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NASA Alumni League Letter Regarding Senate Action on NASA's FY 2007 Budget

Press Release From: NASA Alumni League
Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Honorable Thad Cochran, The Honorable Robert Byrd, The Honorable Barbara Mikukski, The Honorable Kay Hutchinson

The NASA Alumni League is deeply concerned about the trends in the NASA budget and its negative implications to our country's international pre-eminence in science and technology. Recent events make clear that NASA's budget will not be sufficient to meet current and projected funding requirements for core NASA programs. This budget crisis impacts three national issues: US commercial competitiveness, our international prestige, and the state of science and technology education in our Country.

We believe that all of NASA's programs are so important to the future well being of the nation that the needed funding should be provided by Congress and the Administration beginning with FY 2007. We believe that an addition of at least $2 billion per year is required for NASA to adequately carry out all of its missions, and that NASA must take the time to fully understand what is required to return humans to the Moon and develop the capability for future Mars exploration.

However, whatever its funding level, NASA must maintain a balanced program that meets the most critical national needs in aeronautics research, science and applications, and exploration. If the required funding cannot be provided, NASA should slow the pace of space exploration in order to maintain the Nation's world-class standing and position of leadership in aeronautics, and science because these are important underpinnings of our national competitiveness, and provide the basis for our ability to wisely explore Mars.

In keeping with the above, we recommend the following priorities for NASA:

  • NASA must replace the aging Space Shuttle as soon as possible. There is a dangerous gap between Shuttle retirement in 2010 and the Crew Exploration Vehicle availability in 2014. Depending on the Russians for space transportation to the Space Station and for other missions over a four-year time gap is costly and inappropriate, particularly with potential Shuttle problems, stretches in contractor schedules and funding uncertainties that could widen this gap.
  • The International Space Station should be utilized to its full potential. This was a huge investment by the U.S. and our international partners. U.S. scientists and technologists should harvest the scientific and technical payoffs that can come from our investments.
  • NASA's aeronautics program must be restored and maintained at a level sufficient for world leadership. Emphasis in the restored program must be on re-engaging U.S. industry and the nation's universities as vital partners in the effort. The additional budget cuts proposed for FY 2007 should not be allowed. A minimum amount equal to the FY 2006 appropriation of about $960 million should be provided, and a fully restored program should be achieved within three years. The congressionally mandated industry/academia study published by the National Institute of Aerospace in April 2005 indicates that a total program of about $1.5 billion per year is required to regain U.S. leadership.
  • NASA's planned science and applications programs should be fully funded to the maximum extent possible. Included within these programs should be the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission.
  • The Moon/Mars exploration program should proceed on a "go as you can pay" basis without sacrifice to NASA's aeronautics, and space and applications programs. It is vital that the program be paced to retire risk and provide the technologies necessary for successful human exploration of Mars.

We recommend that Congress request a Comprehensive Long-range NASA Plan for Administration and Congressional consideration reflecting the priorities as outlined. Missions are to be stated and realistic estimates should be provided through mission accomplishment. Collaboration within the U.S. and with international partners must be considered in developing this overall NASA Plan.

We urge Congress to adjust the NASA FY07 budget to include the above recommended program priorities and review its overall adequacy to meet the critical NASA needs. We hope you will agree that even with the recommended reprioritization, it is greatly underfunded.

Your leadership will rekindle a vibrant NASA. In turn it will have a powerful impact on our Nation's competitiveness, help restore international prestige in science and technology, and provide strong encouragement for technical education in our country.

We would like to meet with you for detailed discussions and to address questions you might have.

Sincerely,

James Beggs

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