Dryden Workforce, Budget Appear to be on Even Keel
Steady as She Goes
Poppies will bloom in the desert spring, but the yield from the nation's financial garden is less certain and is obscured by thick, hardy weeds.
Though the garden remains in need of work in the form of a fiscal year 2012 NASA budget - even as Congress continues to grapple with the 2011 fiscal year that is nearing its halfway point - Dryden remains on solid ground, said Center Director David McBride.
During a media briefing and a Dryden town hall meeting held in recent weeks, McBride highlighted the key points and Dryden elements of President Barack Obama's proposed 2012 NASA budget. The president's budget includes $18.7 billion for NASA, about $300 million less than the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 and the same as the 2010 NASA budget.
Dryden's 2012 budget is $283.8 million, down more than $10 million from the proposed 2011 budget, but $19 million more than the 2010 budget of $264.8 million. McBride said he anticipated a steady future for Dryden's work and staff.
Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver spoke to Dryden employees Feb. 22 about the budget, telling them, "you play a key role in our budget. Dryden is a national treasure, a gem, a jewel, and we recognize that at NASA Headquarters."
Despite the budgetary challenges, she said the agency is aligned with the nation's goals and will "do the things that no one else can do." Those tasks include supporting the International Space Station, stabilizing the aeronautics budget, putting an emphasis on development of space technologies, working toward future exploration systems, and conducting unique Earth science missions agency-wide that will "benefit the future of humanity."
Taking a broader view of NASA, Garver said national investment in the agency is like the investment in a student's college education, which has potential to benefit many.
At Dryden, 2012 key budget elements are:
- Research supporting NASA's aeronautics initiatives is proposed at $72 million for uninhabited air systems integration into the national airspace, aviation safety and environmental responsible aircraft.
Among aeronautics projects are the uninhabited aircraft in the national airspace effort being conducted jointly with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. The blended wing body test bed can offer solutions to safety and environmental concerns; its shape and configuration could enable future transports and cargo aircraft to reduce fuel usage by 20 to 40 percent.
In addition, the DC-8 flying laboratory will be used in ground and air testing of new algae-based alternative fuels.
- Science is budgeted for $70 million, primarily for Earth science observations from aircraft, with an emphasis on climate change. Also included is development and operation of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which is based at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale.
- Space Technology at Dryden is to receive $30 million in the proposed budget for the Dryden Innovation Fund, disbursement of selected Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer work and program awards for the Dryden-managed Flight Opportunities Level 2 program office. The latter is tasked with supporting emerging commercial space launch companies in development of new technologies and providing spaceflight opportunities aboard these new spacecraft for research.
- NASA's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, education efforts are budgeted for $11 million.
- Exploration funds equal $3 million for testing to support the multi-purpose crew vehicle. As NASA develops a replacement for the space shuttle, it will continue work on an escape system, such as the one successfully tested at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in May 2010.
- The remaining portion of the budget, $98 million, is for meeting institutional requirements, including $76 million for cross-agency support, $22 million for construction and environmental compliance restoration for minor revitalization and construction projects to repair and modernize center infrastructure, and to reduce the risk of mission disruption due to facility failures.