Press Release

Republicans Approve Bill That Harms NASA

By SpaceRef Editor
July 10, 2013
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Republicans Approve Bill That Harms NASA

Democrats Offer Alternative to Republican NASA Bill That Would Put Agency on Sustainable Path with Resources Matched to Challenging Goals

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space held a markup of the Majority’s Committee Print of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013. The bill is a two-year authorization with funding and policy direction for NASA.

The Majority released a “Discussion Draft” of their NASA Authorization Act of 2013 in June and held a Subcommittee legislative hearing on June 19th. During the hearing, the Majority’s own invited witnesses as well as both Democratic and Republican Members raised many questions and serious concerns about the Republicans’ draft bill. Despite hearing these concerns, the Majority continued moving their bill that cuts NASA’s overall budget by almost a billion dollars relative to both the President’s request and the FY 2012 enacted funding, while at the same time imposing significant new requirements and programs on the agency; changing NASA’s core mission; making major cuts to both the Earth science and Space Technology budgets; and cutting funding for critical NASA field center operations at Stennis, Marshall, Johnson, Kennedy, Langley, and the other five Centers, as well as cutting the accounts that fund IT security and NASA safety and mission assurance activities and the cleanup of groundwater and soil contamination at the Kennedy Space Center.

Ranking Member, Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) stated that “NASA is critical to our Nation and our economic strength now and in the years ahead. Unfortunately, in the last few years, we have not funded NASA in a way that reflects the agency’s unique role in our economy and our imaginations. We all claim to share the same goal of a strong and vibrant civil space program; I just do not believe we can get there with this bill.”

In response to questions from Ms. Edwards, the Majority conceded that the ostensible increased funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) was in fact just a merging of accounts, such that either the SLS vehicle program will remain at a level that Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) had previously said was “inadequate” and which would “leave him no choice” but to vote against the Majority’s bill–or alternatively that needed funding for Kennedy Space Center’s ground support program will be shifted to the SLS vehicle program. Ms. Edwards noted that if the bill would be enacted into law in its current form, the cuts contained in it would inevitably result in a serious loss of skilled contractor and researcher jobs–jobs this nation can’t afford to lose.

On Monday, July 8th, Ms. Edwards introduced H.R. 2616, the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, as Democratic alternative to the Committee Print. At the markup, she offered the bill as an amendment in the nature of a substitute.

She said, “This amendment provides a pragmatic path forward that will give NASA a clear sense of purpose and direction in a way that also recognizes the Nation’s need for fiscal restraint. The 1958 Space Act and countless NASA Authorizations since then have stated the policy that NASA is and should remain a multimission agency with a balanced and robust set of core missions in science, aeronautics, space technology, and human space flight and exploration. My amendment continues that tradition.”

Ranking Member of the Full Committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressed strong support for Ms. Edwards’ amendment, “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the bill on which this amendment is based, because I care deeply about the future of NASA and our space program. The legislation we are marking up today is deeply flawed. You don’t have to take my word for it – you can just read the testimony of the expert witnesses called by the Majority to review it at last month’s legislative hearing. Ms. Edwards’ amendment will put NASA on a sustainable path, give NASA inspiring but attainable goals, and provide the resources needed to achieve those goals.”

She continued, “I want to reiterate Ms. Edwards’ point that this is a fiscally responsible amendment. Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle may say that they have to cut NASA’s finding in the NASA Authorization bill because of sequestration. That’s just not true. Nowhere does the Budget Control Act put limitations on what amounts can be authorized. Nowhere. If Members want to force NASA’s authorization down to sequestration levels, they should not pretend that any law is forcing them to do so – it’s not, and so I think each Member needs to explain why he or she thinks that would be good for the nation. As authorizers, we have a responsibility to promote the most effective policies for the agencies under our jurisdiction and to provide them the resources to implement those policies. Ms. Edward’s amendment does just that for NASA.”

Ms. Edwards concluded, “The fact is that we are presented with a choice–we can choose to drastically reduce our federal investments in the civil space program and take a back seat to the future of space exploration OR we can choose to invest Federal resources to ensure U.S. leadership in global space science and exploration. To ensure that the U.S. reaps those dividends–enhanced competitiveness, innovation, high-skilled jobs and inspiring goals that stimulate the next generation and our workforce. This amendment makes a strong and clear choice to invest in a 21st century space innovation agenda. I hope that we can work together with Members on both sides of the aisle to ensure that NASA’s mission is clear, that it continues to inspire the public and workforce, and that the level of resources we provide enables the agency to be successful.”

Ms. Edwards’ amendment failed on a party-line recorded vote.

The Committee Print passed out of Subcommittee and was reported favorably to the Full Committee on a party-line recorded vote.

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SpaceRef staff editor.