Rep. Nethercutt Offers Amendment to the FY 2001 Supplemental Appropriations Act to Preserve Funding for Dedicated Shuttle Science Mission

Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) has offered report language and bill language to the FY01 Supplemental Appropriations Act which was approved by the full committee last Thursday afternoon. No bill number has been assigned yet, but the House is expected to take it up this week.

Nethercutt's amendment seeks to fence off $15 M in space station research accounts out of the $40 M that Congress originally provided in FY00 for a life and microgravity research shuttle flight. This flight has been strongly supported by Congress as a way to keep scientific research in space underway during an otherwise "dry spell" wherein little or no science is being done while NASA focuses on the construction of the ISS. Despite strong Congressional interest in such a mission fopr the past several years, NASA has delayed this mission year after year with budgetary concerns at the heart of each new delay.

Since NASA has now pushed this research flight back to 2004, they have some interest in reprogramming a portion of that mission's money to cover STS-107 costs ($17M) and setting aside the unobligated balance ($15M) for space station research, with the understanding that the transfer of a similar amount of money ($15M) could be expected in FY02 for additional STS-107 costs.

As the report language explains, these constant one-way transfers out of research accounts have hurt science - a point Nethercutt has made repeatedly in hearings on NASA's budget and its science plans for the ISS. The amendment language goes on to explain that instead of playing the shell game of moving funds from one account to another, NASA should cover the cost of the STS-107 mission directly and either submit a budget amendment for FY02, or submit a reprogramming request instead of depending upon money they have set aside in a research account - for another mission.

Text of the Report Language for FY01 Supplemental Appropriations Bill Offered by Rep. Nethercutt

"At the end of the section titled "Human Space Flight" on pages 34 and 35, add the following:

  • "The Committee is concerned to learn that the follow-on research mission is not even scheduled until 2004. This mission was intended as a gap-filler to support the scientific community during construction of the International Space Station. Pushing this mission back another three years will only further exacerbate existing strains on the underfunded life and microgravity science community.

  • The request had sought authority to offset further costs for preparing STS-107 from the $15,000,000 set aside for space station research. This request is denied. If further funding is required for STS-107 in FY 2002, NASA is directed to submit a budget amendment to identify funds for this purpose. According to the Congressional Research Service, $462,000,000 has been transferred from space station research to construction from Fiscal Years 1996-98. These constant transfers have undermined the preparedness of the research community to utilize the station and created an atmosphere of significant uncertainty. The Committee is also aware that NASA has proposed a significant space station research realignment in Fiscal Year 2002. Further transfers would be extremely detrimental to research efforts. Therefore, the Committee language requires that $15,000,000 only be used for space station research. The Committee supports the completion of the STS-107 mission but believes that whenever possible future year liabilities should be addressed through regular order instead of through anticipated reprogramming actions."

Background Information

  • Goldin Before Congress: Space Station Science Cuts and "Baby Sitting" for Dennis Tito, SpaceRef

  • Congress, NASA, and the International Space Station: A New Civility? (four part series), SpaceRef

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