Status Report

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Oversight Plan for the 113th Congress

By SpaceRef Editor
January 25, 2013
Filed under ,
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Oversight Plan for the 113th Congress

House Rule X sets the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction while also assigning broad general oversight responsibilities (Appendix A). Rule X also assigns the Committee special oversight responsibility for “reviewing and studying, on a continuing basis, all laws, programs, and Government activities dealing with or involving non-military research and development.” The Committee appreciates the special function entrusted to it and will continue to tackle troubled programs and search for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in non-military research and development programs regardless of where they may be found.

Much of the oversight work of the Committee is carried out by and through the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee. However, oversight is conducted by every Subcommittee and the full Committee. All components of the Committee take their oversight charge seriously, and those components have worked cooperatively in the past, as they will in the future, to meet our oversight responsibilities.

The Committee also routinely works with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Inspectors General (IG) of our agencies to maintain detailed awareness of the work of those offices. The Committee currently has numerous outstanding requests with the GAO and more will be developed in the coming weeks and months. Many of these requests are bipartisan, having been signed by both the Chairmen and Ranking Members of our Committee and Subcommittees, or include multiple Committee Chairmen where there are shared interests. The Committee also works collaboratively with the National Academies of Science, the Congressional Research Service, the Office of Government Ethics, and the Office of Special Counsel, as well as various other independent investigative and oversight entities.
Oversight is commonly driven by emerging events. The Committee will address burgeoning issues and topics as they transpire. Nevertheless, the Committee feels that the work contained in this plan reflects an accurate portrayal of its oversight intentions as of January, 2013.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) human space flight program The Committee will continue to provide oversight of NASA’s human spaceflight program as it undergoes a period of uncertainty and transition following various Administration proposals. Specific attention will be paid to the feasibility of NASA’s plans and priorities relative to their resources and requirements.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST) licenses commercial launch vehicles. An area of increasing interest is the emergence of a number of fledgling commercial human suborbital space flight ventures. In addition to its oversight of the FAA’s OCST, the Committee will examine the progress of the emerging personal space flight industry, as well as the challenges it faces.
NASA Space Science The Committee will monitor NASA’s efforts to prioritize, plan, launch, and operate space science missions within cost and schedule. Particular attention will be paid to programs that exceed cost estimates to ensure they do not adversely impact the development and launch of other missions.

FAA Research and Development (R&D) activities The Committee will oversee the R&D activities at the FAA to ensure that they lead to improvements in FAA mission performance. The Committee has a particular interest in the performance of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), and FAA’s management of its Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) program.

Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) The Committee will evaluate the ability, cost, safety, and reliability of commercial providers to meet NASA requirements to deliver cargo and crew to the ISS.

International Space Station (ISS) utilization and operation The plans for operation and utilization of the ISS will continue to draw the Committee’s attention as NASA attempts to fully utilize the unique research opportunities that the facility offers, while exclusively relying on logistical services from commercial and foreign providers. Given the significant national investment to date in the facility, Congress has directed that NASA maintain a strong research and technology program to take advantage of ISS’s unique capabilities.

Aeronautics Research An important area for oversight will be NASA’s aeronautics research and development program. The Committee plans to examine NASA’s ability to support the interagency effort to modernize the nation’s air traffic management system, as well as its ability to undertake important long-term R&D on aircraft safety, emissions, noise, and energy consumption – R&D that will have a significant impact on the quality of life and U.S. competitiveness in aviation.

NASA contract and financial management A perennial topic on GAO’s high risk series, NASA financial management will continue to receive attention from the Committee. The Committee will also monitor NASA’s contract management to ensure acquisitions are handled appropriately.
Near Earth Objects Congress provided guidance to NASA relating to Near Earth Objects in its last two authorization bills. The Committee will continue to monitor NASA’s compliance with that direction, as well as determine whether additional oversight is necessary.

Within the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, activities warranting further review include costs associated with cancellation of the Constellation program, NASA’s approach to develop and fund a successor to the Space Shuttle, and investment in NASA launch infrastructure. NASA has not clearly articulated what types of future human space flight missions it wishes to pursue, or their rationale.


Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science DOE plays a leading role in supporting basic research in the physical sciences and driving long-term innovation and economic growth. The Committee will conduct oversight of Office of Science programs to review prioritization across, and management within, its major program areas. Special attention will also be given to the cost, operation, and maintenance of DOE’s existing and planned major facilities.

DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) The Committee will undertake efforts to improve focus, prioritization, and transparency of EERE programs, and provide close oversight to ensure that programs are managed efficiently, duplication is limited, and funding is allocated appropriately and effectively.

Fossil Energy R&D Fossil energy will remain a crucial aspect of America’s energy portfolio for the foreseeable future. In the 113th Congress, the Committee will continue to ensure that fossil fuel R&D programs are appropriately focused and managed efficiently. Expected areas of oversight include coal R&D prioritization and program management and oil and gas R&D efforts.

DOE loan guarantees Recent program management problems associated with DOE loan guarantees necessarily call for greater attention by the Committee. Ensuring the program minimizes risk to taxpayers and addresses previously identified problems will be a priority in the 113th Congress.

Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) The Committee will undertake oversight of ARPA-E program funding and management in the 113th Congress, examining the appropriate role for and focus of ARPA-E in the context of DOE’s numerous other clean energy-focused programs and activities.

DOE Contract Management DOE programs have come under frequent scrutiny for contract management practices. GAO designated DOE’s contract management as high-risk in 1990 and continues to identify areas of potential waste, fraud, and abuse.

Nuclear R&D The Committee will provide oversight of the nation’s nuclear R&D activities with the goal of unleashing the potential of emissions-free energy. DOE, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and industry stakeholders are working to advance reactor construction of new nuclear reactors. The Committee will examine how DOE R&D can best contribute to this goal through the advancement of various nuclear energy technologies.


Science and R&D at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) The Committee will continue to provide oversight of EPA’s management of science and its use of science in the decision making process, including lab management, regulatory science, transparency, and risk assessment. In particular, the Committee will examine how to better integrate science into the Administration’s regulatory decision-making process.

Federal climate research activities The Committee will continue to monitor programs to address climate change issues across the Federal government to ensure that existing programs are necessary, appropriately focused, effectively coordinated, and properly organized to prevent duplication of efforts and waste taxpayer resources.

Federal ocean research activities The Committee will evaluate the President’s National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes, which adopted the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force recommendations aimed at addressing the future of our oceans. The Committee will monitor the implementation of this plan, as well as Federal oceanic R&D policy generally.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Forecasting The Committee will examine funding prioritization and program management challenges related to the NOAA’s mission to understand and predict changes in weather, particularly as they relate to severe weather events that threaten life and property.

NASA Earth Science The Committee will monitor NASA’s efforts to prioritize, plan, and implement Earth science missions within cost and schedule. Particular attention will be paid to programs that exceed cost estimates to ensure they do not adversely impact the development and launch of other NASA priorities. The Committee will also examine the impact of large increases in funding for the Earth Science Directorate relative to funding requested for other science disciplines.


Cybersecurity The Committee has continuously stressed the protection of the nation’s cyber- infrastructure, which underpins much private and public activity. The Committee will continue to provide critical oversight of how NIST and DHS address this important topic and will be particularly interested in how federal agencies balance security mandates with the ability to allow technological development through innovation.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) The Committee will conduct program oversight for NIST, and other programs in the Department of Commerce, paying special attention to the evaluation of their alignment with and impact on industry. NIST manages a number of multi-agency manufacturing initiatives. The Committee will scrutinize these initiatives to ensure they are operating effectively and efficiently, and to ensure that they are not encroaching on areas better served by the private sector. In another area of NIST, the Committee is aware that America’s competitive position can be dramatically improved, or weakened, depending on how standards for different products and processes are developed. NIST is the only federal agency with long-term expertise in this arena, and the Committee is concerned that the cooperation on standards development across agencies is less than optimal. Furthermore, the Committee intends to review the six laboratory units of the agency to ensure they are operating effectively in preparation for reauthorizing these activities.

Advanced Technologies The Committee will examine R&D programs to ensure that they are focused in areas that support the most promising new areas of technology, including bio, nano, energy and health sectors. Real improvements in the cost and accuracy of health care can be achieved through effective integration of information technology within the health care industry.

