From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to review President Obama's fiscal year 2013 (FY13) budget request the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Testifying before the Committee was the Administrator of NASA, the Honorable Charles F. Bolden.
Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) began her opening statement by stressing the importance of NASA and the need for a sustainable, predictable path of growth. She said, "NASA is a critical part of the nation's research and development enterprise, as well as being a source of inspiration for our young people and a worldwide symbol of American technological prowess and good will. We need NASA to succeed. It almost goes without saying that NASA's success will depend not just on the amount of funding it receives, but also on whether it is given tasks that are executable, policy direction that is clear, and a funding environment that is more predictable than it has been in recent years."
The Administration's FY 2013 request would fund NASA at a level of $17.771 billion, a $58.6 million reduction from the FY 2012 appropriation and the lowest level for NASA since 2008. However, while the overall NASA budget thus takes a cut of about 0.3 % (with recission), the Administration's request does not spread the cut evenly across NASA's programs. That is, NASA's Science program is cut by $162.5 million, or about 3.2 % [despite increased funding for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)] from the FY 2012 appropriated amount; within the Science account, the funding for Planetary Exploration is cut by $309.1 million or about 21%; funding for Aeronautics research is cut by about 2 percent; funding for the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is cut by over $300 million dollars [about 12.5%] ; NASA's Education program is cut by over $36 million [about 26%] and funding for the institutional needs of the agency [Headquarters and Centers] is cut by almost 5 %. The account that is increased the most in the NASA budget request is the Commercial Crew Program, whose budget would be more than double (from an FY 2012 appropriation of $406 million to a requested level of $830 million). In addition, the Space Technology account (which includes SBIR/STTR as well as technology R&D programs) would be increased by about $125.3 million (21.8%).
Acting Ranking Member of the Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Jerry Costello (D-IL) said in his opening statement that "Today, we are at an important juncture in our nation's space program, having successfully flown-out the Space Shuttle manifest, retired the Space Shuttle fleet, and completed assembly of the International Space Station. There is much to be proud of with these accomplishments and I commend the hardworking men and women at NASA and in the contractor workforce on their unwavering commitment to safety and excellence in completing these critical milestones in our human spaceflight program. And I'm pleased to see that NASA is making good on its commitment to funding its share of the Shuttle contractor workforce pension plan." However, Congressman Costello added that the fact that NASA seeks to maintain challenging and important priorities within a flat budget outlook requires that the Committee to take a close look at the alignment among NASA's requested resources, plans, and capabilities.
While sympathetic to the tough budget climate NASA currently faces, Democratic Members expressed concern about several areas of NASA's proposed budget including cuts to the successful Planetary Science Program, particularly to the Mars Exploration Program; cuts to the education programs; and the lack of credible cost and schedule estimates for the Commercial Crew Program, which takes on increased importance given the NASA Administrator's acknowledgement during the hearing that there had been a "sea change" in the primary objective of the Commercial Crew Program from one of transporting NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station to one of nurturing a commercial space industry.
"I think that the important role NASA plays in pushing innovation and in meeting daunting scientific and technological challenges argues for a bigger commitment to the agency than either the Administration or Congress is currently making. I fear that years from now, we are going to question why we didn't recognize how important it is to maintain our investments in research and innovation and to continue to provide the means to inspire our students even in challenging economic times," said Ms. Johnson. "That said, NASA's constrained funding makes it doubly important for us to make sure that the budget request before us is one that is well constructed and sustainable. Unfortunately, today's hearing has not relieved my concerns about the de facto priorities contained in this year's budget request."
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