Science Dems Support NASA Authorization Conference Agreement - Report Ready for Floor Action

Press Release From: Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democratic Caucus
Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2005


(Washington, DC) Science Democrats lauded an agreement reached today on the Conference Report for S. 1281, the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. Following today's approval by the conference committee, the legislation is tentatively scheduled for consideration by the full House this week.

"This is a constructive compromise that will serve NASA and the nation well," stated U.S. House Science Committee Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). "Our job here is to give clear policy and funding direction that will provide NASA with forward-thinking guidance and a framework to achieve good results."

House Democratic Conferees on this bill included Science Committee Ranking Member Rep. Gordon, Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX).

The Science Committee, which maintains jurisdiction over NASA's programs, completed its consideration of the House version of the bill in July. Today's conference agreement is the result of months of bipartisan negotiation and bicameral cooperation.

During the legislative process leading to the agreement, Ranking Member Gordon consistently stressed that certain core principles needed to be included in the legislation for it to be meaningful and garner significant bipartisan support. Those principles are reflected in the conference agreement, namely:

  • NASA should continue to be a multi-mission agency with strong commitments to R&D in science, aeronautics, and human space flight.
  • NASA should pursue human exploration beyond low Earth orbit as a long-term goal for the human space flight program.
  • NASA must maintain clear priorities in each of its specific program areas.
  • The U.S. should honor our obligations to the International Space Station (ISS) program.
  • There needs to be clear funding and policy direction to insure the ISS realizes its research potential, both for fundamental and applied scientific and commercial research.
  • The nation needs to sustain its commitment to a meaningful microgravity and life sciences research capability.
  • NASA's programmatic goals should be flexible, rather than based on rigid deadlines.

Rep. Gordon added, "I'm also pleased that the conference report contains legislation I authored (HR 2450, 108th Congress) following the Columbia accident. The provision insures that we have an orderly and thoughtful investigation framework in place in the unfortunate event of some future accident."

"This bill provides a balanced policy directive to NASA that will allow the agency to continue to work toward the Moon/Mars initiative, but also continue its vital research in the agency's other core areas such as human space flight, science and aeronautics," saidRep. Udall.

"I am particularly pleased that the bill retains the Reductions In Force moratorium that was included in both the House and Senate bills, and that the effective date of March 16, 2007 is closer to the date in the Senate bill than the date in the House bill," remarked Rep. Honda."So much is changing within NASA at the moment, with proposals to terminate programs being reversed and the revived programs becoming centerpieces of a reshaped agenda, that it is important that NASA not react too quickly to terminate employees before it really knows if it needs them or not."

During the conference, Rep. Jackson-Lee was a strong proponent for Whistleblower Protections for NASA employees and more educational programs in the sciences for minorities, both of which are contained in the bill. "It is important that we move forward in providing protection to NASA employees who present concerns about health and safety," added the Congresswoman. "Also, the creation of the Dr. Mae C. Jemison Grant Program will work with Minority Serving Institutions to bring more women of color into the field of space and aeronautics."

"Despite today's agreement, we should not be under any illusions that the path forward will be an easy one," concluded Rep. Gordon. "NASA is facing significant challenges in the years ahead, not the least of which is the budgetary outlook for the agency's programs. Success is going to require Congress' active involvement in the months and years ahead."

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