Maybe we’re expecting a budget pushback from the federal government, NASA has published its first agency-wide economic report documenting the agency’s impact on jobs and cash flow in the country. Everyone knew NASA was powerful, but now we know exactly how powerful it is, roughly $ 64 billion and more than 300,000 jobs in fiscal 2009.
It seems clear that the 2,670-page report is meant to show how valuable the agency is to the country and how much it is an investment in the economy rather than, as some suggest, a hole we have money in throw and pull the science out of. The most important points are:
- NASA itself employs more than 1
- NASA supports nearly $ 24 billion in annual labor income and a total economic output of $ 64.3 billion.
- Additional tax revenue of $ 6.9 billion is due to the agency’s work.
- About 22% of this overall effect is due to the Moon to Mars program, the current 10-year plan to return to these locations.
- Lunar Mars programs within NASA only accounts for 2.4% of the total employment impact, but it is linked to it procurement makes up almost 20% of it. (In other words, the “M2M” programs are hugely weighted towards contractors.)
“Support” is broad, if not necessarily exaggerated – it’s a standard model dating back to the 1970s, a NASA representative said. In essence, NASA’s direct salary and procurement budgets are one thing, but they can lead to increased demand for goods and services in general and higher spending by businesses, consumers, and local governments. A NASA contractor who makes $ 5 million worth of composites also produces demand for logistics, business services, groceries, and other everyday necessities in the city they are based in – perhaps twice the money that the NASA actually issues.
The report goes into remarkable detail on the thousands of industries it supports in direct and indirect ways. For example, on page 138 of the appendix (page 493 overall) we find that NASA supports 66 jobs in the sheet metal manufacturing world that are worth about $ 4 million in labor, adding nearly $ 6 million in value to themselves and an overall positive profitability result in an impact of around 14 million US dollars. Then there are the 91 jobs in the manufacture of metal structures, the 13 in the manufacture of heavy metal tanks, seven in the manufacture of cutlery, utensils, pots and pans … and so on for many sides.
Sometimes these connections seem a little weak. How does NASA support small arms manufacturing and generate $ 4 million in economic impact, or similarly support the tortilla industry? It appears that these are extrapolated as indirect effects of the broader impact of a NASA-related project in the city. A large research center can support many taco trucks.
The final picture, however, is simple enough: NASA is a great force in our economy, and one that will repay its investment many times over, even if you don’t consider the “value” of exploring and understanding our universe.
It’s also broken down by state, a convenient way for members of Congress to justify NASA’s budget to their constituents in case they need to convince. If some of that billions could be spent on PPE and Pandemic Response, rather than research and programs with no immediate practical benefit, it’s important to show that the agency is more than just an expense.