November 29, 2004

Budget Analysts Call for NASA Cuts

U.S. analysts Monday said Bush administration proposals to send astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars should be put on the budget chopping block.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's fiscal 2005 budget gives it wide latitude to direct money toward Bush's new space vision but Alice Rivlin, former White House budget director under President Clinton, and Bill Niskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute, both told a Brookings Institute forum on domestic policy in the second Bush term the plans are a waste of money.

I think we can learn much more about the universe much cheaper from unmanned vehicles, said Rivlin, now a Brookings' analyst. She added unmanned exploration also would improve safety.

The most important lesson we've learned (from the manned space program) is how difficult it is to put a man in space and how little we've learned that could not be learned by satellites ..., said Niskanen, who has a more conservative policy outlook.

Both analysts said it was unlikely Bush will reach his stated goal of reducing the federal deficit by 50 percent by fiscal 2009 but added NASA is one place where cuts could be made easily.