The reserve sells off portions of its helium every year, accounting for about 42 percent of the U.S. supply of the unrefined gas. The program, with 52 employees, pays for itself with proceeds from the sales.
But since the 1980s, politicians have been saying that this shouldn't be the government's job. Reagan said so in his 1988 budget. Clinton said so in his 1995 State of the Union speech.