Chapter 8

Funding the Project

The Budgetary Process

Always a complicated process for a governmental agency, funding presented new mazes of complexity to the Launch Operations Directorate (LOD) during 1962. The normal budgetary process can be simplified as follows: study of needs for the coming fiscal year (this would ordinarily take place almost 12 months before the start of the fiscal year); presentation to the parent agency, which fits the request into its total proposal; submission to the Bureau of the Budget* for analysis and incorporation into the President's budget request, which is then tendered to Capitol Hill; hearings before congressional committees; discussion and votes within the committees; voting in both houses of Congress; perhaps a joint committee to resolve differences between House and Senate; an authorization act by Congress setting the limit for each item and the total amount; an appropriation act that establishes the actual amount of money the agency will receive; release of funds by the Bureau of the Budget; and, finally, disbursement of funds by the agency to its constituent subdivisions.

This intricate process was further complicated for LOD in 1962. First, the directorate was in process of evolving into an independent center - LOD became the Launch Operations Center (LOC) halfway through 1962 and ' halfway through this chapter. Second, it had to fend off a flanking attack from the Air Force to retain jurisdiction over the newly acquired land on Merritt Island [see chapters 5-8 and 5-9]. Third, it had to plan and budget new facilities and equipment for a still undefined space vehicle to meet the Kennedy deadline of a moon landing "within the decade." And fourth, where it had been dealing in millions of dollars, now it had to request hundreds of millions. While the mobile concept had been accepted, the mode of transport - barge, rail, or crawlerway - had not been determined. In many instances, moreover, LOD had to telescope the work of several years into one, by forecasting the financial implications of a concept from the drawing board to end use.

One should remember, further, that the lunar landing program had not established itself as an unquestioned part of the American scene. It had to be defended continually. "People frequently refer to our program to reach the moon during the 1960s as a national commitment," Lyndon Johnson wrote. "It was not. There was no commitment on succeeding Congresses to supply funds on a continuing basis. The program had to be justified and money appropriated year after year. This support was not always easy to obtain."1

The preparation of project documents for budget submissions to Congress began with a statement of anticipated requirements in three categories: construction of facilities, research and development, and administrative operations. The administrative budget was easier to prepare because it changed less from year to year. The construction budget, for building new facilities or modifying existing ones, was the largest of the three for fiscal 1963 and 1964, when some 90% of the moonport construction was funded. Later, when construction neared completion, the research and development and administrative operations accounts rose sharply. This chapter will deal primarily with the budgets for fiscal years 1963 and 1964, and construction of facilities will therefore be the major topic. The LOD staff did most of the work preparing the documents each year, although NASA Headquarters could be counted on to send broad guidance - and frequent proddings.2

The budgetary cycle began, usually in the spring, with statements of requirements. This was no easy task since the lunar rocket changed repeatedly, progressing within a year's time from the Saturn C-2 to the C-3, the C-4, and the C-5. No one could foresee all required facilities and ground support equipment during early planning stages, although the facilities were easier to estimate than the support equipment. Such information as was available went to the Budgeting Office, and thence to the Facilities Office. Using the requirements stated by various elements of NASA and contractor firms, the Facilities Office put together the complete project documents.

A project document could cover a single facility or, as in the case of launch complex 39, a group of facilities. NASA policy demanded that each project document contain a complete statement of requirements necessary to begin operations. The document defined the scope of each requirement, including such specific factors as square footage, and justified the requirement and furnished cost estimates. The prescribed format called for five basic paragraphs covering real estate, site preparation, construction, equipment, and design; this was to be supplemented, when appropriate, with siting plans and sketches.3 Under this procedure, the purchase and improvement of land, as well as the design, construction, and complete equipment of the facility located on it, could be dealt with in one budgetary action. The user, in theory at least, had only to walk up to the door of the completed facility, turn the key, walk in, and begin operations - a procedure that gained the label "turnkey concept."

Normally, the construction of facilities (CoF) budget included only those projects that would cost a quarter of a million dollars or more. Less expensive projects came under either the administrative operations or the research and development budget. The CoF budget funded projects within a given fiscal year - say fiscal 1963 starting 1 July 1962 - rather than over several years, but the Directorate could actually spend the money over a longer period. The NASA Administrator had to approve exceptions to this policy, and did so only when the indeterminate nature of a facility rendered estimates on a fully funded basis impractical.4

Numerous launch schedules required different contractors and large numbers of individual structures or items of equipment. Not all of these needed to arrive at the same time, nor in the same fiscal year. Some projects had a long lead time. Air conditioning normally had to precede the installation of delicate computer equipment. The scheduling of events was thus a continuous and detailed task.

Planners had the difficult task of estimating costs of new and unprecedented facilities and ground support equipment. No one had built anything like the vertical assembly building or the launcher-umbilical tower (mobile launcher). The result in many instances had to be simply educated guesswork by LOD personnel, contractor engineers, and members of the Army Corps of Engineers who had worked on earlier, smaller projects.

Originally, the Resources Office, under the direction of C. C. Parker, submitted the budgets. But for the manned lunar projects, the governing influence on substantive matters during almost all phases of the programming and budgetary operations in 1962, as well as later, was Rocco Petrone, then chief of the Heavy Vehicle Systems Office. Since Petrone's office had to make sure that facilities and ground support equipment would be ready in time to meet the deadlines, he had an almost proprietary interest in the identification, cost, and justification of requirements.

When assembled into one package, the project documents constituted LOD's fiscal year construction of facilities program. That program was first submitted as a preliminary budget and later, after adjustments, as a final budget. After NASA Headquarters reviewed LOD's program and incorporated it with those from other installations, the total NASA budget went to the Bureau of the Budget, and then to Congress. During committee hearings, representatives from LOD sometimes testified on the requirements and costs specified in the project documents.

After passage of the authorization act, the Launch Operations Directorate usually submitted an updated series of project documents. These balanced the amounts of money authorized against requirements, taking account of changes that had occurred since the submission of the budget. LOD also revised these documents individually whenever changed requirements made adjustment necessary.

Using the information it received from LOD's submissions and relating it to the amount of money authorized by Congress, NASA Headquarters prepared a program that indicated the approximate amount of money it planned to release to LOD. Knowing that, LOD then prepared a Program Operating Plan that set forth its financial procedures and indicated how it proposed to use money within prescribed ceilings. After Congress passed an appropriation act, the Bureau of the Budget apportioned money incrementally and released it to NASA periodically according to phases of development or a time scheme. NASA Headquarters then released money to LOD at intervals for each project. As one official put it, Headquarters "spoon-fed" LOD. It rarely released all the funds appropriated for a project for a specific fiscal year during that year. The periodic method allowed the agency to spread the money as needed over several fiscal years. The process also involved the occasional transfer of funds from one budget line item to another and from one appropriation source to another. Congress placed a limitation on such transfers (usually 5%). NASA Headquarters tended to restrict itself further.5

* Office of Management and Budget since 1970.

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