Clinton won't cut funds for space station program

February 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton has decided to ask for full financing for the proposed international space station but is concerned about possible cost overruns in the program, White House officials and congressional aides said yesterday.

After two days of rumors that the president would call for drastic spending cuts for the orbiting observatory, administration officials said Mr. Clinton's budget would propose spending $2.25 billion on the project in the next fiscal year, the amount requested by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

In addition, congressional aides said, Mr. Clinton has indicated he will ask for about $16 billion next year for NASA, about the amount requested by the agency. That includes the money for the space station.

A spokeswoman for Vice President Al Gore, Marla Romash, said he had told Sen. Howell Heflin of Alabama and Rep. Jack Brooks of Texas, Democrats who represent states that get large space program spending, that the project would continue if costs could be controlled.

NASA spokesmen said they could not comment on the budget process or the space station funding, but they released a statement by Administrator Daniel Goldin saying that he intended to keep NASA's promise of delivering the station "on schedule and within the prescribed budget."

Jack Aaron, the official directing space station work at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, resigned yesterday afternoon, hours after his ouster was demanded by Sen. Bob Krueger, a Texas Democrat, who had blamed Mr. Aaron for a recently disclosed $500 million cost overrun on his part of the space station project.

More than $8 billion has been spent on the space station since President Ronald Reagan proposed it in 1984.

The program has undergone several major revisions in efforts to reduce costs, but it generally has had support in Congress, largely because it is expected to create 75,000 jobs in 37 states.

Space station Freedom is to be an orbiting laboratory on which astronauts can be stationed for months at a time. Ten European countries, Canada and Japan are participating in the project.

The cost of the station is estimated at $30 billion to $40 billion for construction and $100 billion to maintain over its 30-year life in space.

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