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Goldin Comments on FY97 NASA Budget

By Keith Cowing
March 18, 1996
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In a time of change and uncertainty, it is essential that we maintain open and honest communications. You, the NASA team, need the straight story about where your agency is headed. And it’s my job as NASA Administrator to keep you informed on a regular basis. This is the first in a series of occasional messages from me on issues facing NASA.
Today, the President is releasing the Administration’s budget for fiscal year 1997, and we will be holding a budget press conference. The White House will ask for about $13.8 billion for NASA in fiscal 1997–a stable funding level compared with the current year. However, this budget also includes tentative projections for the out-years that are significantly lower than previous expectations. Most other departments and agencies also have been given similar reductions, and it is clear that these projections are not yet set in stone. As NASA Administrator, I have decided not to act on these potential out-year cuts until the long-range federal budget situation has been clarified. We will take no precipitous actions, and will continue to work closely with the Administration as it further defines NASA’s funding after fiscal 1997.

In one way this budget actually is good news for NASA: We have stable funding for the present in an era when almost all agencies’ budgets are declining, some precipitously, in the very near term. We laid out our case and asked the administration for funding stability. The administration supported us.
In return, we stepped up to the plate and made the hard choices relative to program restructuring and workforce decreases that other agencies now are being forced to make as a result of budget reductions and Congressional mandates. The administration has seen our good faith efforts and has backed us.
What does all this mean to you as a NASA employee? We’re doing relatively well right now with regard to our budget, but we’ll continue to shrink our workforce over the next few years, particularly at NASA Headquarters.
We can state definitively that there will be no Reduction in Force (RIF) in 1996, but beyond that point we can make no guarantees. It’s up to us in 1996 and 1997 to restructure NASA so that when we reach 1998, and our budget is still declining, we are well-positioned to implement continuing cuts.
NASA Headquarters recently began the process of moving functions equivalent to about 200 employee positions to the centers. Some will be reassignments from Headquarters; others will be new jobs constructed from portions of various existing functions. This process will enable NASA to meet the goals of the administration’s National Performance Review, which calls for reducing headquarters organizations by 50 percent, halving the number of supervisory positions, and cutting administrative functions like procurement, personnel, budget and accounting.
Last May I described to you the results of our “Zero-Base Review,” which recommended that the centers become “centers of excellence” and Headquarters the NASA “corporate office.” Under this scenario, Headquarters will outline the “what” and “why” of Agency policies and programs. The centers will define and implement the “how.” Specifically, Headquarters will translate NASA’s strategic plan into general policy guidance, as well as overseeing our performance and budget activities, but the Centers will be responsible for program implementation. The migration to the centers of Headquarters functions I described above also responds to the recommendations of the “Zero-Base Review.”
I hope I’ve helped you understand some of the many changes going on around us these days. I’ll send you more of these reports in the months ahead explaining elements of the transformation we’re undergoing.
Our latest Strategic Plan is being distributed to all employees. It describes where we are going and where everyone fits in. I urge you to read it carefully. It is our road map to the future, and it is essential that you understand where you fit and how you will be supporting the Agency’s goals.
In the meantime, I want to thank each of you for your particular contribution to the stunningly successful year we just completed. The NASA team again distinguished itself in all of our enterprises: from major progress on a next-generation High Speed Civil Transport, to the Shuttle-Mir rendezvous; new global sea level-monitoring techniques from TOPEX/POSEIDON; continuing brilliant discoveries by the Hubble Space Telescope; and the initiation of the Reusable Launch Vehicle effort.
We made tremendous contributions to scientific knowledge and helped improve the quality of daily life. It is this type of success — accomplished as we become a smaller, more efficient agency — that will help ensure the continued support of the American public. The NASA team will continue to break boundaries, discover the unexpected and build a brilliant future for space and aeronautics

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.