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Democrats Urge Continued Support for Aeronautics Research

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012

image (Washington, DC) - Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing entitled, "An Overview of the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Budget for Fiscal Year 2013." The purpose of the hearing was to review the FY 2013 budget request for aeronautics research and examine the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's (ARMD) program priorities and challenges. Testifying before the subcommittee were Dr. Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator of ARMD, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); Ms. Marion C. Blakey, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace Industries Association and Chair of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC), Aeronautics Committee; Dr. Wesley L. Harris, Chair of the Committee to Assess NASA's Aeronautics Flight Research Capabilities, National Research Council (NRC); and Dr. John J. Tracy Chief Technology Officer & Senior Vice President, Engineering, Operations & Technology, The Boeing Company, and Chair of the Aeronautics Research and Technology Roundtable, NRC.

Because of the lengthy gestation period needed to move from concept to deployment, industry has often been reluctant to apply resources to high risk, fundamental aeronautics research and development (R&D) --an investment often needed as a forerunner to bringing to market new technologies and capabilities. NASA and successive Congresses believe that NASA has a unique role to play in this pre-competitive area and see sustaining the Nation's competitive edge in aviation as requiring an examination of innovative technical concepts and sustained government investment in R&D. At the same time, NASA recognizes that its aeronautics research must also support the implementation of the Federal Aviation and Administration's (FAA) NextGen, the Nation's air traffic management system of the future. NASA-developed tools and technologies have helped manufacturers keep the U.S. aviation industry competitive with other countries and helped the airlines' bottom line through R&D that has led to cost savings from reduced fuel burns and minimized delays. Congress has demonstrated its support for NASA aeronautics research in both authorization and appropriations legislation.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry F. Costello (D-IL) said in his opening statement that "NASA's contributions have included significant reduction in controller workload and an estimated $300 million per year in fuel savings with fleet-wide deployment at the busiest airports. These contributions have saved fuel and reduced noise by enabling more efficient arrivals, and are evidence of how investments in research today will produce significant dividends tomorrow." In commenting on decreased funding for aeronautics research in the past few years, Mr. Costello said that this was unfortunate, given NASA's integral role in enabling the strength of the U.S. aerospace industry and, in partnership with FAA, the safety of the flying public. He added "Yet, the industry faces continued challenges, such as increasing congestion of the nation's airspace system, maintaining safety in the face of increasing travel demand, and mitigating the negative impacts of aviation on the environment--whether noise, increasing energy consumption, or harmful emissions. NASA's aeronautics research programs are addressing these challenges and have made significant progress. It is important to learn more about their progress, because these challenges are at the crux of our transition to NextGen and we must continue to focus on NextGen research that will meet these challenges." While acknowledging the Nation's tough economic situation, Mr. Costello said he hoped that this hearing would illustrate how NASA's aeronautics research provides a sizeable return on the taxpayer's investment.

In his testimony, Dr. Shin stated that NASA Aeronautics had experienced tremendous success in recent years by aligning its research to ensure a strong relevance to national needs; transferring technology in a timely and robust manner; maintaining strong partnerships with other government agencies, industry and academia; and inspiring the next generation of engineers and researchers. Ms. Blakey described ARMD as focused on the right research problems and characterized NASA's work in environment, emissions, and alternative fuels for aviation as "impressive". Dr. Harris summarized the NRC committee's report findings and called on NASA to conduct "useful, efficient aeronautical flight research", stating that his committee found that the agency is only conducting a low level of flight research. Dr. Tracy voiced optimism that meetings of the Aeronautics Research and Technology Roundtable that he chairs will be" a powerful forum for a range of industry stakeholders to contribute to the dialogue about the Nation's investment in aeronautics research" and stated that NASA's balanced aeronautics research portfolio "will help America strengthen its global stature as a leader in technology."

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