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House Panel Recommends Deep Cuts at NASA : Space: Agency sharply opposes call to transfer programs and jobs from Maryland to Pasadena.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

A key House subcommittee has sharply cut NASA’s 1996 budget, recommending that the space agency shut down the Goddard Space Center in Maryland and transfer its programs--along with an estimated 11,000 jobs--to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

NASA officials are sharply opposed to the recommendation, which is contained in a report issued by the House Appropriations subcommittee that has authority over NASA’s budget. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands).

“NASA clearly opposes the congressional proposal to shut down any of the centers,” said Laurie Boeder, NASA associate administrator for public affairs. “If the cuts contemplated go forward, the results of this agency will be compromised.”

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Boeder noted that if the budget cuts enacted by the subcommittee are passed by the full Congress, NASA may have no other choice than shutting one or more of its major centers.

The subcommittee approved funding of $13.5 billion for fiscal 1996, which is $837 million less than NASA received in this fiscal year and is $720 million less than the Clinton Administration requested.

The subcommittee eliminated funding for a number of programs, including the Cassini space probe to Saturn, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory program.

In addition to recommending that Goddard be shut, the subcommittee report recommended the closure of Langley Research Center in Virginia and the transfer of most its missions to Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., and Lewis Research Center in Ohio. It also recommended closing the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

Although NASA is not compelled to follow the recommendations, the committee is expecting the agency to examine them and report back, Lewis said in an interview.

NASA Administrator Dan Golden has strongly defended NASA from GOP plans for sharp cuts, saying that the agency has already taken more than its share of budget cutbacks and that further reductions will undermine the space program.

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Golden has noted that NASA has already endured cutbacks of 32% in recent years without eliminating any of its major projects, including the space station, the space shuttle and its deep space probes. But he has said that GOP cuts would force major program cuts and closure of centers.

The reaction to the subcommittee recommendations from the Maryland congressional delegation was quick and sharp, condemning the move as a crass politics. But Lewis said in an interview that those charges were coming from individuals who “do not know my history.”

“I wouldn’t be closing down Cassini if I was worried about JPL,” Lewis said.

Goddard employs about 3,500 government workers and supports about 9,500 contractor jobs. Of the 13,000 jobs, about 11,000 are located in Maryland and political leaders in Maryland contend that about that many jobs would be lost to California if the recommendations are followed.

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