I recently (and somewhat belatedly) came across the following news item:
NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
The gist of the article is that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) just donated two telescopes with greater optical capabilities than the Hubble space telescope. For free.
Ironically, NASA may not have the budget to actually put the telescopes into space and run them. This is sort of like if someone sees that you’re parched with thirst, and they decide to give you a bottle of wine that they aren’t interested in drinking anymore, because presumably they have much better wine now. But you’re too poor to afford a bottle opener.
The Hubble cost a lot of money to build. The low-end estimate is USD $2.5 billion, but that is probably an underestimate by a factor of 2. That’s a lot of money, but it will barely buy you a week in Iraq, if you’re the US military.
Let’s assume that the cost to build those telescopes was approximately the same as the Hubble. This means that the cost of the two NRO telescopes combined is about the same as the entire $7 billion budget of the NSF for FY2012.
Of course, US science does get money from the Department of Defense. But the “pure” science budget for the entire US is just a rounding error compared to the total DoD budget.