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NASA: National Academy Recommendations Closely Aligned With New Aeronautics Portfolio

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Wednesday, September 27, 2006

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Science Committee Members Concerned About Aeronautics Budget Cuts

WASHINGTON - The top aeronautics official at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) today told Congress that the agency's restructured aeronautics research portfolio is "closely aligned" with the recommendations in a recent National Academy of Sciences report outlining research priorities in the field for the next decade.

Citing continued cuts to NASA's aeronautics budget, though, Committee Members expressed skepticism that the program will ensure a robust civil aeronautics research and development (R&D) portfolio.

"During the past decade, the level of federal investment in civil aeronautics research and development has seriously declined," said Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA). "In fiscal year 2007, aeronautics research and development at NASA will account for less than 5 percent of the agency's budget. While it may not be entirely fair to portray this level of funding as an indication of NASA's commitment to aeronautics research, there is no doubt that aeronautics is working in a very constrained budget atmosphere.

"Given these trends, the question we need to ask ourselves is whether we, as a country, are jeopardizing our nation's future capability to continue to develop and to produce state-of-the-art aircraft that are safe, efficient, and environmentally benign. Equally important, are we competitive with foreign-manufactured aircraft? Will our air traffic management system be able to accommodate in a timely way, the projected growth in the air traffic? The answers hinge on NASA's ability to devote the necessary resources, and on NASA's ability to put in place the best strategies and programs."

The Academy report, Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics, was the subject of a Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee hearing in July. At that hearing, four witnesses representing academia and industry urged that the recommendations in the Decadal Survey and an earlier Academy report, Aeronautics Innovation: NASA's Challenges and Opportunities, guide NASA's development of a national aeronautics policy. The reports were issued in June and May, respectively. Today's hearing was also held by the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee.

Calvert added, "At our July hearing, witnesses agreed with the Decadal Survey's recommendations. They also suggested that NASA needs to increase its aeronautics budget. They stressed the importance to mature promising technologies to a level that would enable adoption by other government agencies or industry. They urged NASA to consult and to work with industry on a routine basis and to increase the amount of funding for external research."

The Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics identifies 51 high priority research challenges, grouped into five broad categories, where it recommends that NASA focus its energies: Aerodynamics and Aeroacoustics; Propulsion and Power; Materials and Structures; Dynamics, Navigation, Control and Avionics; and Intelligent and Autonomous Systems, Operations and Decision Making, Human Integrated Systems, and Networking and Communications.

Major General William Hoover, Co-Chair of the Academy committee that produced the Decadal Survey, said, "The purpose of the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics was to develop a foundation for the future-a decadal strategy for the federal government's involvement in civil aeronautics, with a particular emphasis on NASA's research portfolio."

Dr. Lisa Porter, Associate Administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD), testified that, "[T]he 51 Technical Challenges and five Common Themes identified in the report are closely aligned with ARMD's restructured research portfolio...Today, NASA's aeronautics research programs are positioned better than ever to provide meaningful and relevant research that is aligned with our National priorities."

Committee Members, however, were skeptical about Porter's assurances that NASA's restructured aeronautics program will ensure a healthy and robust civil aeronautics portfolio. Members on both sides of the aisle expressed concern over continued cuts to NASA's aeronautics budget.

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