The Operating Budget

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1.) Introduction: As the increasingly impotent federal government lurches towards the edge of a self-imposed fiscal cliff, the public and politicians alike have largely accepted the inevitability of deep cuts to the nation's massively inflated budget. While there is still rancorous debate over exactly how the proverbial belt should be tightened, with conservatives demanding reductions in so-called entitlement programs and liberals countering with decreased military spending, a consensus seems to have emerged regarding the budgetary necessity of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Considered by many symbol of bureaucratic waste, with billions of dollars being devoted to implausible missions and esoteric experiments, NASA has been universally targeted as an expendable asset during economic turmoil. Indeed, the most recent federal budget request for 2013 made by President Barack Obama "cuts NASA's planetary science funding from $1.5 billion to $1.2 billion, with further reductions expected in coming years" (Wall), and most experts agree that the era of meaningful governmental investment in space exploration has come to an end. This decision to relegate NASA's cutting edge scientific research and manned space flight missions, once seen as shining emblems of America's global supremacy, to the budgetary dustbin of outdated programs represents a disturbing consequence of the ongoing economic recession. By analyzing the available fiscal data, in

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