There is an 80 percent chance that Congress will restore the bulk of a budget cut proposed for a major space program at Goddard Space Flight Center, saving the 3,300 jobs scheduled for elimination, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer said yesterday.
Speaking to a lunch meeting in Greenbelt of the Maryland Space Roundtable, Mr. Hoyer said a House subcommittee has voted to restore $274 million of the $333 million that the Appropriations Committee had cut from Goddard's "Mission to Planet Earth" program in July.
Mission to Planet Earth is one of the key programs at Goddard. It uses satellites to study Earth the way space probes have studied other planets, concentrating on such things as the environment and how the atmosphere, oceans, land and life on Earth interact.
Mr. Hoyer told the 350 representatives of Maryland's space industry meeting at Martin's Crosswinds that the subcommittee's action was significant.
He said that when a committee votes to put back in most of the money cut, it is an indication that it believes the Appropriation Committee's action was inappropriate.
"This is political hardball," he said, and he warned the group not to take for granted the efforts to restore the funding of Mission to Planet Earth. He told them to keep the pressure on Congress by letting their representatives know that the program and Goddard are important to their companies.
Most of the space-related companies in Maryland are units or divisions of out-of-state companies, including AlliedSignal Inc., Hughes Aircraft Co., Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Raytheon Carl Poleskey, a spokesman for Goddard Space Flight Center, said Mission to Planet Earth is one of its biggest programs. He said it will account for about $1 billion of the center's $2.4 billion 1996 budget.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations panel that funds NASA, said she also is moving to restore full funding for the program.
In a statement released yesterday, she said, "Proposed cuts to Mission to Planet Earth are purely political. They are not based on science and they are not based in deficit reduction. They are based purely on politics."
Mr. Hoyer said the recently constructed $100 million Earth Observing System Data and Information System Center at the Goddard complex will be a help to congressional efforts to restore Goddard's funding.
He called the center the largest satellite data-collection system ever built and a facility that is expected to employ as many as 500 people.
In July, Rep. Jerry Lewis, the California Republican who heads the subcommittee that appropriates money for NASA, proposed to close Goddard and move most of its work to Pasadena, Calif., adjacent to his congressional district.
That plan was scrapped a week later, but the committee voted to cut funding for Mission to Planet Earth.
Mr. Hoyer said that Maryland officials were caught napping and the actions of Mr. Lewis served as an alarm for them to keep an eye on Goddard during the budget-cutting process.