The announcement that MSL was being delayed until 2011 hit folks at work pretty hard. Though I've not worked on the project, I know many people who have and they were all hoping that somehow, the mission could find a way to proceed to the 2009 launch. But there was just too much delay piling up.
I watched the press conference, with the announcement. The reporters seemed to really be asking some tough and pointed questions of the NASA leadership. Coming on the heels of Alan Stern's NY Times editorial on NASA's budgets, the fact that the MSL delay will cost $400 million was understandably questioned.
Heck, I wonder the same thing. Why can't the planning be more on track? Why can't the cost predictions come closer than they do?
I think for a lot of the smaller missions, they do. And since those missions are less visible, people don't realize how well they do. When you only have $100 million to work with, you're much more quick to sharpen the pencil and shave off instruments or requirements that you can live without. But hey, that's why I'm an engineer and not a manager! I don't want to work with dollars!