Press Release

Subcommittee Democrats Concerned About Draft NASA Reauthorization Bill

By SpaceRef Editor
June 19, 2013
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Subcommittee Democrats Concerned About Draft NASA Reauthorization Bill

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space held a hearing on the Majority’s recently released discussion draft of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013. Testifying before the Subcommittee were Dr. Steven Squyres, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, and Mr. A. Thomas Young, former Executive Vice President at Lockheed Martin Corporation and former Director of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Ranking Member of the Space Subcommittee, Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) said in her opening statement, “NASA has been and should continue to be the Nation’s crown jewel for spurring innovation, highly-skilled and good paying jobs, and inspiring the next generation of scientists. It is vital that any new NASA Authorization match that standard. A strong NASA is critical to the nation and this Authorization is a vitally important opportunity to set the policy direction and authorize funding needed to ensure America’s global leadership in space. It is my hope that we can work together to ensure that NASA’s mission is clear, establish expectations that will inspire the public and workforce, and then provide the level of resources needed to enable the agency to be successful. Doing otherwise would not only be a disservice to the men and women at NASA, its contractor workforce, and the American people, but would effectively set the Agency on a path to failure. I know that Members of this Committee want to see NASA thrive; we must have an Authorization bill that ensures that.”

Democratic Members expressed a number of concerns about the bill including that the bill cuts NASA’s overall budget while establishing new requirements and programs; it appears to change NASA’s core mission to one of supporting human spaceflight from the multi-mission approach NASA has had since its inception; the “go as we can afford to pay” requirement is inconsistent with the mandated milestones included in the legislation; the Earth science budget is cut by 1/3; there are aggressive goals such as requiring a commercial crew flight to the ISS by 2017, without any mention of safety requirements; and that there is a requirement to establish a “sustained human presence” on the Moon and Mars in spite of sequestration-level budgets.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “I consider NASA to be a critical part of the nation’s innovation infrastructure, a driver of technological and scientific progress, a positive symbol of the United States throughout the world, and most importantly, a source of inspiration for successive generations of our young people. I strongly believe that any NASA Authorization bill that comes out of this Committee should reflect those realities. Unfortunately, the draft bill that we are starting to examine today doesn’t do that. It doesn’t contain funding commensurate with the tasks NASA has been asked to undertake–in fact, it gives NASA additional unfunded mandates while maintaining deep sequestration cuts over the life of the bill. It contains policy direction that I fear will do long term damage to the agency. And, I regret to say that if enacted, it would not help NASA meet the challenges facing the agency. In short, it is a missed opportunity to position NASA for excellence, and it’s a bill that if enacted would lead to the erosion of the capabilities that have made NASA such a positive force for progress.”

Both witnesses also expressed concerns about the bill including the funding levels.

Dr. Squyres said, “As written the bill proscribes certain milestones, for example sustained presences on the surface of the Moon, which as the Ranking Member of the full Committee noted, is an unfunded mandate.”

Mr. Young said, “A strategy without the resources to execute the strategy, or a roadmap without the resources to execute it, is simply a hope.”

Democratic Members called for more work to be put into the draft bill before the Committee moves forward.

“At a minimum, now that the draft bill is open for discussion and before we consider moving to markup, we should first take the time to hold other hearings with valued experts and stakeholders impacted by the draft bill’s provisions, especially in areas such as Earth science, space technology, and commercial crew safety,” said Ms. Edwards.

Ms. Johnson said, “Rather than moving directly to an unproductive markup, I hope that the Majority will take a step back and at a minimum hold additional legislative hearings so we can hear from the affected parties what the impacts of the proposed cuts and changes to Earth Science and Space Technology will be. We also need to hear from the congressionally established Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel on its views of this legislation, because I know that no Member on this Committee will want to do anything that would jeopardize safety.”

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SpaceRef staff editor.