Status Report

Dear Colleague Letter from members of the House Aerospace Caucus to House Appropriations Committee regarding NASA’s FY 2003 Budget

By SpaceRef Editor
June 7, 2002
Filed under , ,

Editor’s note: The following Dear Colleague Letter is currently circulating on Capitol Hill.

The Honorable James Walsh


VA,HUD and IA Appropriations

H-143 The Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Alan Mollohan

Ranking Member

VA, HUD and IA Appropriations

H-143 The Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Walsh and Ranking Member Mollohan:

We, the members of the House Aerospace Caucus, want to express to you our concerns about the NASA budget and what action we believe is needed to ameliorate some of those problems.

At the recent NASA appropriations hearing in your Subcommittee, we were pleased to see that so many members expressing concern-even dismay-about NASA’s dismal budget levels. We were even more pleased to see that many even expressed a desire to see NASA’s budget increased, and we wholeheartedly agree.

In our view, one of the main areas suffering critical budgetary shortfalls is the Space Shuttle program. This program is the lifeline to the International Space Station (ISS) and its value to our nation cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is literally falling apart. In the past few months at Kennedy Space Center, for example, we have seen part of a ceiling collapse, a critical fuel line leak and delay a launch, and 1960s-era circuit breakers explode near critical space facilities. If the situation worsens it will, at a minimum, impact on our ability to launch when needed. At worst, it could lead to serious injuries or fatalities.

The simple fact is that the Space Shuttle will be needed well into the next decade. We must immediately begin making the investments in vehicle upgrades and infrastructure repairs that are needed to ensure the Space Shuttle remains a safe and reliable vehicle. Unfortunately, while the Space Shuttle has become increasingly efficient and costing NASA much less to operate, it has been penalized when it comes to basic operations funding. This must be corrected.

We also call on the Subcommittee to look seriously at what can be done to ensure the International Space Station lives up to its mission with a full crew complement. This includes the necessary modules for the important research being conducted as well as a robust crew return system.

Another area of major concern is NASA’s aeronautics program, which has been continuing to see weaker budgets over the years. Aeronautics facilities at NASA field centers are increasingly underutilized or being closed entirely. Breakthrough aeronautics research is critical if the United States is to compete against Europe, which has stated a goal of supplanting the United States in aeronautics in less than twenty years.

As we are about to celebrate the first hundred years of powered flight-an era ushered in by Americans-it is a disgrace that American aeronautics has been reduced to such poor levels. The United States is losing its edge in critical aeronautics research and development. Just as America has dominated the skies in the past century, we need to do so in the next.

Making these programs whole should not come at the expense of other existing NASA programs. We must do what we can to increase the entire NASA budget so the nation can have a healthier agency that can properly and safely execute all of its missions. We acknowledge that NASA has serious management reforms to institute, but to starve the agency is not the answer.

Mr. Chairman and Mr. Ranking Member, this is an issue that enjoys broad bipartisan support from both Chambers. We hope we can make substantial progress in improving NASA’s top budget line this cycle and we are able to start NASA on a trend of positive budget growth in the coming years.


Dave Weldon, M.D.

Member of Congress

House Aerospace Caucus


The Dennis Kucinich

Member of Congress

House Aerospace Caucus


Signatures as of 7 June 2002:

  • Rep. Dave Weldon
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich
  • Rep. Todd Tiahart
  • Rep. Mark Foley
  • Rep. Ken Benson
  • Rep. Ralph Hall
  • Rep. Ken Clavert
  • Rep. Mark Udall
  • Rep. Buck McKeon
  • Rep. Adam Schiff
  • Rep. Tony Hall
  • Rep. Nick Lampson
  • Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones
  • Rep. JoAnn Davis
  • Rep. Alcee Hastings
  • Rep. Bart Gordon
  • Rep. Lois Capps
  • Rep. Robert Wexler
  • Rep. Charles Gonzalez

SpaceRef staff editor.