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IFPTE Letter To House and Senate Democratic Appropriators Regarding NASA FY 2007 Budget

Status Report From: IFPTE
Posted: Tuesday, January 2, 2007

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December 22, 2006

Hon. David Obey, Ranking Member
House Appropriations Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
1016 Longworth House Building
Washington, DC 20515

Rep. Alan Mollohan, Ranking Member
House Science, State, Justice Subcommittee
U.S. House of Representatives
1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. Robert Byrd, Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee
U.S. Senate
S-128 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Hon. Barbara Mikulski, Ranking Member
Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee
U.S. Senate
144 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Representatives Obey and Mollohan, & Senators Byrd and Mikulski,

As you prepare to take the Chair of your respective committees and subcommittees, and as you embark on the difficult task of completing a Joint Funding Resolution for the remaining Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07) Appropriations bills, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), NASA's largest federal employee union, wishes to congratulate you on your decision to enact concrete fiscal reforms within the remaining FY07 appropriations measures. The return of crucial financial resources to those government agencies tasked with performing the people's business will greatly benefit the American taxpayer and the nation. IFPTE thanks you for your courage in addressing this problem and stands with you in demanding greater accountability in the spending of federal dollars.

As the representatives of thousands of NASA scientists, engineers, and support employees across Field Centers and Headquarters, IPFTE would like to bring a number of outstanding issues to your attention prior to your finalizing the FY07 NASA funding levels. In particular, we believe that:

  • Preserving NASA's leadership in Aeronautics R&D is a national priority, especially given the need to transform dramatically the nation's Airspace System in the next decade, to maintain the nation's excellent airline aviation safety record in spite of emerging challenges and extend this level of safety to the wider aviation community, and to keep America's supremacy in Fundamental Aeronautics;
  • Preserving NASA's leadership in Earth Science is a national priority, especially given the clear danger that climate change presents to human life and economic well-being on our home planet;
  • Preserving NASA's leadership in Space Science is vital to maintain America's pre-eminence within the world's scientific community and to push the frontier of human knowledge about our solar system and the universe;
  • Preserving NASA's leadership in Space Exploration, both manned and robotic, is an essential factor in America's leadership in world affairs.

America's continued status as the world's superpower depends on our willingness to invest in cutting edge scientific and engineering research and development, spurred on by a relentless drive to push the boundaries of human knowledge and experience. NASA plays a crucial role in this effort through its Science, Aeronautics, and Space Exploration programs. These NASA programs also help to inspire and train our next generation of scientists and engineers needed to carry the torch into the future. NASA must be given the resources to succeed in its assigned tasks. The impact of any withdrawal of projected resources should be weighed carefully; any funding cut should be associated with an explicit statement accepting the resultant slip in schedule and/or descoping of effort.

The Vision for Space Exploration is deeply embedded in the American psyche and cannot be dismissed as a mere political ploy or passing fancy. Administrator Griffin has performed a masterful job of moving this Vision towards reality and deserves high praise for the successes thus far in the Return-to-Flight of the Shuttle and in the Preparation-for- Flight of the new Exploration Vehicles. Although the budgets, schedule, and contracts of the Vision will need to be carefully scrutinized as we move into FY08, Dr. Griffin and NASA have earned the small budgetary increase needed in FY07 to keep the Constellation program moving forward at a reasonable pace and thus to minimize the gap between Shuttle retirement and the first manned launch of NASA's next space vehicle.

In this light, IFPTE urges your Committees and Subcommittees to adopt the following appropriations proposals for NASA, which would go a long way towards reconciling the disparate guidance provided in the Authorization bill, the Administration's proposed budget, and the House and Senate FY07 Appropriation bills, while also being tempered by fiscal realism:

  • Set a top-line FY07 budget that is at least $305.9 million (1.9 %) higher than the FY06 enacted level of $16,456.8 million to allow the Agency to continue a minimal sustainable pace for the development of NASA's critically needed next- generation spacecraft;
  • Set firm numbers for the Science ($5,430 million), Aeronautics ($821.1 million), Exploration Systems ($3,978.3 million), Exploration Capabilities ($6,234.4 million), and Inspector General ($32.4 million) accounts;
  • Consistent with the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, prohibit the transfer of funds between these accounts, except for up to 10% transfer between the Exploration Systems and Exploration Capabilities accounts (i.e., re-assert Legislative prerogative in the Appropriations process while allowing Executive flexibility within constraints);
  • Prohibit the use of FY07 funds towards the planning or implementation of a Reduction-in-Force or other involuntary workforce reshaping methods (i.e., adopt the Senate language to halt the undermining of civil-service independence, the brain drain, and the destruction of morale and productivity caused by the ongoing harassment of NASA's technical staff);
  • Permit the use of FY07 funds for enhanced voluntary separation incentives based on an uncapped severance pay computation (i.e., provide management with a respectful and cost-effective tool for achieving agile workforce reshaping).

In the proposals above, we acknowledge current fiscal realities. We accept moderate Science and Aeronautics cuts in order to sustain the Vision while staying within fiscal boundaries. However, we oppose the President's proposed deeper cuts that would seriously hamper NASA's Science and Aeronautics programs as well as harm its scientific and engineering capabilities. Instead, we ask Congress to provide an increase above the FY06 baseline to keep up with inflation and to sustain the Constellation program, while also preserving critical Science and Aeronautics. IFPTE embraces the pay-as-you-go approach for the Vision and asks that Congress pay this small price so that the Constellation program may go forward at its current pace. Any decision to deny the requested increase in funds should be associated with an admission that Constellation schedules must slip and that the period during which America will not have direct manned access to space will be extended beyond the currently projected four years.

Thank you for your consideration of these proposals. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, or IFPTE Legislative Director Matt Biggs at (301) 565- 9016.

Sincerely,

Gregory J. Junemann,
President

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