled recently as President Trump was not interested in them.

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