NIST has a critical role to play in helping to develop standards and conformance testing processes that will protect patient privacy and minimize private sector waste. The Committee will also examine NIST’s role in the development of the smart grid, the management of cross-agency information technology (NITRD) and nanotechnology (NNI) research programs, and measurement science underpinning the biotechnology industry.

Department of Transportation (DOT) R&D programs The Committee will conduct oversight with regard to implementation of MAP-21 and related surface transportation R&D programs within the federal government, with a particular focus on strategic planning, performance measurements, effectiveness and preventing redundancy.

Economic Competitiveness and Job Creation America must maintain its economic and technological preeminence. The Committee will evaluate federal policies that enhance domestic and international competitiveness for U.S. companies, conduct oversight of federal policies that present barriers to innovation, and support policies that encourage job creation in innovative, growing economic sectors. The Committee must also increase oversight of the new policies recently enacted by the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and ensure that it is focused on the most promising innovations.

Technology Transfer The Committee will seek recommendations for continued improvements in the technology transfer incentives built into law by the Bayh-Dole and Stevenson-Wydler Acts and the SBIR program to improve America’s competitiveness and innovative capacity.

United States Fire Administration (USFA) The USFA is responsible for training and education of career and volunteer firefighters and first responders across America. They also support management of several grant programs that provide equipment and support staffing for firefighters. The Committee will closely monitor the direction of these program and the continued efforts of the USFA to ensure first responders have the necessary support and training.

Natural Hazards The Committee has supported interagency research programs to mitigate the damage caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes, windstorms, and fires by developing early warning systems and improved building and infrastructure design. The Committee will continue to evaluate programs to protect Americans from these and other hazards.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology The Committee will continue to monitor the maturation of DHS, particularly the
effectiveness and organization of the Science and Technology Directorate, and the research and technology programs associated with the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.


National Science Foundation (NSF) The Committee will continue to oversee the NSF. With the recent reauthorization of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act, special attention will be paid to the implementation, execution and effectiveness of these new programs.

Further, the Committee will look for ways to trim duplicative and unused programs in an effort to maximize available resources. The innovative work of the National Science Foundation is important to the economic prosperity and competitiveness of the United States. However, there are various activities within the Foundation that may go beyond the mission of the agency and require more scrutiny and potential cuts in order to ensure that federal investments in basic science remain primarily focused on research that actually benefits the Nation.

Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) K-12 oversight STEM education is vital to the 21st Century economy. Members of the Committee have expressed interests in improving STEM education activities from pre-K through graduate and continuing education in order to cultivate a top-notch future scientific and technical workforce, including well-qualified teachers in STEM fields. Determining the appropriate forms of federal support for these outcomes is important to the Committee.

While STEM education is critical to maintaining the scientific and technical workforce essential to our competitiveness, many duplicative, wasteful, or simply unused programs exist across a number of federal agencies and must be more closely examined and, where warranted, cut.

Academic/Industry Partnerships The Committee will review the effectiveness and consequences of academic/industry partnerships. Agencies and universities are again debating the level of scrutiny and control that should be applied to research in light of the possible use by our adversaries of American discoveries and inventions. At the same time, industry questions the value of controls on technology sales and argues that such controls disproportionately limit American firms in competition for global sales. How to balance these competing interests remains a perennial subject for Committee oversight.

U.S. Antarctic and Arctic Programs The U.S. has conducted operations on the Antarctic continent under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty System since 1959, and U.S. research activities in the Arctic predate that. The NSF serves as the steward for U.S. interests in Antarctica. Research in these extreme regions is a fundamental component to understanding the Earth and its systems. The future of the icebreaker fleet that provides vital logistical support for NSF activities in the harsh polar environments continues to be of concern.

NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) program The Committee will continue to monitor and oversee NSF’s MREFC program, including how priorities for projects are developed, long-term budgeting for such priorities, and decision-making with regards to ever-changing scientific community needs.

Government-wide R&D initiatives in emerging fields The Committee will continue to oversee the collaboration and interagency process associated with emerging fields such as networking and information technology, biotechnology, cybersecurity, and nanotechnology.


Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository closure decision The Committee will continue to evaluate DOE’s decision to close the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.

NOAA satellite modernization The Committee will continue its close monitoring of satellite modernization at NOAA. The restructured Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) will continue to draw the Committee’s attention, as will the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites and the broader issues of research-to-operations planning and data continuity.

Critical minerals, materials, and isotopes The Committee will provide oversight of materials, minerals, and isotopes that are critical to U.S. national interests. Recent shortages and supply concerns associated with helium- 3, rare earth elements, californium-251, and plutonium-238 highlight the need to be ever vigilant in our monitoring of critical materials, minerals and isotopes.

Agency Information Technology Security The Committee will continue to conduct oversight of agency efforts to protect information technology systems. Threats and intrusions increase as GAO and IG recommendations go unaddressed. The Committee will ensure that agencies comply with existing statutes and address outside recommendations in a timely manner.

Risk assessment As the number and complexity of regulations increases throughout federal and state governments, the risk assessments that inform those decisions are garnering more attention. The Committee will continue to oversee how risk assessments are developed and how they are used in the regulatory process to ensure that policies are based on the best science available.
Scientific integrity The Committee will continue to collect and examine allegations of intimidation of science specialists in federal agencies, suppression or revisions of scientific finding, and mischaracterization of scientific findings because of political or other pressures. The Committee’s oversight will also involve the development and implementation of scientific integrity principles within the executive branch.

Additional Science Activities Pursuant to House Rule X, the Committee will review and study on a continuing basis laws, programs and Government activities throughout the government relating to non- military research and development.

Agency compliance with Congressional directives and requests The Committee will be vigilant in its oversight to ensure that recent authorization acts, appropriation acts, and other congressional directions are complied with appropriately.

Emerging Issues The Committee will conduct oversight of additional matters as the need arises and as provided for under House Rule X, clause 3(k).


The Committee maintains a rich relationship with its Inspectors General, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the National Academies of Science, the Congressional Research Service, the Office of Government Ethics, and the Office of Special Counsel, as well as various other independent investigative and oversight entities. The Committee will continue to work with those offices, relying on them to identify major mismanagement issues, using their reports in hearings, and working with the High Risk Series published by GAO to guide hearings and inquiries. The Committee already has several outstanding requests, many of which are bipartisan or cross-Committee, reflecting the collaborative nature of much of the Committee’s oversight work.

The Committee also welcomes input from the public and whistleblowers. The Committee has developed many relationships with whistleblowers in agencies. The Committee has taken positive steps to try to protect them from retaliation and has been reasonably successful in that role. Most of the whistleblowers who come to the Committee remain anonymous – sometimes even from the Committee.

The Committee will retain its open-door policy regarding whistleblowers, whether they are contractors or government employees, and they should rest assured that we will never betray a confidence. Even if the information offered turns out not to be useful, as sometimes happens, the Committee will remain a haven for such figures and we understand the absolute necessity for citizens to feel safe in their communications with Congress.

Appendix A

House Rule X

Committees and their legislative jurisdictions

1. There shall be in the House the following standing committees, each of which shall have the jurisdiction and related functions assigned by this clause and clauses 2, 3, and 4. All bills, resolutions, and other matters relating to subjects within the jurisdiction of the standing committees listed in this clause shall be referred to those committees, in accordance with clause 2 of rule XII, as follows:
(p) Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
(1) All energy research, development, and demonstration, and projects therefor, and all federally owned or operated nonmilitary energy laboratories.
(2) Astronautical research and development, including resources, personnel, equipment, and facilities.
(3) Civil aviation research and development.
(4) Environmental research and development.
(5) Marine research.
(6) Commercial application of energy technology.
(7) National Institute of Standards and Technology, standardization of weights and measures, and the metric system.
(8) National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (9) National Space Council. (10) National Science Foundation. (11) National Weather Service.
(12) Outer space, including exploration and control thereof.

(1) Science scholarships. (14) Scientific research, development, and demonstration, and projects therefor.
Special oversight functions

3(k) The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology shall review and study on a continuing basis laws, programs, and Government activities relating to nonmilitary research and development.

SpaceRef staff editor.