Press Release

Chairwoman Mikulski Hosts FY 2012 Budget Hearing for National Aeronautics and Space Administration

By SpaceRef Editor
April 12, 2011
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS), today chaired a fiscal year 2012 budgetary hearing for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The hearing included testimony from NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr.

Senator Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:

“Good afternoon. Today, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science welcomes NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, testifying about NASA’s fiscal year 2012 budget request. Thank you for joining us today.

“So far in 2011, NASA continues to amaze us. Earlier this month, MESSENGER entered Mercury’s orbit. Built in Maryland, that craft launched in 2004 and will be the first to study our innermost planet.

“In January, the Hubble Space Telescope found the oldest galaxy ever seen – formed 13.2 billion years ago, 450 million years after the Big Bang. This discovery was made possible by the Wide Field Camera-3, installed during the May 2009 Hubble servicing mission. After 21 years, Hubble is still discovering! But astronomers need the James Webb Space Telescope to see even older galaxies.

“I want to make sure NASA continues to amaze us. As Chairwoman of CJS, I have three priorities for NASA. One: Implement a balanced space program. How will NASA move forward with the program we authorized last year?

“Two: Be an economic engine. How is NASA putting America to work out-innovating, out-educating and out-building?

“Three: Oversight and accountability. How is NASA ensuring our tax dollars are spent wisely?

“I want to make sure NASA has what it needs to carry out its mission, explore the universe, and understand and protect our planet.

“Last year, Congress gave NASA a new path forward. Ranking Member Hutchison and I worked with Senator Bill Nelson on the new authorization bill. The bill authorizes a balanced space program with investments in science, technology, aeronautics and human space flight.

“It extends the International Space Station lab to 2020, opens low Earth orbit to commercial providers for cargo first, then crew. Then, it broadens human reach beyond low Earth orbit with the Orion capsule and a heavy lift rocket.

“But we haven’t been able to pass a budget to match the authorization bill.

“I will fight to make America’s balanced space program a reality. The balanced space program we agreed to last year was $19 billion for NASA. Nineteen billion dollars was authorized and $19 billion is what I put in my Appropriations bill. But my bill died, so NASA won’t get $19 billion. NASA won’t even get the $18.7 billion it got in 2010.

“Simply put, NASA will be cut more. The cuts are regrettable, and they will just build on one another. The problems with funding for 2011 will be compounded in 2012 and beyond. NASA will need to work harder and smarter to accomplish its inspiring mission within a smaller budget.

“For science, the 2012 budget request of $5 billion is an increase of $500 million above 2010 level – the same as President Obama’s 2011 request. This funding will keep NASA’s near-term launches on track – science satellites to explore our solar system and the universe, understand the Sun and observe and protect our planet.

“But I am deeply troubled that this budget does not include a real plan to get the James Webb Space Telescope back on track. This budget shows no urgency to correct cost overrun and schedule delay problems for this highest priority mission.

“The request for aeronautics is $580 million. That’s an increase of $79 million above the 2010 level – the same as the 2011 request. We must invest in aeronautics to keep America competitive.

“After 30 years of great service, the Space Shuttles will be retired. We’ll say goodbye to this workhorse that launched and fixed Hubble and built the International Space Station.

“NASA will begin building our next-generation vehicles. The budget request is $2.8 billion for a new rocket and the Orion capsule. And as NASA funds the new vehicles to go beyond low Earth orbit, NASA also will be the venture capitalist to launch a whole new industry to get cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

“Last month, the Administrator and I saw first-hand the incredible partnership between NASA and the private sector. NASA, Orbital and the Mid-Atlantic Spaceport are building a new launch pad. More than 700 construction contractors are pouring concrete and installing tanks, readying Wallops to launch cargo to the International Space Station. When complete, there will be 400 new high-tech jobs on the Eastern Shore.

“Nationwide, aerospace industries create a $50 billion trade surplus for the US, and NASA should support them. Building Orion and the heavy lift rocket provides work – and hope – for current workers. Our new commercial space rockets can launch a new industry in places like Wallops Island. NASA-developed capabilities from Goddard’s satellite servicing group have the potential to create a whole new market for repairing satellites that are already in orbit. We have the potential to create jobs for today and jobs for tomorrow – innovation jobs that can’t be outsourced.

“The Government Accountability Office’s most recent assessment of NASA’s large projects found NASA’s large programs average $94 million, or almost 15 percent, over budget and eight months behind schedule.

“NASA has to do better. More than 80 percent of NASA’s funding is awarded by contract. That amounts to about $15 billion of NASA’s 2012 request.

“NASA’s mission is to reach for the stars, and its achievements have been stellar. But frugal times demand a frugal space agency to afford a meaningful, balanced space program.

“We must weigh our passion for NASA’s mission with the fiscal realities we now confront. Our space programs must be affordable and wisely managed to gain support in frugal times. But make no mistake – NASA’s mission is worth our passion.”

SpaceRef staff editor.