The biggest fight this year, however, could be over Mr. Obama’s effort to end NASA’s Constellation Systems Program, which President George W. Bush pushed as part of his plans to send astronauts back to the moon and then to Mars.
The Obama administration says the program is behind schedule and misguided, given that the U.S. has already landed astronauts on the moon. Peter Orszag, Mr. Obama’s budget director, said the government instead will try to spur private companies to develop space vehicles to service the International Space Station.
“What we’re saying is, let’s redirect that toward longer-range R&D, advanced robotics, research and development, and find those new technologies that will actually allow us to go further in space and not just repeat what we’ve already done, especially in a program that is behind schedule and over budget,” he said.
But Sen. Richard C. Shelby, the top Republican on the spending subcommittee that controls NASA’s budget, said private companies aren’t ready to pick up the slack.”
“On Friday, India announced they will be ready for their first manned spaceflight by 2016,” Mr. Shelby said. “With this administration’s nonsensical NASA budget request, the U.S. will still be working on launching people on rockets that do not exist while Russia, China and India are actually doing it.”
Mr. Obama made other cuts to programs that were flooded with money the previous year. That was the situation for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which Mr. Obama funded at $475 million in 2010 but proposed giving $300 million in 2011.
“Because this is a very large new program, it will be difficult for EPA and its partner federal agencies to spend all of the funds in 2010,” the administration said in proposing the reduction.
Mr. Obama also went after National Heritage Areas. The program, he said, which is supposed to provide seed money for localities to attract tourism, has wrongly become a permanent source of income for some of those areas.
He proposed cutting the $18 million program in half.
Mr. Obama said he had to make painful choices.
“We eliminate one program that provides grants to do environmental cleanup of abandoned buildings. That’s a mission I support, but there are other sources of private and public funds to achieve it,” he said.
Some programs saw big increases in the budget.
The Interior Department’s Land and Water Conservation Fund was boosted by 29 percent, drawing praise from Democrats who said it can help produce jobs but sparking concern among Republicans who said the National Park Service already has a $9 billion maintenance backlog and buying more land will only add to that.